Building a Future-Proof Website

This scenario may sound familiar: Your marketing team wants to quickly implement new ideas and get fresh content on your website, but you’re told that it takes 2 to 4 weeks for new design concepts plus 4 to 6 weeks for development.

You’re probably thinking there should be a better way—a simple, turnkey solution that keeps your Web content fresh without burning out your design and development teams with tight schedules.

Unfortunately there’s no magic wand, but there are things you can do to make the process easier.

One of the biggest mistakes companies make is thinking that once the website is launched (or recently redesigned), they’re all set. Everything’s current and automated, and marketing efforts roll on with no further intervention. That’s only partly true: website renovation is a great start, but you have to consider it will have a shelf life. Website content will expire at some point, and you have to anticipate what the update process is going to look like.

It’s up to your in-house designers and developers, or your agency partner, to anticipate long-term growth and maintenance of your website. If they build you a “good enough for right now” solution without consideration of future needs, that’s a red flag.

What Does a Sustainable Website Look Like?

THE KEY IS FLEXIBILITY, WHAT WE CALL MODULAR DESIGN AND DEVELOPMENT.

We create and build components—blocks—that are scalable and flexible. They can be swapped out, changed, rearranged, added to, or dropped. This allows you (specifically you) to make updates like these to any page with the minimum amount of effort:

  • Set up a new form for donations
  • Add a rotating gallery of customer testimonials to a product page
  • Create a landing page to support an upcoming product promotion or invite your audience to a webinar
  • Update the contact phone number in the footer of every page

Instead of the design and development teams being a bottleneck in the update process, you (or a member of the marketing team) can go directly to a library of pre-designed, pre-built pieces, already customized to align with your brand, and make updates to your website on the fly and quickly.

Now, the Caveat

Building long-term scalability that offers you this kind of control is an investment in your company’s growth, and the ongoing manageability of your website. The costs are often higher initially, but worth it when you don’t have to pay for another complete website overhaul in two years.

How We Do It

At Gravitate, we’ve invested heavily in testing our approach of modular content blocks. We primarily develop in WordPress, and leverage existing plugins and themes when appropriate.

One of the most useful plugins for WordPress is Advanced Custom Fields. This tool allows developers to easily create and customize “projects” that support various component blocks and functionality, but it doesn’t come with any pre-built blocks. To bridge the gap, we created our own plugin called Gravitate Blocks: It uses Advanced Custom Fields as a base, but comes pre-populated with a collection of blocks. It is also configurable and open to other developers, so that they can build their own blocks and continue providing scalability and flexibility.

Most of our client sites start with 8 to 14 blocks, and at first they don’t think they’ll ever need more than that. After about a year of settling into the new site, though, they often end up with a library of 12 to 20. (A few clients have more than 40!)

Think of it this way: A 512mb hard drive used to seem huge, and we couldn’t fathom ever needing more. Now you can’t even install an operating system with less than 8,000mb.

Bottom Line

If you build your website with just a few certain features in mind, you’ve already determined its limitations before it goes live. Take a step back and remember to leave yourself room to grow; you never know what capabilities you might want your site to have next year.

Considerations for Choosing an Agency

Look for a digital marketing agency partner that has your future top of mind and offers solutions for the following:

  • Regular content creation, updates, or repurposing
  • A variety of ways to increase traffic and conversions, thus increasing lead generation
  • Process for A/B testing

Bonus: a good digital marketing agency partner will provide their own ideas and suggestions, and won’t be afraid to push back on ideas that won’t enable your business to grow. This demonstrates that the agency is focused on your business goals, not just a paycheck.

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