3 Warning Signs that You Need
a New Website


In poker, there’s an old saying that if you’ve been in the game 30 minutes and you don’t know who the patsy is, you’re the patsy. And although that’s a bit blunt, it’s an apt metaphor for how many website owners, in organizations large and small, end up realizing they need a new website. That is to say, they don’t know until the damage has already been done. So, today it’s my goal to help you mitigate this damage by recognizing the warning signs that you need a new website.   

you need a new website. Poker Hands - Three Of A Kind. Closeup view of five playing cards forming the poker three of a kind hand.
Image: shutterstock/Sasha Gromov

In a perfect world, your CMO, marketing team or development department is looking at your organization’s website every day. They’re reviewing story to ensure accuracy and engagement. They’re updating content and photos to ensure relevancy. They’re tuning-up the CMS, reviewing third-party software integrations and any plugins to ensure that everything’s running smoothly. They’re studying analytics to address content gaps and draw conclusions about where users are exiting; they’re even reviewing heatmaps* to improve layouts for better conversion. 

Alas, in a world of limited resources and budgets, even the most efficient organizations aren’t able to commit to this level of “preventative” website hygiene and maintenance. And yet, it’s just this sort of focus that keeps a site performing optimally, delighting its users and accordingly, driving results. 

When I’m asked at the beginning of a site development project “how long can we expect this site to last before we need to redesign?” my answer is, “it depends: are you willing to invest the time and resources to regularly keep your site relevant, engaging and optimized”?

If the answer is “yes,” then I can assure this site owner that they will indeed get more mileage out of the redesign we’re about to provide, if it’s “sure, we’ll try to do that,” then this organization will need another website redesign sooner rather than later. 

In either case, there are three telltale signs that it’s definitely time for a redesign/redevelopment:   

3 Signs That You Need a New Website

1. Your Users are Frustrated, And They’re Telling You About It

I put this one first, because it’s the most important. And, it’s the one you never want to get to, because if you’ve reached this point, you’re already losing money and supporters. 

I define user frustration as a combination of factors that prevents them from taking an intended action. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Arriving at a donation page and not being able to donate due to some technical error
  • Arriving at a donation page that’s separate from the website, has a completely different experience and thus makes the user feel insecure about donating 
  • The site is performing slow enough that the user simply leaves
  • The user has to search (and search) to find content they expected to find in the place they were told it was
  • They’re having a poor experience on their mobile device (content is too small, not optimized for mobile, or the mobile site simply replicates the desktop experience)
  • The user isn’t wowed by, and deeply engaged in, the story and experience they expected to have when they heard about the organization  

Of course there are more, but these are some of the clear indicators that things are amiss. And you’ll know because users (at least the ones that care about the organization) will speak up as they can’t make heads or tails of what to do next. 

Could these be simple one-off fixes? Possibly. But based on experience, organizations that take a hands-off approach to regular site maintenance usually leave many things unchecked. And when that happens consistently over time, it sometimes means replacing the whole shebang.  

2. In Your Heart, You Know Your Story Isn’t Being Told Properly

We once met with an executive team of a prominent special needs organization. They did amazing work and touched many lives. But when we spoke with the executive director, you could sense his frustration with the website. Here was this nonprofit with this incredible, impactful story and yet he was unable to effectively convey how it should be portrayed via the site – he just knew that what was there wasn’t speaking truly and accurately to the mission. 

When I’m asked at the beginning of a site development project “how long can we expect this site to last before we need to redesign?” my answer is, “it depends: are you willing to invest the time and resources to regularly keep your site relevant, engaging and optimized”?

Trust your own “spider sense” when it comes to your website. If you spend your days passionately sharing your mission to anyone who will listen, and then refer to your website, and that same story feels off, it might be time for a comprehensive overhaul. Remember, in the nonprofit world, mission is everything. And if visitors who have been moved by your mission now come to your website and are suddenly not moved, that’s a problem. 

Maybe this means editing some copy or switching out some images – but if your gut feeling is overwhelming, or if it’s just clear that the whole site is out of touch, then that whole site needs to be upgraded.  

3. Technically, You Just Can’t Get Things Done

Yes, the beautiful design usually gets all the credit, but a website has a backend component as well. And it’s these internal workings that power the whole thing. 

Addressing poor backend processes may not necessitate a complete website overhaul, but in our experience, when the backend is neglected it typically means the public-facing components haven’t been tended to either. 

By “backend” here, I’m referring to any of the underlying infrastructure and functionality that (with the exception of website hosting) allows you to operate and manage the site, as well as to deliver services through it; things like:

  • The content management system (CMS)
  • Third-party tool integrations (donor management systems, private content portals, program application portals, HR components, etc.)
  • Custom tools and apps built specifically for the website
  • Plugins related to the content management system (particularly in the case of WordPress)

Addressing these areas solves two problems: first, it makes life easier for your team; those individuals working within the systems on a daily basis. Secondly, the backend processes directly affect the frontend of the site. A poorly operating donation management tool on the backend will indeed provide a poor experience for the individual arriving at the donation page. 


So, I’ll leave you today with some tough love. Your organization’s website isn’t about your organization. It’s about your user – that’s why the site exists – to engage, serve, accommodate and yes, entice your users into joining your cause. You want happy users, and you want a site that enhances and builds upon the mission that brought them to the site to begin with. 

Given how important your website is to your organization’s success, I encourage you to actively review, update and study your website each week. Because a website overhaul is, as user experience consultant Paul Boag says, a blunt instrument. You want to try to put it off for as long as you can. Of course, we’re all mere mortals, and that comprehensive website overhaul will come at some point, for everyone. 

If one of these items above is weighing on you, it may be time. If all three are happening, then you now know that you need a new website. We can help.  

*if you’d like recommendations on affordable and easy-to-use heat map software and other site diagnostic tools, let me know. 


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