Many small business owners have a hard time seeing the value of a website redesign. They believe "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." And this is understandable. Unless you are eating, breathing and sleeping technology and staying up to date with the moving target of Internet business, you're not likely to know intuitively if your site needs a redesign.And as a small business owner, you may be concerned about the up-front costs of a website redesign. But once you understand how a redesign can help you drive traffic to your site, convert more users and even save monthy, you'll feel more positive about making the investment in your business.
Old School Web Design - Tables-Based HTML
Not long ago, fax machines were the best way to deliver business documents fast. But now it's so easy to scan and email documents, and even capture digital signatures through email, the fax machine is quickly going the way of the typewriter. With email, recipients can choose to read and archive the message online, or print it out themselves on their own desktop printer. No need for individual telephone lines for the fax machine, taking up desk space, replacing toner, uncurling fax paper and listening to screeching fax machine tones! Tables-based HTML websites are like the fax machine. At one time tables were the best way to render information on the Web. But like curled paper and fading ink, tables left something to be desired. Designers were constrained by tables that allowed data to be rendered only in tabular form. The clean, professional and creative layouts today's best designers create with Cascading Style Sheets could never be achieved with tables-based HTML.
New School Web Design - Cascading Style Sheets
Cascading Style Sheets separate the presentation elements of a website (code) from its content (words). CSS allows web designers and developers to format the layout and style (fonts, spacing, text size, colors and so on) of multiple Web pages using one file, rather than entering the code to each individual page. Making changes to styles and layouts is much quicker and easier with CSS as well, as updating one file "cascades" the changes to every page on the site. There is less room for error, and the website maintains a professional consistency. But web designers and developers are not the only ones who benefit from CSS. You as a business owner benefit even more. How?
5 Solid Reasons To Redesign Your Website With CSS
1. Branding and Aesthetics
Consumer behavior experts tell us that, presented with many similar product or service options, and little prior knowledge and experience with these brands or companies, consumers will rely on mental shortcuts to make purchase decisions. The way your website looks compared to your competitors has a large influence on how a visitor perceives your company's professionalism and goodwill. If your website looks modern, crisp and clean, you leave a positive impression on your visitors about your company.
2. Better Usability
CSS also reduces the amount of HTML code a website requires. Tables and extra tags for fonts and colors cause pages to load slowly. The longer it takes for your page to load, the more likely a visitor will hit the back button. Even though the majority of people use a broadband connection, many are still using dialup. And others may be using a high speed wireless network which, depending on how many others are sharing the same wireless channel, may experience fast or slow connections.
Rapid advances in wireless communications have made it easy to surf the 'Net using PDA's and cell phones. Tabular page layouts simply don't display properly on small screens. A business that wants to be accessible to anyone, anywhere now and in the future needs to have a website that can be viewed on mobile devices. CSS design also greatly improves the user experience for the visually impaired, as they cause fewer problems for screen readers and Braille programs.
4. Search Engine Benefits
It has been estimated that up to 80% of all purchases online begin with a search engine. And an entire industry is dedicated to helping businesses rank highly for specific search terms to take advantage of the power of search engines. Although the relevance of a webpage to a search term is determined by HTML elements like title tags and heading tags, content is still "king" because visitors are looking for content, not code. When you have a high code-to-content ratio, your keyword density (the relative frequency of your targeted keywords on your page) is diluted by HTML instructions for how tables, fonts, styles and colors should be rendered. With CSS, there are no tables, and formatting information is contained in one style sheet. So search engines see more keywords and less code. Search engines are more and are more likely to index deeper pages of your site and send you more referral traffic.
Cascading Style Sheets can save you monthy and increase the number of eyeballs that see your page in other ways. "Bandwidth" refers to how much website traffic your hosting company will allow you to have each month. Because every time a user lands on your site, he or she must load your pages in his or her browser. Not only visitors, but search engine spiders consume bandwidth too. The more code your pages have, the more bandwidth you use. If you exceed your bandwidth usage, your site will be suspended until you buy more bandwidth or reach end of the month. Suppose your site receives a sudden surge of traffic shortly after a popular magazine features your company. That would be the worst possible time for your website to go offline! CSS makes for a more efficient use of bandwidth, and reduces the chances of such problems.
So Are Tables Taboo?
Absolutely not. There are bona fide reasons to use tables to display certain types of content. The beauty about CSS is that you still can use tables when you need to, but you don't need to use tables for everything which significantly reduces your "code load."
How Do I Know If I'm Already Using CSS?
A quick test to see if your site is using CSS is to load your website in your browser (any page will do). Right click anywhere in the window, and a menu box will appear. Click "View Page Source." You should see keywords like rel="stylesheet" or type="text/css" near the top of the window that pops up to view your source code. If you're already using CSS, there may be other ways your business could benefit from a website redesign. Driving traffic, improving the customer experience, making your website more accessible to users and saving time and money on webmaster updates make it well worth the investment. Whether you choose to redesign now or in the future, make sure that your web designer and developer are skilled in CSS.
About The Author
Linda Bustos is the Marketing Director for Image X Media, a Vancouver web design and Internet Marketing firm. She also blogs about social media and business.