by Brenda Wright
We owe our very existence to the caveman's (and cavewoman's) ability to know when to run away. Without this vital skill, we would have died out as a species long ago. In the time of the caveman it tended to be a lot easier to identify and respond to danger than is it today. Not a lot of time was lost standing around trying to identify the intentions of the saber-tooth tiger that was chasing the tribe.
Just like their ancient ancestors, modern day website managers/owners need to be aware of and avoid danger. One of the most dangerous times for websites is during a website re-design. Today the survival of many websites depend on the ability of the website owners/managers to recognize (and run away from) danger during a re-design.
Over the years, I have seen many companies sacrifice their website Search Engine visibility on the alter of re-design. Perhaps the most extreme example occurred a few years ago with a rental and service company for whom we had achieved phenomenal Search Engine visibility. The company thanked us very vocally for the literally hundreds of thousands of dollars of new business they were generating from their website now that it was being found on all the major Search Engines. As sometimes happens, our main contact within the company moved on and a new person was hired to manage their website. Unfortunately, without consulting with us, or bothering to find out why the website was doing so well on all the major Search Engines, the new website manager took down the carefully crafted and optimized website pages and replaced them all with images. Each website page was now one image. Search Engines cannot 'see' the content that is displayed via images. Predictably, the website Search Engine visibility began to plummet. We tried speaking with the website manager and even ended up speaking directly to the company owner, explaining what was happening and the need for swift action. His reply was, "well its ok, we are pretty booked up right now." As a result, the website lost all of its Search Engine visibility and they no longer had to worry about all the new customers coming to him via the Search Engines.
An inexperienced and unknowing employee sinks a website. It happens. But what happens even more often is the sinking of websites during re-design by 'professional' designers. Unfortunately, there are a lot of web design companies that have absolutely no clue about Search Engine Marketing or Optimization. There are still web designers who are convincing site owners to use a Splash entry page, think sites that are all in Flash are a great idea, and still kinda like Frames! These designers are not interested in promoting your business, they are interested it getting their designs up on the internet. To them it does not matter that your site cannot be found on Search Engines, or that those few visitors who do stumble across your site find it unusable, what matters is that the website conforms to their idea of good design.
To assist individuals thinking about a site redesign I have developed a 'Run Away If' list that will save you grief, time, and money. This list presents very real danger signals that cautious website owners and managers should be aware of.
RUN AWAY if your web designer:
- Does not ask you about your business
- Does not ask you any questions about your Search Engine Marketing and Optimization programs
- Begins the new design without discussing with you the goal of your website
- Begins the new design without discussing with you who your target audience is
- Puts visual impact ahead of the usability of the web site
- Recommends a Splash entry page (Search Engines cannot normally 'see' Splash pages. This is a dated feature that tends to put off site visitors - who will often simply leave the page (and the website) before it has had a chance to load)
- Recommends your entire site be in Flash (Search Engines cannot 'see' Flash pages)
- Recommends putting your site in Frames (Search Engines have great difficulty 'seeing' Frames pages - there are workarounds for using Frames but they are a costly retro-fit. A good designer will recommend using tables rather than Frames if you have your heart set on a Frames look)
- Does not realize that the title, meta name="description", and meta name="keywords" tags should be