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February 17, 2012

posted by: Carissa Drohan-Jennings

Two Things To Consider Before Retrofitting An Apartment Website

Retrofitting often means adding new technology or features to older systems.  In the world of apartment websites, this may mean adding new interactive features to a website, or updating a website’s technology to be more current with renter’s needs.

Before beginning a retrofit of any website, a landlord should always consider two things: (1) can the website be retrofitted successfully, and (2) what are the short-term and long-term goals for the retrofit? 

Considering these two things before beginning a retrofit project will ensure the retrofit is cost effective and successful. 


Can The Website Be Retrofitted Successfully?

How a website is built can drastically impact the viability of retrofitting. A landlord who has a static HTML-based website, for example, may find that a retrofit is too expensive.  This is a direct result of the structure of the website.

Each page of a static HTML-based website is coded and the content appearing on the website resides in that code.  For this reason it is more time consuming and difficult for a developer to retrofit the website, as any new functionality or modules that need to be added to the website will need to be programmed by the website developer, which may add to the cost or timeframe of the redesign. In most cases it’s more like a complete website re-design.  In many cases landlords who find themselves in this situation may find it more beneficial to invest in a whole new website that resides on a content management system.

A content management system (CMS) is a type of backend that is often used to build a website and allows multiple users to easily add, change or administer website data.  Overall it’s the most convenient and most economical backend structure for a website.

Because a CMS controls all of the content of the website in a database, and the navigational structure of the website is also governed by the CMS, making changes to the visual structure of the website is easy and significantly less costly than updating a static HTML based website.

Once it has been determined whether the website can indeed be retrofitted, it’s now time to consider the goals of the retrofit.


What Are The Short-term and Long-term Goals For The Retrofit

The amount of new technical information floating in the development world is doubling every two years, which means that students starting a four-year technical degree will discover that half of what they learned in year one will be outdated by the time they reach year three. If that is the case, then just imagine how quickly a website’s technology will become out dated.

To remain agile in the coming years, it is important to brainstorm both the short-term and long-term goals for the website, so the retrofit can mitigate financial costs over time.  As discussed in the previous point, a static HTML based website will continue to be a hindrance to growth in the future, and could be more costly to retrofit over time.  However, a content management structure is flexible and can more easily incorporate new advancements in technology, especially if it is constantly being updated to remain current.

Here are some examples of possible short-term and long-term goals for a website retrofit:

  • Increase organic search engine traffic
  • Increase the renter’s user experience
  • Improve website accessibility
  • Increase traffic and/or conversions
  • Reduce long-term operational costs (administrative time, bandwidth charges)
  • Integrate referrals, social media, and other free marketing initiatives
  • Achieve a higher rate of engagement with current renters

One way in which many landlords are currently trying to improve their website’s accessibility is by adding mobile-friendly structure to their websites to make them more accessible to mobile devices.  While this is a great start, there is also another component to accessibility that we all must be aware of.

There is a movement around North America to make websites more accessible to all individuals, especially those with a disability that hinders their ability to read a website without screen reading technology.  Currently Ontario has implemented a law that requires websites to be screen reader compliant by 2015 or 2016, depending on the size of the organization.

While this law has not spread across Canada yet, it certainly will in the future.

This change should definitely factor into a website’s long-term goals, as there may be something that can be done now to achieve compliancy.

Many times, a website retrofit is just as important as designing the website itself. By laying out short-term and long term goals a landlord can ensure that the website will stand the test of time.