Is it Time to Update Your Website? Use the Swiss Cheese Test

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When is it time to update your website? The short answer is now. I know, that may not be what you wanted to hear. But if you’re already thinking about it, then you’ve already come to that conclusion yourself. Now’s the time and here’s why:

Do a quick gut check … You’ve looked at your website, and something isn’t right. You don’t feel good about it. Whatever the reason is … perhaps the colors are off; the content is dated; or the call to action is weak … something isn’t sitting right with you. Now it’s on your radar. It’s a troublesome sore-spot that’s bugging you. Maybe it’s even been an issue for a while now, but it’s been hovering on your priority list somewhere just below this week’s latest emergency. So it gets pushed off for lack of time or maybe you’re not ready to make the investment yet.

Does any of that sound familiar? Well, after you have a Dr. Phil moment with yourself … given yourself some tough love and permission to move forward … what next? Here are 3 things to help you get started:

1. The Swiss Cheese Test

Every website has flaws. There could be errors or omissions. Or maybe it is failing to keep up with the news cycle — or evolving technology or design trends. The first step to addressing those issues is being aware where the holes are. Hence, what I refer to as the “Swiss Cheese Test” or the “Swiss Cheese Analysis” if you’re into fancier types of Swiss.

Your website, like a block of Swiss cheese has some holes. They all do. Don’t get overwhelmed by attempting to list every little last thing you want to fix on a spreadsheet. Start instead by just focusing on the big holes. A good design and marketing firm will challenge you in the same way a doctor would during an office visit. They’ll ask, “Where does it hurt?” … and let the conversation build from there. Focus on your needs and ignore the technology for just a moment: How do you FEEL? … “I fear we’re losing customers because our website doesn’t work on mobile devices.” … “I need better detailed reports about our website” … “I want visitors to be able to share more on social media.” Going through this exercise beforehand will help target the big items and get your project off to a more productive start.

2. Aim—Aim—Fire

Start with the goal in mind. That seems super-obvious right? In theory yes, but when it comes to execution, that simple goal too often gets diluted — and that happens quickly and dramatically.

An associate recently asked me to look at their website. It wasn’t that the site was outdated. In fact, it had just recently been redesigned. The trouble was the content was grossly off-target. Almost comically so. To an extreme, everything on the site was industry shop-talk — and the few things that might have been of interest to a prospective client were hidden 3 levels deep. In a highly competitive industry, as this company is, you just can’t bury the headline. You simply can’t rate second in first impressions. What’s worse is that the head of the firm knew it and his marketing department just wasn’t getting it.

What to do? Know who your audience is. The first step is to write it down and share it with the entire team so that everyone knows. You don’t need a textbook worth of data; even a 1 or 2-page audience profile captured in a creative brief will help keep your marketing on track. Carpenters have a rule called “Measure Twice, Cut Once” … meaning that before they physically take a saw to a piece of wood, they make their measurements, and then measure again a second time so nothing accidently goes to waste. Similarly, our analogy is “Aim—Aim—Fire.” Draft your creative brief (Aim), refine it to make sure you’re on the mark (Aim again) and do it (Fire). We use the same drill coaching little league baseball … Aim at your target … take an extra split second to Aim again while you’re in motion … then Fire!

3. No Band Aids

I love Band Aids. They’re great when it comes to fixing a kid’s scraped elbow. But when it comes to your website, resist the urge to make any half-hearted stop-gap fixes. (Yes, when I say Band Aid always go with the brand-name. Those cheapo flexible adhesive strips never work as well.) At some point in the process, an ugly question can pop up where someone asks: “Can’t we just do the bare minimum?” The answer is an emphatic NO and NO again. In the long run all it does is prolong whatever festering underlying issue there is.

If you were to go to a first-time client meeting or an interview you would dress the part. You would want to be seen as credible, intelligent and authentic. Perception is everything. The same goes for your site. Think of your website as the perfect outfit down to the shoes. If it were a suit it would be a custom-tailored suit. If it were a dress it would be red-carpet worthy. It wouldn’t be something off the rack – and certainly not a tuxedo printed on the front of a t-shirt. So, RIP the Band Aid off. FIX whatever problems there are and make sure you’re looking sharp!

 When it comes to analyzing the effectiveness of your online marketing, there are dozens of different strategies: It could be a straight credibility play; a focus on sales conversions; dynamic pages for mobile users; a more content-robust site; social media integration; SEO tweaks; or the design is simply stale and it’s time for a change. Which combination of tactics are best suited for your situation depend a lot of the specific business and the industry. Start with the Swiss Cheese Test to help get to the core of what’s not working. Then take the time to plan out where you want to get to. Because if your team doesn’t understand where they should wind up, they’re never going to get there. So Aim! And finally, dedicate the resources and the time to getting it done right. No Bozo Band Aids!

Are you ready to move forward? Good! If you have a passion for what you’re doing – we do too. Let’s talk.

About the Author

Will Casserly