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Things that make your website look outdated - and how to fix them

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Let's make sure your website looks up-to-date.

Below is a list of things that make your website appear seriously dated. These make your brand look out of touch, especially with younger users. Yet I see these sorts of mistakes all the time, even from some well-known sites.

If anything on the list below applies to your website, you’ll want to change it. Unless of course you have a really, really good reason for it. I still can’t think of many instances where there is a really good reason.

Are you making any of these mistakes?

1. A sidebar: it’s old-style

If you have a sidebar, your site is automatically going to look dated. There is almost no reason to have one of these. With so many people accessing your site via phone, what the heck is your sidebar even doing? Is it displaying for these visitors? If not, then why are your desktop users expected to have a sidebar inflicted upon them? But don’t worry: we’ve got you covered. Check out our guide to removing your sidebar while still displaying important information elsewhere.

2. RSS feed – use this alternative instead

An RSS symbol is incredibly old-school. Please don’t say you have one of these! If you want a way for people to stay updated whenever you have a new article, set up a newsletter that automatically sends whenever you publish a new blog post. That’s what people are expecting.

You can do the whole thing using MailChimp. Best of all, if you have less than a certain number of recipients on your mailing list, it’s 100% free! And no need to spend time writing a newsletter each time, you just set up what’s called a “campaign” in MailChimp. Your MailChimp campaign will just look at your site once a day at a time of your choosing, and if there is a new article it’ll send an email update featuring that blog post to your mailing list. No more work required from you after setup. I use this exact method for my most popular site (a niche fashion site) and it works beautifully. Simply a) add in your MailChimp signup box somewhere on your site so that users have a place they can sign up for your newsletter and b) set up a campaign in MailChimp configured to auto-send when a new article is available. All of this you can do quite easily.

Remember, no-one expects to see an RSS feed symbol any more. Equally significant is that most people don’t have a clue how to sign up for an RSS feed anyway. Have them sign up for an auto-sending newsletter instead.

3. The mobile version of the site is not as fully-featured as the desktop version – this makes it look “old”

It’s understandable that the mobile version of your site won’t look identical to the desktop version. I’m not saying the two should look identical (in fact, they shouldn’t). Instead, it’s that the information contained in the desktop version should also be present somewhere in the mobile version. Not necessarily in the exact same spot, but the user should have access to it also. So, by all means keep layouts different between mobile and desktop, but please don’t drop a whole bunch of information from your mobile site. It’s unacceptable to have your user press the “request desktop site” in the browser in order to view or interact fully with the site. Yet I see this all the time; even some very well-known sites suffer from this problem.

This issue will completely alienate the younger segment of your audience. Even if they haven’t compared your desktop site to mobile, it’s easily possible for a user to get a sense from the mobile experience whether the site was designed to be used fully on mobile. It’s a very dated outlook to assume that a mobile site need not offer the full functionality of the desktop site. In other words, you’ll appear “old” to your users if you have this problem with your site.

This problem is easy to fix, fortunately. You simply need to make sure the theme for your e-commerce site, blog, directory, etc delivers the same information to mobile as to desktop. If need be, switch themes; most of the newly-developed themes out there are very well-designed in this regard. Or if budget is not an issue, hire a developer to make the necessary changes to your existing theme. Don’t be afraid to put in the time and effort to address this problem. In fact, if you’ve been running the same theme for the past 6+ years, that’s a huge warning flag in itself.

4. NOT offering a PayPal option on e-commerce: it looks old-school

Four to six years ago, e-commerce was all about credit card processing. PayPal was the less-professional-looking younger sibling of payment processing, and if you processed solely with PayPal, your site looked unprofessional. These days, it’s almost the other way about, at least in the US: people expect to have PayPal included as a payment method. You’ll look old-school without it. I’m not saying to ditch your existing credit card processor, I’m saying that in addition, make sure you accept PayPal.

Many consumers realize that PayPal offers very good buyer protection, and this can make PayPal be perceived by the consumer as an even safer option than debit card, and occasionally better than credit card. Many first-time customers feel more comfortable making their first transaction with an online store via PayPal. Because of this, if you don’t offer a PayPal option for e-commerce, you’ll look old-school at best, and untrustworthy at worst.

The good news is that it’s easy to get started with PayPal. I’ve implemented this recently on my e-commerce site. Most of the well-known e-commerce CMS’s make it really easy for you to do this via plugins, no coding knowledge needed.

5. Shiny buttons – they belong to another era.

There was a time where shiny buttons with rounded corners were really popular. Now it’s more about flat design: one-color buttons with square corners.

Yes, you do want your website to stand out. By all means round off those corners or add some shadow if you feel it looks better. But no shiny-look or wet-look buttons unless you want to look really dated.

The good news is that this problem can be solved: most of the up-to-date themes in your CMS will already come with modern-looking buttons bundled in. If you have shiny buttons, odds are that you’ve also suffering from other old-style-theme problems such as the ones in sections 1 and 3 above. Switching to a more modern theme can solve all of those problems. Yes, you will certainly need to budget some time and effort in switching themes, even in the point-and-click theming process of WordPress, but it’s well worth it for bringing your site up to date.

If though, it’s just the buttons themselves that you need to change, some quick alterations to your theme’s CSS can fix this. You can either do this yourself, using the buttons from W3CSS as a tutorial and a base, or, if budget is not a concern, hire a developer. The good news: you’re unlikely to cause your site to break by changing your button CSS, so this is certainly something you could try out yourself.


Here I have covered some features that cause websites to look dated. Hopefully, none of these problems apply to your websites. But if they do, fortunately all of these problems can be fixed, as outlined above. There is no reason for a website to look outdated.

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