New year, new look: Simple ways to update your website

7 min read
Curtis McHale

It's easy to let your website stagnate, so I always recommend that you take a look as the holidays approach to see if anything could use a fresh coat of paint. Making a yearly commitment to update your website helps ensure that you never get to the point where it's so out-of-date your customers notice its age.

Yes, even your website needs a yearly cleaning.

I’ll walk you through the process I use to update a website for my clients.

Basic site check

The place to start a website update is with a basic site check. Go through your website page by page, checking:

  • If all your pages still work
  • What about your forms — are you getting the information submitted to them? Fill one out yourself to check.
  • Are there any links that don’t lead anywhere?

Anything that’s out-of-date or broken will leave a bad impression on anyone who visits your site.

I recently had a user on my website let me know that one of my pages was returning errors. Once I investigated, I realized it had been offline for months. I'm lucky someone said something, because I would have missed this issue for a few more months until I did my yearly basic site check.

It's also worth the time to make sure that all your contact information is correct.

Have staff titles, emails or phone numbers changed? If so, does your employee page need an update to reflect these changes?

Under the hood

Hand holding a magnifying glass over a computer keyboard
The first step is to look at every page on your website, clicking on every link.
Photo: Agence Olloweb on Unsplash

I recently worked on a WordPress site where half the plugins hadn't been updated in at least five years. One was over 12 years old. Even worse, my client wasn't using any of them.

These plugins were taking up space and slowing the site down for no purpose.

Plus, they're old enough that it’s likely they contain security issues. (Remember to accept updates as soon as you’re notified of them, as they often contain patches for recently discovered security gaps.)

Plugins are unique to WordPress websites, so if you used a do-it-yourself sitebuilder to create your website, this won’t be an issue for you.

Toy man sweeping up fallen dandelion seeds

If you do have a WordPress site, make sure you go through the plugins you have on your site and review what’s installed at least once a year. Remove the plugins you're not using and clean any data that they have left in your database (how to do this).

Will your site stay online?

Another great yearly task is to check with your hosting and domain name provider. This may be one company or two.

  • Are your hosting and domain accounts set up for automatic renewal?
  • Is the payment method on file up-to-date so that it will be charged properly?

At least once a year, I have a client ask me to talk to their hosting provider about recovering a site that was removed because their hosting plan wasn't renewed. Don't get caught by this simple mistake.

Do you have a backup plan?

You should have a backup strategy set up on your site. If you don't, then now is the time to set up site backups.

A backup is a copy of your website. Always having one can save you so much stress.

Even more importantly, though, is to make sure that you know how to restore your site with your backups.

I've talked to site owners who have a dead site due to lapsed hosting or a data breach, but their backups were never complete and they want their websites back. Unfortunately, if the data isn't there, no one can recover it. So take a few minutes to make a backup strategy so you know your site can be restored if something ever happens.

Editor’s note: Backups are like insurance — if you never need it, great! But if your website is hacked, you’ll thank your lucky stars you have it. Check out GoDaddy’s Website Backup with super-simple, one-click site restore.

Is it still loading quickly?

One of the final checks is to make sure that your site is still fast. Using PageSpeed Insights, test your site to ensure that your users are getting the pages and content they need quickly.

Remember that people will only wait a few seconds for a web page to load before clicking away.

There are probably going to be a few new techniques you can take advantage of every year to improve the loading time of your site. Refer to this post for nine tips on improving your page speed.

Ask customers how you’re doing

A new year is a good time to check if your customers are getting what they need from your website. Asking your customers what their biggest questions are will give you a good list of topics to address to fill those gaps.

For example, they might ask for:

  • Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
  • Infographics that simplify something complex or sequential
  • Blog posts with detailed instructions
  • Videos that show how to use your products

If your site already has the content customers are looking for, then you know that you haven't done a good job of showing it to them.

Revise your email campaigns to make sure you are drawing attention to these in-demand pages. Ensure that any of your "overlooked" pages have updated SEO details so they are visible to incoming users.

Related: Content marketing 101 first steps

Visual tasks

Now it's time to look at your homepage and make sure that it represents where your business is currently.

Your homepage is the first page that people see when they arrive.

Take some time to test different calls to action (CTAs) to see if they will turn more browsers into buyers. A CTA is a button that urges action, such as “Buy now” or “Reserve your space.”

You can even take it a step further by looking into some A/B testing to help ensure that any changes you make actually do improve your results.

Every few years you're going to need to start looking at a new overall design for your site. If you don't have a preferred designer, take a look through the web design section of Dribbble and see how your site matches up with some of the current trends.

If your site looks old, your customers are going to start to notice and the trust in your site will decrease.

A regular review of your site design compared to current trends can help you avoid this.

Do your photos and graphics look good?

Woman looking at photos on a smartphone

As the internet gets faster and computer monitors get nicer, it's important to make sure that your images are optimized well. Images from a few years ago may look low-quality on the newer 4k monitors that your visitors may have.

Take a look at your site analytics then check how your images look on the main devices they use (Google Analytics can tell you this). This is especially important for online stores because your users can't touch your products; your images have to tell the whole story of what your product is like.

Make a start on updating your website

Don’t consider your website a set-and-forget element of your marketing. Instead of letting your site languish, it's important to take a look at this list of site updates yearly.

A regular review will help ensure that your website stays online and that you're serving your customers well.

While you won't need to update your site end-to-end every year, there will always be a few things that could be improved. But if you never check, you’ll never know.