Spring cleaning time!
As you know, a lot happens in the internet, computer and mobile world in 5 years. If your website is 5 years old, honestly, you probably need a whole new one. But if a new design is not in your budget just now, there are a few tweaks you can make to ensure that your site is still useful and attractive to your visitors.
1. Check your website content width on different screens
Computer screens have changed over the past few years – some are huge, and most of them are wider and have better resolution than the previous versions. And then there’s the mobile audience that is growing exponentially each year. You can’t easily address all of these issues without a redesign, but you can make some adjustments so most of your audience is seeing something good.
The 5-years-ago answer was to make your website “window” very narrow within the screen, a maximum of 600 pixels. Now, with monitor displays starting at 1200 pixels wide, that means a lot of empty space around the window. I recommend making your window a percentage of the screen size (maybe 80%), rather than a fixed width. Or, err on the side of wider – many websites are 960 pixels which gives the content area much more room to breath.
Make sure there are large enough margins, line heights and white-space around content to give the text room to breathe and make it easy to read.
Also, check that your content area is centred rather than off to one side. It looks better, more balanced, if people are looking at it on a larger screen.
2. Check your font sizing and spacing on different screens
Older websites tend to have smaller font sizes and less space between lines. There seems to have been a fashion to cram as much text as possible into a small space – maybe because we were supposed to keep everything important above the fold, but the screens weren’t that big!
Nowadays, readability is key. You can also set your font size to adjust to the size of the screen, so it appears larger on mobile devices.
If you’re using WordPress, you can install a mobile plugin that will help you set up a mobile version of your site.
3. Check for colour contrast and visibility on all your pages
Your text colour and background colour should be as high contrast as possible. Dark backgrounds are generally not as easy on the eyes. Check your contrast on several different screens and settings (like when your laptop is in Power Saver mode) and see how well your text shows. You should try to make the whole site accessible even for someone with vision problems.
Check that your links are in a consistent, obvious colour and don’t blend too much with your text body.
4. Ditch the frames
Frames are so 10 years ago (in fact I found this article on the IBM site about them from 2001!).
If your site still has a static menu and a scrolling content window that are actually separate html pages, it is probably not functioning properly on some devices, particularly mobiles and tablets.
Also, these sites are not search engine friendly – those partial pages can be found by search engines, meaning people could land on an orphaned menu page with no content and no way to get into your site! Meanwhile your frames page may or may not have any text or meta tags which search engines use to find your site.
Getting rid of frames involves some labour – but if you still have them you could be missing out on a good portion of your public, so it’s worth making the switch! (And, um, it’s been 10 years – time to get with the times!)
5. Review the content of your site
If your site has been up for 5 years or more and you’ve been adding to it, you probably need to do some culling of content – particularly reviews and photographs.
Photos: You should take off photos that look dated (those black and white ones from 1999) or that don’t look like you any more, and remove anything unflattering or blurry.
Reviews: Include only the most sparkling 10 or 15 reviews so you are highlighting your best. If someone (let’s say a casting director) lands on a Reviews page that scrolls endless text, they may not even bother to read past the fold, or at all. Make sure your best is easy to find and jumps out to greet us!
Rep List/Resume & Bio: While you’re spring cleaning, take a good look at your Rep List and/or Resume and make sure everything is up to date. Maybe you can take off some older, lower profile gigs, or remove rep that you no longer perform. Likewise, review your Bio – see if you can shorten it to one page. Break it up into small paragraphs with headings, to make it more scan-able.
6. Add modern functionality
When I started designing websites, we used “RealPlayer” versions of audio files because Mp3s took too long to load using dial up! Now, almost everyone with internet has a high speed connection, so you can stream MP3’s easily. It helps to have a built in audio player on your site rather than just embedding MP3s and hoping people have the appropriate Add-on installed in the browser. If they have to install or enable something to listen to your tracks, they probably won’t bother.
7. Get Social
If Twitter and Facebook weren’t popular when you first launched your site – it’s time to add them now! I know you think you don’t have time, but it’s a matter of minutes a few times a week to post a little update on your activities and encourage people to attend your events.
A Facebook Page (as opposed to your personal profile) makes it more clear that this is about your business persona and not a personal space, so you can feel free to sell yourself a little more with fans who are following your career.
8. Make a list and hire a pro
You may not be able to implement these changes yourself – but if you have a clear, concise list of adjustments to hand to a web designer, you can save them time and save yourself money over commissioning a whole new design. You may be able to maintain your current site for another year or two until you can afford a revamp.
One caveat: be realistic. A few small aesthetic changes are one thing, but adjusting the colours, fonts, size and content of a whole site can be labour intensive. If you end up with a long list of major changes, it’s time to invest in a fresh concept and design from scratch.
Either way, I can help – contact me here. Happy Spring Cleaning!
Mary (the Maestra)