Web Biz: Time for Spring Cleaning

Stephen Yagielowicz

We won’t point fingers, you know who you are — trying to compete for mindshare among today’s demanding audiences, while relying on a 15 year old business backbone that increasingly makes your company look like you just don’t give a damn. That might sound somewhat harsh, but a growing number of adult websites are really showing their age and demanding substantial updates that are often long overdue, if difficult to achieve.

Whether the result of a churn-and-burn marketing plan where countless properties are auto generated and rarely revisited in favor of continually building new sites, or of sites showing declining profitability and not worth the reinvestment, or just being “too busy,” digital decay is becoming a very real problem for some companies, which will face tough decisions about the future of their antiquated offerings as their lack of freshness becomes ever more obvious and leads to fewer and fewer sales.

An increasing number of adult websites are showing their age, demanding substantial updates that may be long overdue.

One of the biggest indicators of a site long overdue for a refresh is its width in pixels.

For example, the veteran 800x600 pixel display lost market dominance in 2003, when higher resolution 1024x768 screens took over — a full decade ago. Today, less than one half of one percent of Internet access is via a device with an 800x600 pixel display.

Yet, check your favorite white label website to see what size of a screen it targets — surprisingly, you will find 800x600 legacy offers from some of the top names in the biz (as well as many lesser players) showcasing tired designs. Indeed, many affiliate program sites also target this small screen size — despite the tech-forward nature of the audience, which will tend to have higher resolution displays than will the typical consumer.

Perhaps this lack of updated affiliate tools and sites is due to the declining importance of affiliates as a traffic source, but as web design has become an inexpensive commodity, there’s little excuse not to update a design which could be improved for the same price as one of the high dollar single sale affiliate payouts that some of these companies advertise.

Using Adobe Flash without fallbacks is another problem area, as well as an indicator of the challenges and speed of change faced by digital media marketers: at the peak years for porn, companies invested in moving to Flash as the next big thing — now it’s as stale as yesterday’s pizza — but few are interested in reinvesting in transcoding video formats in such an uncertain environment, both economically and technologically.

Flash isn’t just used for video, however; with banner ads, site intros / splash screens, live cam previews and other tools all make use of the technology, in ways that show age in an unattractive manner — no matter how cool and current your site looked yesteryear.

While Flash does offer many advantages, Apple’s inability to come to terms with its licensing requirements creates a dilemma for designers in an iPad world — and although the iPad may not be a statistically dominant platform for all venues, the affluence of users and their willingness to pay for premium content make this an ideal audience to target — so deploying alternatives to Flash based content is vital, especially going forward.

Ditch the HTML tables and outdated coding while you’re at it as well; cleaning up obsolete scripting, dirty code and unused features for faster, streamlined page delivery.

One way that all of these issues can be addressed is by rolling out a new site based on HTML 5, which will not only offer performance and crossplatform compatibility boosts, but a range of search engine marketing benefits that could make a meaningful difference in the amount of high quality traffic that your site receives from Google and its kin.

Refreshing your content is another big action item. Nothing screams “dead website” more than seeing a three year old press release or other dated item under “latest news.”

While these sections are valuable resources for reaching your audience, you can’t just let them go without updates — and the same goes for the year on your copyright notice and content with dated haircuts or outfits on your home page, unless it’s a retro niche site.

“Many businesses go through the initial process of designing a website, but then forget about it, thinking that the website’s existence is enough to help their business,” Ariel Remer wrote for Tri-Funk.com “Time goes by (always quicker than we realize) and they visit their website, only to find that its colors are outdated, the content barely represents their company values, and they haven’t told their customers anything new about their business in ages.”

“You wouldn’t open a storefront and never repaint the exterior, refresh the displays, or talk to your customers, would you?” Remer asked rhetorically, underscoring a typical disconnect between the needs and practices of online and offline business and how being in the online arena does not excuse a company from the basics of doing business.

Of course, outdated website designs are not the only technological backwater that too many adult sites swim in today. Here, functionality is the key issue, with everything from having HD video content with text transcription to site search; social media integration to mobile-friendly navigation; third-party services from billing and analytics companies, content management systems, traffic services and beyond, all up for improvement.

Even if you use no other focus group, evaluate your website against how you use sites and the approaches that your competitors use: how does your site stand up? Does it lack a feature or service or type of content that its visitors might expect — based on competitive sites or the functions you use most on Facebook or other websites you patronize, and that your customers also visit? These sites shape user expectations of today’s web experience.

According to VeryBestSoftware.net owner Steven Papas, we now live in the world of Web 2.0, where it’s all about communicating and networking.

‘Your site isn’t a billboard or print advertisement; it should be an active part of a community. This means that you need to get out in the social networking sites and create some community,” Papas wrote for design blog Hongkiat.com. “The more you let your users get involved in your site, the more they’ll stick around.”

Papas recommends that webmasters install Facebook widgets, “Tweet This” buttons and even user profile functions for their customers.

“You should at least have a comments section and be running a fan page on Facebook,” Papas explains. “These social networking sites are some of the most popular places on the web, so you should be there mixing it up!”

This isn’t just a concern for mainstream operators, as an increasing number of adult entertainment business leaders are developing active social media presences in order to keep their presence forefront in the minds of consumers, as well as to boost networking with their peers — just take the next step and integrate social media tools into your site if you haven’t already done so.

There are many ways in which your site can be falling behind the times. If it has been several years since it has received an update, now is the time to look at how to do it right — use the summer months to revamp your approach, then reap an abundant fall harvest.

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