Posted on May 22, 2017

Does Your Website Look Dated? 5 Signs That Give You Away

“Website design,” is a vast spectrum, that encompasses everything from the sites of the world’s biggest, most tech-savvy companies to the home-grown pages hand-coded by small business owners just trying to get by.

If you’ve built your site on your own, it can be difficult to accurately gauge where you fall on this scale. However, it’s important that you do so. According to ConversionXL’s Peep Laja:

It takes only 1/10th of a second to form a first impression about a person, and websites are no different. It takes about 50 milliseconds (that’s 0.05 seconds) for users to form an opinion about your website that determines whether they like your site or not, whether they’ll stay or leave.”

If, in those 50 milliseconds, visitors decide that your site is too dated to provide the current answers they’re looking for, they’ll click the “Back” button without a second thought.

Properly engaging website visitors, therefore, depends on your ability to create a design that’s modern and appealing. The following five signs will help you determine whether you’re meeting – or missing – the mark.


Sign #1 – There’s no structure to your content

Take a look at this website example from medical tech provider Ascent Technologies:

plain website

Image Source: Ascent Technologies

Compared to this modern page from 4 Rivers Smokehouse…

BBQ website

Image Source: 4 Rivers Smokehouse

There are plenty of differences that separate the two, but one of the biggest, most all-encompassing issues is that we’ve come to expect that the websites we browse will be structured in a certain way.

We expect to see a header (usually graphic-intensive, though rotating banners have lost a bit of their appeal), a main navigation bar (horizontal, not vertical in nature) and information broken down into subsequent visually-distinct sections.

Look at the two website examples above again, then give your site a new look. Does the structure of your site put it closer to the first or the second example? Is your site’s content broken into separate, easily-digestible sections?

Your responses will give you plenty of insight into the state of your site’s current design, but another handy question to ask yourself is this: was your website’s design trendy when it was first designed? If the answer to this question is “yes,” and your site was designed more than 5-10 years ago, there’s a good chance it looks dated.


Sign #2 – You use more than 2-3 main colors

Old Geocities designs are an easy target for commentary on dated website design, but they also emphasize an important point: using more than 2-3 main colors in your site’s design makes it difficult for visitors to determine where they should be looking and what they should be doing.

Take a look at the site below:

website with confusing colors

Image Source: Contemporary-Home-Computing

Yes, this is an extreme example. And no, you’re not likely to see websites like these anymore. But this page in particular does a great job of demonstrating how multiple colors draw our attention in different directions, leading to distraction.

In this case above, should you read the yellow section with red text at the top first? The black section with white text? Or how about the rainbow-colored section or the text block featuring a repeating red floral background?

Clearly, color can have a major impact on the way we experience websites. But how do you go from a website with a cluttered color palette to one that uses color in a more well-considered way? Theories abound on color psychology and how color should be used in websites, but the graphic below can be used as a starting point:

color psychology

Image Source: John Moneypenny

The information portrayed in this graphic isn’t set in stone; you’ll see that all colors aren’t represented, and colors can convey multiple meanings.

Pick the one focus color that you think best suits the brand you’re trying to create, then choose 1-2 additional colors to use as accents. These may be colors that are included in your logo, or you may need to expand your palette if your logo contains only one color. Consider the way your use of these chosen colors can draw or deflect attention on your site; deploy them wisely, taking your visitors’ needs into account.


Sign #3 – You use animated imagery

Remember this guy?

dancing mouse gif

Image Source: Photobucket

If he’s still on your website, you can definitely say – with 100% certainty – that it looks dated.

Admittedly, the lines of this rule have been blurred a bit with the widespread adoption of animated GIF memes. There is, however, a big difference between the movie- or TV-style GIF memes of today and the animated clip art that plagued the old Geocities sites we mentioned earlier (though, unless you’re media-savvy, you should steer clear of both types of animated images).

Consider animated imagery as just one symptom of a larger problem. Web design standards these days are advanced enough that visitors have come to expect bold, life-like visuals – not cheap stock imagery or drawings that look like they came out of Microsoft Paint.


Sign #4 – You have broken image files or use deprecated file formats

Ever opened up a new website, only to be greeted by empty frames indicating the presence of missing images or by error messages informing you that needed plugins are missing?

flash alert

Image Source: TheIntenCity

Broken website features tell your visitors that you don’t care enough about your site to make sure it’s running properly (whether or not that’s actually the case). And when you consider that in light of the “first impression” statistics shared earlier in the article, it’s clear how broken web elements could lead to bounced visitors.

It isn’t, however, only your main website you have to worry about. Depending on how your site is built, elements that work fine when your site is displayed on a desktop computer could still cause mischief when they’re loaded on a mobile device. For example:

  • Images that are hard-coded to certain sizes may make it difficult to scroll through your site on a mobile environment
  • These same images could even interfere with some of your site’s functionality
  • Using file formats like Flash – which have been almost entirely deprecated on mobile devices in favor of the HTML5 standard – could seriously impair your mobile experience

One solution is to use a website builder with a mobile-responsive template which will automatically resize various elements on your site, depending on the size and scale of the device on which it’s being viewed. Even still, it’s a good idea to employ a broken link checker on your site and to regularly conduct manual checks to be sure nothing’s missed.


Sign #5 – The dates on your site are more than 2 years old

Take a look at the information in your site’s footer. Has your copyright message (if you have one), been updated to the current year? It’s not uncommon, unfortunately, to find these messages being a few years – or more – out-of-date, making them a dead giveaway that your website is dated.

That said, your footer isn’t the only place where you need to be concerned about older dates. When was the last time you updated your blog? It’s quite common for companies to get excited about blogging and put out an initial stream of regular content – only to drop-off down the line when their enthusiasm wanes.

Or how about any promotions featured on your site’s home page? Are you advertising December specials in June? Not only does this make you look out of touch, it puts you at risk of having to honor past promotions for confused customers!

Regular updates to your site – as well as regular checks of any dates or dated material you include – will protect your site from earning a bad rap with customers who expect more timely content.


Is It Time for a Redesign?

How many of these signs do you see on your website? Hopefully no more than 1-2; if it’s more than that, it may be time to consider a full, from-the-ground-up redesign.

Think also about the scope of the changes that you’d need to make to update your current site’s look and feel. If all you need to do is update a few dates on your pages, you should be able to make the changes within a few hours. Creating a site structure where none currently exists or completely changing the color scheme of your pages is a significantly larger undertaking – and it may be time to call in the pros.

Ultimately, it isn’t up to you whether or not your site is out-of-date – at least not entirely. It’s also up to your customers to decide whether your company’s website proves you’re a good choice for their business or not. Your design – dated or not – will be one of the biggest factors in their decision.

What other signs tell you that a website’s look is outdated? Leave us a note below with your thoughts:


Header Image Source: Flickr