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For almost every business operating today, your website is your place on the map. Without it, you simply don’t exist for most people. If you aren’t willing to invest in a website or some other online presence to showcase the details and capabilities of your business, you aren’t likely to succeed in today’s business market/ 

Most successful business owners already know this. However, if your business has been around for a while, it’s possible (and extremely likely) that your website may be outdated. Even if your business is only a few years old, your website may not be fully optimized for today’s users – or for what Google wants to see. In just the last five years, there have been many important changes in web design and development, making it nearly impossible for an old site to stay current with the most important requirements for success online as well as maintaining a website that looks good and works for you.

There are, however, many simple things that can be done to improve user experience, without having to implement drastic changes.

Making Simple, but Powerful Changes

The Johnston, RI Fire Department is a good, recent example of a modest website redesign project undertaken by Savoir Faire. We worked closely with the administrative team at the Fire Department to develop a website to better meet the needs of the department itself, and the Johnston, RI, community.

Working with an Existing Platform

When it comes to website redesign, some clients are looking for a complete overhaul. Others are looking for a more limited approach. The Johnston Fire Department wanted to keep their website on the existing platform and make the necessary improvements within its capabilities.

Identifying Needs for Improvement

Although the website was initially built on a quality platform and provided useful information to the public, the functionality didn’t fully meet the needs of its users: It wasn’t mobile friendly, and the navigation wasn’t intuitive or particularly informative. The existing site made it difficult for users to find important documents and other critical information. There were drop down menus without any information, and entire sections of the website contained sparse amounts of information.

The site also didn’t have the latest updates for the Joomla platform installed, which would include any fixes to known bugs and/or improvements to the site or theme functionality. Finally, the site didn’t have a real logo. Instead, there was simply a scanned image of a firefighter’s patch at the top of the site, accompanied by an image of a sign outside one of the fire department divisions. The image didn’t reflect well upon the department. Additionally, a graphical background looked like something out of a children’s book. Overall, the site looked shoddy and unprofessional. 

Aesthetic Improvements

It goes without saying that, a more attractive site is better for business. According to Adobe, “38% of people will stop engaging with a website if the content/layout is unattractive.” The original Johnston, RI Fire Department website was built for smaller screen sizes that were compatible with older computers. The home page was built in a box format, and had an outdated look and feel. In order to create a more aesthetically pleasing website experience, we began with a re-design of the home page and overall site layout. 

We removed the box format and stretched the main image across the entire page for a more modern look. We also moved the information they had on the About Us page to the home page, which is becoming common on modern websites, and allows users to get important contact information easily, and in one place. According to recent statistics gathered by KoMarketing, “Once on a company’s homepage, 52% of visitors want to see ‘about us’ information.”

In addition to improving the overall visual experience for the user, we also created a graphical logo building upon the original idea of the firefighter’s patch. The new graphic was higher resolution and readable. We also changed the type treatment for the website, using a font that’s easier to read. Overall, the new site has a more professional look and feel to it, one that reflects positively on their organization and brand.

Usability Improvements

Website usability is an important aspect of web design and development that you really can’t afford to skip. According to recent statistics gathered by Adobe, “39% of people will stop engaging with a website if images won’t load or take too long to load.” Further, page load speed is one of Google’s ranking signals. Based on this premise, we went to work on improving the site.

1.    User-Friendly Features

We started by rolling back all previous customizations to the site, so we had a clean canvas to work with. We updated the navigation and all menus to make them more user-friendly and informative. Our new design gave users multiple ways to access the five divisions of the fire department, with easy-to-find sections designed to include pertinent division information.

We reorganized all of the department and station information, and developed a clean list of services to choose from. We installed a Google Maps tool on the site, so that users could easily get directions to each location. The result provides users with a much easier way to find the right contact for their inquiry. 

2.    Mobile Friendly

We redesigned the website frame to be wider when viewed on larger screens, and more responsive overall, allowing users to view the website on a variety of screen sizes without having to sacrifice the quality of their experience.

3.    Client-Friendly Features

The original site was difficult to update with regards to announcements, photos and other documents. We developed an easier way for the client to add announcements, using articles in the Joomla platform.

We also installed a document management tool to make it easier to add PDFs to the site, and a photo gallery tool for the client to add pictures. Finally, we created a user manual on how to make updates to the site for the client, so they were empowered to make changes without utilizing an outside vendor.

Results

Instead of moving the site to a different platform and/or complicating the redesign project, we used the existing extensions, themes and content management system to build a better website, with a significantly improved user experience. The resulting website is modern-looking, and more importantly, the improved navigation and layout makes it easier to use for both visitors and the client. By making the website responsive to all screen sizes, users now have the ability to view the site easily from any device.

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