It is practically impossible to predict the future. The only things of which we can be certain are that nothing will be anywhere near as cool as we expect it to be (no colonies on Mars? WTF?) and your website will look as dated in six months as a pair of rabbit ears sitting on top of a wooden entertainment console. Sorry.
How can this be prevented? No one wants to have to redesign their entire website every six months for relevance’s sake! How can I, as the proud owner of a successful company with a strong web presence, ensure the viability of my website for, let’s see… the end of time?
We’re only graphic designers – not wizards. No matter how pleasing or well-formatted your website is, eventually you will have to update it — if only because the rest of the world switched to a new series of browsers all using versions of HTML that are being updated every five minutes, rendering your ancient website interface virtually unrecognizable.
The only real solution is to make your current website as simple, easy to navigate and trend-resistant as possible. Yes, we said trend-resistant. Put the trends down! Drop them! Good boy.
Trends: Ignore Almost All of Them
Did you know that software exists that will turn updated Windows 8 interfaces back into the old, easily recognizable interfaces of Windows 97 and Windows XP? Such software exists because people simply do not want to have to learn to adjust to new formatting. Some of us just want to work with what we’re used to, and it’s not worth the expenditure of intellectual energy to try to adapt to new surroundings just for the sake of modernity, dammit.
If you’ve designed a clean website that your customer base knows how to use, you shouldn’t feel the need to arbitrarily change it for fashion’s sake. If you’ve kept out all of the annoying little website flourishes that everyone felt were so necessary five years ago (animated Flash intro pages; website music; hit counters), you could probably survive without a significant redesign. If you update your company Facebook page regularly, perhaps you could let your website linger as is just a little while longer. If your main demographic writes checks at the grocery store, you might not need a website at all.
The only trend that cannot be ignored is the trend of the mobile device, which isn’t actually a trend so much as a shift. While responsive web design might not be necessary for your particular needs, it is important to have a web page that is designed simply enough to adapt to the parameters of any mobile device.
I Feel the Need for Speed
If you have a clean and simple website, you will also likely have a fast website. As hip and modern as websites and applications try to be, as much as we want to believe our customers are sitting in front of their monitors or with their iPhones pressed against their noses in abject thrall of the beauty and majesty of our site, nothing beats a website that can just get you in and out and about your business.
Load up with Useful Content
Useful content. Useful. This means blog posts that were written by someone who understands your organization and your organization’s voice. This means content that is written to inform and, quite possibly, entertain. This means, above all, content that isn’t bogged down by random assortments of keywords that have been awkwardly shoved into the narrative. If you’re convinced that you are in desperate need of SEO, then compose the article that you, personally, would want to read on the subject. If you run a small accounting firm, what kind of good do you think it will do you to randomly and inelegantly incorporate “file income taxes,” “federal taxes file,” “tax returns,” and “state tax filing” over and over again, when you must know that the Internal Revenue Service is just going to dominate all of the search engine results anyway? C’mon – we’re saying this because we’re your friends.
So, what have we learned today? We’ve learned that it is possible to push the expiration date back on your website at least a year by keeping your design simple. We’ve learned that no one wants to have to adjust to a brand, spanking new website every few months. Most importantly, we’ve learned that people who still write checks at actual retail stores probably also keep gold bullion, sacks of grain and Laura Ingalls Wilder in their basements.