Marketing Blabs – Podcast

Blab #10: The Lifecycle of a Website

Date of Blab

22 September 2023

Blab Host

Listen Time

00:41:10

The 10th Marketing Blab episode! In this episode, we sit down to discuss the stages of every website and the important elements to take into consideration at each level. From setting a goal on idea creation to knowing when it's time to give your website a good spruce, this Blab shares all.

On this Blab: Tom Haslam (Host), Josh Stapleton, Nick Janaway and Josie Quigley-Jay.

Blab Transcript

Tom Haslam - (host):

Welcome to Marketing Labs. This podcast is brought to you by Marketing Labs, an expert digital marketing agency based in Nottinghamshire. If you are a business owner or marketing professional looking for straightforward non-salesy tips and advice to help grow your business online, then this podcast is for you. Strap in because we're about to reveal the things that other agencies would rather you didn't know.

Hello, we're back and episode 10 is here. Into the double digits now, baby. Today, we're going to unravel the live cycle of a website, from its inception to its final sign off. We'll guide you through every twist and turn a website undergoes in its digital life, so if you've ever wondered how websites evolved or why some just don't seem to work, then stay tuned. Joining me on today's blab is Josh Stapleton, our web dev specialist, or what is the one you wanted me to call you?

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

I didn't have one for today. I didn't put them in-

Tom Haslam - (host):

Stack aficionado or something like that.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Stack Overflow aficionado.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah, something like that. How are you? All right?

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Yeah. Pretty good. Pretty good.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Good. We've also got Nick Janaway, head of digital. How are you doing, Nick?

Nick Janaway - (Head of Digital):

Afternoon, Tom.

Tom Haslam - (host):

You always looking at me in a serious way. I like it.

Nick Janaway - (Head of Digital):

I do too.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Are you excited? That's a no. And last but not least, we've got Jos.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

Jos.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Josie Quigley-Jay, our digital Marketing Executive.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

Hello.

Tom Haslam - (host):

How are you?

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

I'm good. How are you?

Tom Haslam - (host):

Freshly purpled hair.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

Yep, freshly dyed.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Ready to go?

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

Yeah.

Tom Haslam - (host):

I want to talk about web development from start to finish and the life cycle of that website. Obviously, at the first stages, having the idea that you want to develop a website, if it's new, obviously there's a different approach I feel, obviously, if it's a new website or an existing one. Same sort of process throughout, but obviously first of all, people have got to understand the purpose of the website, what it's going to do, the audience, and obviously, setting a goal for that website. I think kicking off, is there anything that anyone wants to add when it comes down to building a website from the start?

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Something to add to that. I don't know. I could expand on some of those things.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah?

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

I guess one of the main things that you touched on is how you should be defining your audience, which is pretty important for a number of reasons. I think, mostly, because when you think of your audience, you're thinking about your target market, who you're actually selling to. If you're not aligning what you're developing with the audience, then you're just going to completely miss the mark. Whatever efforts you put into things, if it's not aligned with who you're trying to sell to, you're just going to be wasting money at the end of the day. Yeah, definitely worth looking at your target market when you are actually planning a development.

Tom Haslam - (host):

I think, from the early stages, it's key to get all of that in place, especially like a website goal. Let's say we're redesigning a website for, let's say, a client who already has one. What's the goal? Is the other one improve conversions, increase sales, increase traffic? To have that goal at the start is always quite key, especially if you're bring in other things into it, and on the digital marketing scale, like SEO and Google Ads, obviously understanding as well, whether it's going to be eCommerce, I mean a lot of the websites we do are eCommerce, but there's brochure websites. It's all different kinds of functionality that you've got to put in there. Do you find that there is a different approach for a new and existing website, Josh, when-

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Oh yeah, definitely. So if you are starting from scratch, I mean, I don't know. You've got nothing to lose in a sense. If you've already got something on the web out there and you are planning on moving to a different platform or planning on redesigning or changing content, whatever it may be, there's quite an inherent risk with all of that, because whatever you are changing, assuming some of it, a little bit of it even, was ranking for whatever keywords or was a real revenue booster for your business, if you mess that up, I mean, you're risking a lot there. A lot of people don't actually tend to notice the important aspects of their site, the things that actually are selling, or the things that are driving a lot of the traffic to the site.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Yeah, there's totally different ways to go at it, so if you've got an existing site, you want to be very protective of the things that are actually working for you. If you're starting from scratch though, you've got a lot more freedom, flexibility with that.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

I think the thing there, though, is as you said, being protective of the things that are working, not just of the things that you like, because-

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Yeah.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

We've had times where we're going in to design a website and people have just picked a feature that they liked. They've not actually necessarily looked at whether it's a feature that works, whether it functions properly, whether it has a benefit. They just like that feature and so want to retain that. But you need to look at its practicality because it's no good build new website if it's just going to be bulky and clunky, the same as before.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Yeah, so really good point. Expanding on that a little further as well, it's not necessarily just what you like because what you might be entirely different to what your clients like or your customers if you use eCommerce.

Tom Haslam - (host):

[inaudible 00:05:46]. Yeah.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Yeah, and a lot of people will fall for this trap. It's choosing the stuff that they think is going to work rather than the stuff that they've seen in the past their customers are actually responding to. In the example of redesigning a website, perhaps your customers are spending a lot of time on your FAQs page, but you decide you don't actually need an FAQs page, because I don't know. Maybe you've put it in the description for some products or something like that. Having it on the FAQs page is like, it's kind of a well-known place to go to for that kind of information and it's all there presented in front of you. You wouldn't have to go back and forth between different areas. So yeah, if you were to remove that page, yeah, you could see quite drastic results from that.

Tom Haslam - (host):

I guess, in both stages as well, whether it's new or an existing site coming to unit, you've got an opportunity to optimise, if you're doing any Google Ads campaigns, that process with landing pages and things like that, whether it's the design, the content that's on the page, and so on. So you've got a good opportunity there. Haven't you?

Nick Janaway - (Head of Digital):

Yeah, I think this is one of the biggest issues, actually, with the vast majority of what people or how people approach web development is a lot of the time there's not a thorough thought process in terms of what the actual purpose of the website is and how you want to deliver that. What you end up is with a system that's kind of pulled together with various different components without any real consideration of what the purpose or meaning or function is. It very often might end up in a website that looks okay but actually doesn't really deliver what you need it to deliver.

I think, more often than not, especially when it comes down to marketing, and certainly SEO, that needs to be at the inception of what your website's purpose is. You need to very much think about that from the start, have that intent in mind when you're pulling all those things together and those requirements together, whether it's something to do with technical, whether it's something to do with speed, or content, or whatever it might be. Get that in there from the start and then work out how you're going to best serve and deliver that and then ultimately your user experience will be more beneficial because of that. Certainly a key consideration from my point of view is very much having that in mind and making sure you maximise that where you can.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

It's outlining your goals at the beginning and then working towards them.

Nick Janaway - (Head of Digital):

Yeah. Absolutely.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Rather than sporadically, we'll work on this bit next.

Nick Janaway - (Head of Digital):

Those goals and objectives can change. You know? I think this is one of the benefits of having a really long-term view of what your business needs to deliver, so not necessarily just for the short term. It's not necessarily a one or two year thing. You know? You think about five or 10 years or even 15 years into the future. Where do you need your business to be in the very distant future? And then, working towards that. You know? Because your website, for now, and I think, again, this is one of the misconceptions, is that your website is done and you leave it and you leave it for five years, you leave it for 10 years. Actually, that's probably the worst approach you can take as soon as you've done your website. It's kind of a vehicle along your business journey really, and you can upgrade that. That might mean you get your objectives quicker or it might mean you have a smoother ride along the way to your objectives, but if you continually improve and maintain your website, you'll be much better off for it.

Tom Haslam - (host):

I think what I've learned, at least since starting to work at Marketing Labs, is that let's say I'm taking an example of an existing website and you're going to redesign it. A lot of clients that I've worked with in the past would say, "Right, our business has changed completely. We don't offer that service anymore. We don't sell these products anymore." There's a big tendency there to just axe all those pages completely and get rid of everything. And sometimes it's just a case of rewording or restructuring a lot of that content that you've already got, because like Josh says, it could be quite damaging and you've got to try and protect that information.

I mean, most of the time, when we're designing a new website from scratch, or an existing website, we can crawl the website and see where the majority of the traffic is coming from, so that's added benefit. If it's a new website, we won't have that, but we can easily crawl competitor websites and things like that if they're provided. There's lots to consider there from, especially from a conception stage, or the initial processes, making sure that people understand that.

Moving on to design and development, I think especially with recent projects that we've had, it always comes down to balance. This could work. That could work. It is always hard, especially when it comes down to user experience and design. In terms of that process, how do they get from A to B? Where are we going to upsell? Where are we going to cross-sell, things like that, specifically for an eCommerce website, where do we get that balance? That's the challenge, isn't it, all the time.

Nick Janaway - (Head of Digital):

Yeah, I think we mentioned that at the start, really. It comes down to goals, what do you need your website to achieve for you. You know? If that's revenue via product sales, what is the most simplistic way that somebody can perform that action on your website and make it as easy as possible almost so that they can't fail, I suppose. And then as soon as you crack that bit, then you move on to the next step of saying, "Okay, well we've made this as easy as possible. It's a one click buy. The product descriptions are great, the images are great, they're all unique, X, Y, Z." There's no reason for them not to convert with you at that point.

And then, you go onto the next steps and say, "Okay, well how can we improve that in terms of incremental sales or additional sales or what's the next step of earning more money from your customers once they're ready to hand their money over?" And improving on steps like that and taking a regimented or sequential approach to it. Make sure that you do the bits that you've got out first and then build upon that as opposed to trying to do everything at once. Then, figure out why it's not working and then trying to improve on seven or eight things as opposed to one or two. It's much more difficult and convoluted and in the longer term will take you more time to get to where you need to be. I think. Like we said at the start, the key thing really is making sure you've got a really clear thing, a really clear idea, of what your goals are and working towards those goals will then be more straightforward.

Tom Haslam - (host):

I know obviously Josh and I have a balance of design and development, but obviously it's key that Josh understands how I'm designing it first so that he knows that he can develop it or it's doable. Because I don't think there's been many times where I've done or designed something that you've not been able to do, to be fair. I gave you some challenges though.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Yeah, there's been a few challenges that have come up. Realistically speaking, most stuff is achievable. Now, whether something's achievable and achievable on budget are entirely different things.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

You could spend hours, days working on a particular problem.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Just to throw a little grenade into that as well, just because it's achievable doesn't mean it's worth achieving.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

That's also very true.

Nick Janaway - (Head of Digital):

Yeah. That's a great point. Yeah, definitely.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

It's like you may spend, I don't know, hours, days, on whatever thing it may be, but is it actually worth all that time being put into it when it's, I don't know, just a box that floats around the screen or something.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Whatever it may be. I'm not saying you've got me to try and design something like that before, but-

Tom Haslam - (host):

No. I don't know why this has just come up in my head, but I want to talk about popups.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Okay.

Tom Haslam - (host):

I don't like them.

Nick Janaway - (Head of Digital):

I don't like them, Tom. Don't talk about them.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Should we not talk about them?

Nick Janaway - (Head of Digital):

No.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

I think it's a good talking point though.

Tom Haslam - (host):

A lot of people think that they're needed though, just because they see it on other sites.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

I'm on the fence with popups,

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Generally speaking, I'm really against them. But I think there's a few, just like a handful of applications, where they work. Usually it's when they're not being used to sell.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

They're actually used as a functional helpful tool.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Prompt

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

A prompt.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Rather than a 25% if you buy it now.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

25% off if you buy now.

Nick Janaway - (Head of Digital):

Sign up to my newsletter.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

As a user, I find them infuriating. They're just the most annoying thing.

Tom Haslam - (host):

You literally land on a site. 10 seconds later, you're halfway down the homepage, Bosch, straight in front of your face. Just yeet it away.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

Put your an email or something annoying.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Coming back to your point though, I do think there's an application level where it is acceptable.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Yeah. I think, yeah, anything on a site can be acceptable if it's beneficial to a user, really, probably within reason. I can probably think of exceptions, but yeah, you do need, in some sense, different ways to show people how to do stuff, whether that's a popup, a slide in, or whatever it may be. Some stuff's going to work better in certain situations.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Yeah.

Tom Haslam - (host):

I want to talk about mobile responsiveness. Obviously, Google crawl, from a mobile first perspective. We had this conversation the other day, didn't we? The fact that, majority of the time, I will design on a desktop first. But both of us know, nine times out of 10, how that will look on mobile.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Yeah, I think, generally speaking, people are told to design for mobile first.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Which, I think, is a good strategy more so when you are not that well in the know, let's say, about how responsiveness works. So if you just start off, say, in a web design, web dev career, or something like that, you're probably going to want to do that kind of thing, so actually design for mobile first. And then, I don't know, fill in the desktop blanks afterwards. But when you know how a desktop site responds when it gets smaller and how things fold and things like that, it makes it a lot easier to visualise that when you're designing anyway. Yeah, I think, generally speaking, it can be okay to design in either way first as long as you are keeping in mind that mobile is probably going to want to be the more optimised version.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

At least more optimised in terms of search and Google actually crawling it and things.

Tom Haslam - (host):

I don't know the actual stats off the top of my head, but I think it's like 80 plus percent of people.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

I think it varies a bit based on different sites and types of sites and things like that.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

It's definitely over 50%, but I think it varies person to person, site to site, and depends what the people are using it for. I'm pretty sure I read a statistics once that actually said that for if you're an industry that's selling doctor supplies, the majority of them, because of the computer systems that tend to be in doctors, it'll be on a desktop and it'll be a certain Internet Explorer, a certain version of things. It is worth looking at for your industry, but generally speaking, 90% off the top of my head would be mobile.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

You're usually talking the majority are mobile.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

Yeah.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Definitely the majority.

Tom Haslam - (host):

What about design trends? I mean, I'm asking myself this question more than anything.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

So Tom, what about design trends?

Tom Haslam - (host):

I mean, I always try and take inspiration from other websites or, let's say, campaigns or marketing campaigns, but I mean, my style is very simple, minimal, clean. But having said that, the majority of the sites that we've designed recently have all been very different. I use Atomic as an example. That was one where, because that type of branding industries lends itself to bold, sans serif fonts, let's say it's the design had to be a little bit, I don't know what the right word is, not quirky, but it's very design and brand based. That was the big focus for Atomic, for example. Whereas, let's say, Plascompo, which is an engineering industry, it just needed to be really simple and clear for everyone to use because the majority of people that are going to be buying from it are buyers in the engineering industry. It doesn't need to particularly look nice, as long as it's clean and simple to use. That's the main thing. I don't tend to get caught up in trends a lot.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

I feel like, with trends, it's the same with design as it is probably features, is that you've got to look at what's the purpose behind adding this to the website. Is it actually beneficial? Is it purposeful in where I'm putting it or is it just going to die out in a couple of months? Again, I think the same with features, I think we've touched on it before, of there's a trend of, "Oh, well this competitor's got this so I'm going to add it on without actually looking at if it adds a benefit to you." And that tends to be features like a share button to social media. If you are looking at a website that's clothes or jewellery, that might be a little bit more common. But if your website is an electrical part company who's going to want to go on there and share your electrical part to social media? It's not going to be that common.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

I might.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

You might, you're an exception.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Yeah, I do agree though. And one thing's for certain, actually. Adding additional features to a site, I mean, generally, small ones, not too big a deal, but large additional features, you're probably going to be taking a toll on speed and website optimization, how your page is actually getting to your customers, let's say. It's going to be potentially problematic.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Nice. Lots of stuff that we've touched on there with design and development. Testing. Test, test, test.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Mic check.

Tom Haslam - (host):

I think, obviously, it's good to get feedback from actual users at this stage as well, because obviously, from our perspective, we've been very close to that design and development stage. It's good to get other eyes on it. I'll come to you, Nick. What about SEO best practises at this stage, like when you're at the testing slash Virgin on launch? Is there anything that you'd look at at that stage?

Nick Janaway - (Head of Digital):

Yeah, I guess from an SEO point of view, it's kind of coming towards the end of the cycle at that point, because if you're just starting at this point and you're in trouble, really. You know? You need to have a good thorough understanding of what your requirements are when you go into design, and then when you go into build, and now when you go into testing, really, you're just proving that concept. You're making sure that you've got all the technical stuff right, making sure, although it's not necessarily going to be a real world kind of environment, but you want to make sure that the page speed and that sort of thing's good and the servers are delivering what you need them to and setting it up in a way that will be, to some degree, comparable with the real world kind of simulation.

You can go through and go through all your checklist of things that you need to make sure is on there, make sure your content's good, make sure the usability of that's correct, it's visible from a search engine point of view, although obviously, you more than likely want it no index in to make sure it doesn't get onto search engines. But yeah, from an SEO point of view, really, you're just going through and ticking the boxes, making sure that everything's done as you expected it to be, because once you get into the real world, it can, in some instances, have some catastrophic effects if you haven't done that part of the process correct the first time. So you really don't want to be waiting until now until you've got that done. You know? It needs to be a case of ticking off and finalising.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Cross-checking your internal links.

Nick Janaway - (Head of Digital):

Exactly. Internal links is a big one. Yeah.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Make sure that the designer hasn't removed them.

Nick Janaway - (Head of Digital):

Yeah, you definitely don't want your designers to do that, Tom.

Tom Haslam - (host):

I don't know. What about common oversights during this phase, do you think, Josh?

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

During testing?

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah, like testing and launch. It's a weird one, isn't it?

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

I'd say making sure that buttons work and the buttons go to the right place.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Yeah. Yeah. That's quite an important one to be fair because it's very easy to throw a page together and think I'll link it up when I come back to it.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

Yeah.

Tom Haslam - (host):

[inaudible 00:20:47].

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

I didn't actually come back to it

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

Yeah. That, or you're that busy putting it all together. You don't realise you've put the wrong link for the wrong button. It takes you somewhere completely different or just a slightly different section than it should do one.

Tom Haslam - (host):

You enjoy that part, don't you?

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

Oh yeah.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Testing it all.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

It's my favourite bit. Sitting and clicking every button on a website.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Another one on that is ... say you've been developing using a different domain to the one that you're actually launching with. That can also play havoc on the buttons and attachments, files, things like that. So if you've got, say, a button or a PDF or something that's hosted on whatever testing domain that you've put together, an actual site that's going without the testing domain, it's a bit of a pain, that one, especially if you actually had a server there that you then turn off a little bit later, and then you realise, oh, okay. Half of the files that were on the actual site were actually on the other server. You know? A bit of a pain.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Oh. Yeah.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

Isn't there issues with trailing slashes normally if ...

Tom Haslam - (host):

I mean, this one has always been beyond me with trailing slashes. I don't know whether to add them or not add them. I add them, but as long as I'm under the impression you have to. As long as it's consistent throughout the whole website, then you're fine.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

So either all trailing slashes-

Nick Janaway - (Head of Digital):

Or not.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

... or no trailing slashes.

Nick Janaway - (Head of Digital):

Yep. Same with capital letters as well. You don't want capital letters in your URLs.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah.

Nick Janaway - (Head of Digital):

So you'll have two versions of your page. Make sure it's all lowercase. Make sure just consistency is the point.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Also, special characters,

Nick Janaway - (Head of Digital):

Special characters. Yeah.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

Oh, so what does that affect in terms of-

Nick Janaway - (Head of Digital):

Well, it's a new page effectively.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

Okay.

Nick Janaway - (Head of Digital):

Every time you have different combinations of either capitals or special characters or whatever, it effectively duplicates pages, so you'll have multiple versions of the same page, or break the structure, depending on how it's implemented. So just avoid that. Just be consistent and you'll be fine.

Tom Haslam - (host):

There was a case on Atomic, actually, as an example, with the ampersand tradition brand, where the URL structure changed when on launch, didn't it?

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Yeah.

Tom Haslam - (host):

It went to [inaudible 00:22:40]-

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Yeah, that's quite an annoying one actually, because that's like a brand name using a special character in their brand name. Yeah, how do you get around that? Do you actually include the character? Do you URL encode it? I can't remember what we did for that. We did sort it.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah, nice.

Nick Janaway - (Head of Digital):

I think your point, though, around user testing is critical at this stage because go through the theory a lot and you'll have specific designs implemented with a purpose, and that purpose obviously is to satisfy whatever the business decision is for that purpose. But it doesn't necessarily mean that users are going to behave in the way that you want them to. Actually validating that is critical, really, making sure that you go through that process and the due diligence.

Also, the eyes of people who don't necessarily know how they're supposed to behave is incredibly valuable because they don't necessarily know what you want them to do and they can find all the little things that are going to be problematic that you don't, because you know what you're looking for. You'll follow the process and you'll go down and you think, oh yeah, this is perfect. I can do this, I can do this, I can click this button and I can go to the next page. I can do X, Y, Z. In your head. You're doing that because you know need to and you've been briefed almost in order to do that. But the real world, those people who don't have that experience of you and don't have that use case as a familiar use case, they'll pull up things that perhaps aren't important or maybe more important to them that actually is more alike to a typical user.

Actually correcting those faults in the design stage, and before it gets published, can be really, really valuable. And then obviously go through rounds of testing once it's published as well, just to make sure that you kind of fine tune in and refining those things. It can add a huge amount of incremental value to your website.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

I've got a question actually, just piggybacking off at the back of that. If you were, say, user testing with people, so you've got actual people. You're saying, "Go to the site. Go do this, this, try and check out whatever," would you rather the users that are doing the user testing be already in the know about your, let's say, service area or your type of website? Or would you rather they be completely out of the loop? They don't know about your service.

Nick Janaway - (Head of Digital):

Yeah, it depends. It's a good question actually, and I think it is kind of sitting on a fence here a little bit, Josh. But it really depends on your business and how well known your business is. You know? If you've got a business whereby 80% of your custom comes from repeat customers, you're really going to want to make sure that they are familiar with your new site, especially if it's significantly different from what your previous iteration was. They need to know exactly what they need to know in order how to check out and continue your business with you.

However, if a lot of your custom is from new customers or people that perhaps don't regularly check out with you or take out a service with you, actually, it's probably less important at that point. But equally, both are valuable because all people have an opinion, and if you can come to a solution whereby you're appeasing both sets of people, obviously, that's better in the long run. But depending on the circumstances of what you just mentioned, you could swing one way or the other depending on what's important to you.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

So both.

Nick Janaway - (Head of Digital):

Both. Yeah. Well, but ideally, within budget, obviously. It can be quite expensive, but having a broad scope of different people, different locations, different regions. You know? If you're a multinational business, having people in America and the UK and Europe can be really valuable because those experiences are likely to be a little bit different depending on what the use case is.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Nice. So there's lots of things to think about when it comes to the testing and launch phase. I guess once you've come to that launch phase, there's always going to be, let's say, little things that you need to iron out after. There's always, let's say, a weaning period or whatever. I don't know what the right term is there, but I think after that, it's getting into the real stuff, digital marketing, and actual maintenance. I don't think sites need maintenance, Josh.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

I'll clip you.

Tom Haslam - (host):

No, I'm only kidding. I just wanted to wind Josh up, but I think a lot of people overlook maintenance, don't they?

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Yeah. They do. And I think it is easy to do it as well, because I think a lot of people are in, say, the mindset where I've bought my website. That's it. It's done. It's going to be sound and secure forever. I'm never going to have to do anything. I'm just going to have this revenue just come into my bank every week or every month or whatever, when that's not really the case.

Realistically speaking, there's a lot of things that could potentially go wrong. You've got, let's say, hackers for one, people are going to try and get into your site, they're just going to send a bot out or whatever it may be. They're going to try and get into your site and try and exploit it for themselves, or maybe it's something even more simple than that, like your payment provider or something goes under and you need to actually make a change to your systems and things like that.There's always going to be something that's updating on the web and being on top of that is pretty important.

Tom Haslam - (host):

There's lots to think about from a SEO perspective as well. You mentioned it, Nick, earlier on, was once your website's live and launched, you've got to go in and add things to it, whether it's blogs or-

Nick Janaway - (Head of Digital):

It's the start of the job. Yeah.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah.

Nick Janaway - (Head of Digital):

Completing your website, it's just the first step of the next part of the journey, really. It is not something that you can just build and then just deploy. And some people, in some instances, you might find where it's relatively static, but actually, going in there and maintaining it from a content point of view, from an image point of view, from the technical side of it, and making sure that it's safe and secure actually has a lot of incremental value, not just to protect yourself, but also to improve. You know? Not only improve your business but improve the customer relationship as well and that user experience on your website.

Incremental value from that can be significant, whether that's through marketing, whether it's PPC for example, and updating landing pages, and tweaking, and making that user journey better, utilising data, and understanding what could be done better, and having a positive impact on conversion rates, or selling other products, or repeat custom, and getting more from your custom base can be hugely valuable for you.

And then from an SEO point of view as well, like you say, the content on there is the content, but it can always be tweaked. It's always relative to what your competitors are doing as well, so just because you've done this now, and it might be brilliant, in three months time, all of your competitors might be better than you, or the rankings have changed because of X, Y, Z, or something is always going to happen, whereby you need to maintain and you need to keep on top of you need to always look to improve from an SEO point of view and a PPC point of view, and generally speaking, most marketing as well.

Tom Haslam - (host):

I guess it's a different case for every client, or user, should I say. But a big part of that is conversion rates, isn't it? And improving and optimising that whole conversion rate.

Nick Janaway - (Head of Digital):

It depends on the goal. You know? Some clients, some businesses are based on ad sales, so that's perhaps less relevant and you might need your pages to be stickier. You might need to have more engaging content on their users to visit more pages because it's an opportunity to sell more ads at that point. Equally, if it's an eCommerce business, obviously, you want to try and get that sale. So getting people through that sale process is vital. And there'll be different things for different businesses and they'll do them in different ways, but as long as they're improving, always trying to improve those KPIs, to improve them in, favourably, over a longer period of time, you'll always see benefit of smaller tweaks and working and taking small steps towards that kind of larger objective.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Your content relevancy as well. Things change within businesses quickly, whether it's team pages or products or services.

Nick Janaway - (Head of Digital):

Products is a great example of that, because unless you control that product cycle yourself, you're reliant on suppliers. Things become more and less in demand over time. There'll be different situations globally that impact sales and the availability of certain products as well. You know? Your product cycle might be seasonal. It might only be one cycle per year, for example. Then you're onto the next product cycle or the next thing that might be in. So keeping on top of that and understanding what you need to do in order to maximise that, not only through your website, but from an SEO point of view and the website health point of view as well, is really important. And having a plan around that's really vital at times.

Tom Haslam - (host):

I think, coming back to, just because we touched on it from a content and user experience perspective, Userbrain is a great tool that you can use for people, real people to analyse your site. You basically pay for some credits and they then analyse your site,, you can ask questions and get them to navigate around. I think that's just one that I wanted to add in there. Another

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

One, I mean there's no reason you can't get your existing customers, maybe not all of them, but some of your existing customers.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah. They're quite an engaging process as well, aren't it?

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Very engaging. And also, I mean, user testing can be expensive. Your customers, you could give them a discount code or something, and they're going to be pretty happy with that. Yeah.

Tom Haslam - (host):

No, that's much better [inaudible 00:31:39] to be fair. What about security?

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Security? Are we having a password talk again?

Tom Haslam - (host):

No. [inaudible 00:31:48]. Have a password talk, again, but-

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

No. Okay.

Tom Haslam - (host):

... it's just simple things. Isn't it? We've talked about it before.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Yeah, so I don't know. There's a lot to web security and especially website security. I think some of the main stuff that you want to be on top of, really, I mean, don't go with a cheap hosting provider, go with someone reputable, well-known. Obviously, whatever CMS you're using, make sure it's up-to-date, using the latest versions of whatever it may be. Same with plugins, themes, any code. Generally speaking, anything that you've got from somewhere else, make sure it's up-to-date, make sure any licences are paid for and it's secure. Get a security plugin, make sure you are on top of scanning your site for security vulnerabilities and things like that. Yeah, there's a lot to it, but generally speaking, you do want to be on top of things.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Very basic stuff, isn't it, really? I mean, I think we've covered quite a lot there, from the start of the website itself, through to design testing, and then maintaining, and updating. I just wanted to touch on quickly with regards to redesigning existing sites. There's obviously, Nick mentioned, challenges of completely overhauling everything so that it's a completely new look. Are there any signs that people think that a website is ready for that redevelopment or redesign? First one for me would be design. Obviously, if you're in the 2000s and it looks out of date, then that's your first sign, isn't it? Visually, if it looks old.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

I don't know. People might give a bit of hate for this, but I think visually is probably one of the biggest signs, because functionally speaking, some stuff could remain working for quite a long while, but visually, I don't know. Something can look less visually appealing, even, what, three, four years, say if it was on a trend or something like that.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

I think visually is always the one that gets me. I feel like, particularly, if your site looks outdated and it's something I've got to put my bank details into, if it looks outdated, I'm not going to trust it, because if you've not updated the design, what else haven't you updated?

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah, that's a good point.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

It doesn't necessarily feel safe to use.

Nick Janaway - (Head of Digital):

I think trust is a big point there. You know? Especially if all of your competitors have something that's a bit shinier, a bit glossier, and it looks a bit newer and more trustworthy. That's a big problem for you. You know? That's something that you need to acknowledge. I think,, sometimes you can feel a little bit kind of possessive about things and think, oh, it is actually fine. "I don't need to do anything. In my opinion, it looks great," but actually, sometimes your opinion doesn't matter on that, and actually, your customer's opinion matters a lot more. You'll start to see that in the data as well. You know? If you're starting to see your revenue decline a little bit, you start to see fewer users come to your website and perform the actions that they did two or three years ago, that's a big indicator that actually you need to do something to correct that.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Or that that thing is no longer desirable.

Nick Janaway - (Head of Digital):

Yeah. Exactly. Yeah.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

Tom, you actually wrote a pretty good blog post, didn't you, on-

Tom Haslam - (host):

Oh. Yeah.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

... sign's that your website's out of date?

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah. I did actually. I did five signs. Didn't I?

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

Yeah. That's always a good read for any listeners if you want a bit more detail. What are the ones are on there, Tom?

Tom Haslam - (host):

I can't remember off the top of my head now. I think it was design, speed, user experience.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

Come on. Two more.

Tom Haslam - (host):

I can't think off the top of my head. I'm putting pressure on myself now.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

We'll leave them as a mystery then for-

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah. Mystery.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

... if you want to find out more.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

[inaudible 00:35:11] content.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Got to go and read it now, haven't you?

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

Yeah.

Tom Haslam - (host):

I do really know in my head. I don't.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

It's just buried.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah, it's buried.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

I think one thing that'd be interesting to touch on would be, I guess, new sites versus existing sites, and how people go about changing their site when they've got an existing site. I suppose, maybe setting a guideline for what you would consider like a redesign versus a refresh versus updating content. More so visual stuff versus content related stuff and where they differ. So obviously, let's say, you're changing images and layouts and things like that isn't going to be too dramatic or too drastic in terms of SEO results or what might happen [inaudible 00:36:01].

Tom Haslam - (host):

[inaudible 00:36:00] format.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Thank you. Whereas, changing content, especially removing pages, renaming pages, moving them, or even text on pages, is going to be a lot more impactful on SEO. It is definitely worth considering that when you're doing something like either a migration to a different platform or just a simple redesign or even a refresh, something like that. Yeah, it's definitely worth considering.

Tom Haslam - (host):

I think, not to blow smoke up our bum, but I think we're a good case in that, where we understand, especially when it's an existing website, how damaging it can be to remove things.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

What could got wrong.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Exactly. Yeah,

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

A lot of people wouldn't see that.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Which is, I think, a big problem. A lot of people would be like, "Oh, it's not going to be an issue if I remove this page or this piece of content." But when it turns out that piece of content, let's say, I don't know, it was ranking for three or four different keywords, you're going to lose a lot of traffic on that page.

Tom Haslam - (host):

I would've done it three years ago. I would've just removed those pages just because the client said that they didn't do them anymore. Maybe I added three new ones, but I would've done that without any sort of thought to SEO.

Nick Janaway - (Head of Digital):

And sometimes it's still okay to do that. I mean, not necessarily remove them. You need to have a plan to remove them, but if it's a service that your business doesn't offer anymore, it doesn't need to be there because it offers no value, but you need to know how to do it properly. Don't just delete the pages, because it's not enough.

Tom Haslam - (host):

But the thing is I would delete them and then not put a redirect in.

Nick Janaway - (Head of Digital):

Yeah.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Just little things like that where it's like second nature now. All that sort of stuff. I'm very fortunate to have learned from-

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Being in the know, I think, is a big thing. A lot of people would be ignorant to that kind of stuff.

Nick Janaway - (Head of Digital):

I think, just to kind of build on Josh's point there, I think is critical around the idea of redesign versus refresh.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah.

Nick Janaway - (Head of Digital):

But actually, you don't necessarily need to do either of those two things, but there should be a plan and an approach maybe over a 12 to 24 month cycle where, actually, you're taking small iterative steps with very specific purposes. It's not necessarily a whole or holistic change across the website, but there's a very core kind of functionality change across certain things that are important to the website and continually trying to improve upon them and measuring the impact of that and AB testing and making sure that you're taking these smaller steps because 10, 12, 15 smaller steps might be relatively small in isolation. But when you aggregate them all, actually, that can be a significant change over two years that does add a huge amount of value, whether that's through visibility in SEO, whether it's through conversion rates and click-through rates and those sorts of things, or dwell time and engagement rates.

Whatever metric you're looking at, doing things to improve those, that doesn't necessarily include or is specific to a whole site redesign, I think, is really a very valuable concept to try and get into your head. Actually putting the time and the investment into doing things like that can be really, really rewarding.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

It's just consistent incremental changes.

Nick Janaway - (Head of Digital):

Yeah.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Yeah, I think that's probably one of the best ways you could go about doing any type of web development, realistically.

Nick Janaway - (Head of Digital):

Yeah, I would say so. Yeah, without a doubt.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Probably more costly doing it over the long term though, would you think?

Nick Janaway - (Head of Digital):

I mean, it depends on your budget again, and it's not something that everyone needs to do. But if you've got a huge amount of data and you've got a huge amount of users, these small changes, even if they are relatively small in isolation, can add huge amounts of revenue. You know? At the end of the year, if you're getting small tweaks and small improvements, then you have an extra couple of percentage points in conversion rate.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

I suppose one of the benefits of doing it incrementally as well is seeing just exactly what is actually happening when you're making whatever change it is.

Nick Janaway - (Head of Digital):

Yeah.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Instead of just saying, "Here's all my changes at once," and then, see what happens.

Nick Janaway - (Head of Digital):

Yeah.

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

You can be a lot more precise [inaudible 00:39:46].

Nick Janaway - (Head of Digital):

The combination of those build, if they stack. Don't they? And you can apply them. Depending on what the purpose is, you can apply them to other things as well. You can get more use out of doing things like that. Rather than saving everything for a big redesign in two to three years, actually making a commitment to do those step changes over that same two or three year period, it's probably worth a lot more than doing everything at once, so it's definitely worth considering.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Nice one, so there's been lots that we've discussed there. I've enjoyed the episode, everybody. Thank you everyone for listening. Have you all enjoyed it? You lot?

Josh Stapleton - (Web Developer):

Yeah.

Josie Quigley-Jay - (Digital Marketing Executive):

Yeah.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Thank you for being here. We've seen how pivotal the planning phase is. We've sort of delved into nuances of design, understood the gravity of testing before launch, and emphasised, obviously, regular updates. Of course, acknowledging when it's time to say goodbye to your current website and rebrand or change things up, it all comes back to the goal. What is the reason why you're doing what you're doing? Websites obviously evolve with time as well, and understanding that lifecycle can really make a difference between one fleeting and an enduring online presence. Thanks again for joining us today on Marketing Labs. We shall see you soon.

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