December 23, 2014

Deck the Website Halls

Deck the Website Halls

How to make the most of the holiday rush and making sure your target market doesn’t forget (or get annoyed at) you.

Many businesses, especially in the retail sector, like to decorate in the spirit of whatever season it is, and with good reason: to drive holiday sales. This is why you see stores with Christmas decorations when it is still technically summer. Websites, too, can get into the act, and with a little advance planning and the proper tools, changing your site design for the holidays (and changing it back afterwards) can be a snap. Here are some tips for decorating your site for the holidays:

Style Sheets and Content Management

Using cascading style sheets (CSSs) makes it easy to update the color scheme of your site to match the season. If you want certain page elements to be pink and red for Valentine’s, shades of green for St. Patrick’s Day, and black for Black Friday, you can have versions of your CSS files for each. All you need to do is modify the site to point to the right one at the right time. (Make sure you test a development version of the site with each new color scheme and especially be on the lookout for poor font/background combinations. Yellow text on a red background works really well; yellow on white, is pretty much unreadable.)

This also points out one of the advantages of a content management system (CMS). With a CMS, your content files and CSS files can be kept in a database, and different content can be pushed out to the live site at different times. Your “Columbus Day Specials” banner can be kept in CMS storage and pushed out every year. Graphical elements can be managed in this way as well; on November 1 you can easily pop out the jack o’ lantern image on your home page and pop in the Thanksgiving turkey dressed like a Pilgrim. (Have you ever seen a real turkey dressed like a Pilgrim? Didn’t think so.)

By simply substituting graphical and text elements, you can update your site design for the holidays without undergoing a complete site redesign every few weeks.

Content Considerations

Among the things you will want to consider emphasizing when you are making your holiday website design changes:

Keep visitors informed of seasonal business changes. If you have a brick-and-mortar retail outlet or a customer service department with special holiday hours, this is good information to have on your website. There are few ways to lose customers faster than having them come by according to your regular store hours, only to find you’re closed because of your different holiday hours. If your returns policy changes during the holidays, this is something your web visitors will want to know too.

Similarly, if you ship products to customers, remind them to shop early because of the delays most carriers see during the high-volume holiday crunch time. Carriers will typically inform you of changes in expected service times; this information should be passed on to your customers.

Be mindful of inclusiveness. Not everyone celebrates Christmas, or Hanukah, or Ramadan, or Kwanzaa, or Groundhog Day. Know your customer base and what holidays they are likely to celebrate, and use this information to guide your decoration strategy.

Don’t forget to switch back. Nothing says “incompetent” like advertising a “Fourth of July Blowout Sale” in August. (Unless you mean next Fourth of July; see reference to “rushing the season” at the beginning of this blog.)

Whatever the holiday season (or seasons) you choose to emphasize on your website, you should be able to do so with a minimum of fuss. Following these tips will simplify the tasks of changing your site design for the holidays and keeping your customers happy with the right content updates.


by Kevin Smith
SmashBrand helps brands create, optimize, and launch successful products, services, and customer experiences. Our data-driven process is the key to accelerating sales and minimizing risks.

We use a strategic combination of market research, design, and consumer testing to solve complex brand problems more effectively, create differentiation, and forge more meaningful connections with customers.

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