When was the last time you updated the look of your membership site?

Six months ago? A year ago? Three years ago?

Technology and design trends change so quickly these days, that you should update your membership site at least once a year. Any less than that, and you risk looking outdated.

Imagine if Yahoo today still looked like Yahoo in 1995.


That would be crazy, right? It’s sooo old-fashioned and behind the times. It’s like wearing your favorite outfit from the ‘90s to work today…everyone would look at you funny. No one would take you seriously.

Here’s another fun example: watch the transition of KFC’s logo from 1952 to now. Although it still contains Colonel Sanders, the look and feel is entirely different. Even the name of the company changed from “Kentucky Fried Chicken” to the abbreviation “KFC.”

Yahoo, KFC, and all other big brands understand the importance of keeping their look fresh over time. You can do the same thing. It’s time to give your online course a facelift — and not just for cosmetic reasons.

Why update the design of your membership site?

Let’s say you set up your online course four years ago. This was before the advent of responsive and mobile design, social media integration, and ubiquitous API integration. It was important to keep page content “above the fold” as much as possible. Design trends leaned heavily toward skeuomorphism, that kind of shiny, polished, 3D look that you’d especially notice in icon design. Look at the icon on the left for an example:

In just four short years, a lot has changed. Users expect you to have a fully functional mobile site, and they want your desktop site to integrate as much as possible with social media and other platforms. Long pages are commonplace as people are more and more comfortable with scrolling (thanks to the influence of mobile). Designers are heading in the opposite direction of skeuomorphism, and they’re embracing flat design. (Look at the icon above and on the right to see the difference.)

If your online course hasn’t had a facelift in four years, you probably have some very “2010” design and development elements going on. It may not feel old to you, but look at the subtle differences between the Google homepage design in 2010:

And 2014:


Always keep your course updated to reflect current design and development trends. It shows your students that you’re a savvy, in-the-know expert.

When your site looks slick and professional and with the times, you automatically win your students’ trust. If your course looks old-school, your course value drops. Here’s how:

  • According Stanford’s web credibility research, 75% of users judge a company’s credibility based on its website design.
  • 94% of website “first impressions” are design related. This impression sticks with a website visitor for years…even after they’ve purchased.
  • Website visitors judge the design of your site even more than the content that’s on it.

If your design is up-to-date, it builds trust with your website visitor — making it more likely that they’ll convert to becoming your student.

Your students will also feel they’re getting their money’s worth when they’re purchasing a well-designed product from a well-designed site. Can you picture your student’s reaction if she paid $499 for your course, and logged in only to find it looks like it’s from 1998? She won’t buy from you again.

Let’s face it, you may never even realize your site looks outdated. If 100 people don’t complete a purchase because your site looks old, only one of them (maybe!) will actually say something to you about it. The rest will just move on.

Even if your design was cutting edge when you first set up your membership site, it doesn’t mean it’s still cutting edge. Don’t worry, we don’t mean your site is bad, or that you did something wrong. But periodically, EVERY site on the Internet needs a touch-up. It’s what you have to do to keep up.

In purchasing, or making any decision, people subconsciously look for any subtle hints to help them make that decision. And through years of mass-media training, we’ve been conditioned that new (in most cases) equals better.

Studies have shown that even with the same content, people are more likely to purchase a book with a recently updated cover — especially in the realms of self-improvement, health or marketing. There’s a belief that “new” information trumps old, which is why publishers regularly re-package books with new & flashier covers.

What does your “cover” say about you?

Outdated Design Watchlist

When is the right time for a facelift? Do you need one now, or can you wait a few months?

Here’s a list of out-of-date design and development elements that no decent site should have anymore. If your website, online course, or membership site includes any of these, it’s time for you to update.

Keep in mind that no single outdated design element is enough to turn new students away or lose business. But if your site is cluttered lots of with archaic design, it can spell death by a thousand cuts.

How many of these does your site have?

  • Overuse of gradients & bevels
    Gradients give your images shadow and highlight to make things look three-dimensional. Bevels also add a 3D look to images and text. These things were big in 2010, but the trend now is flat design that looks 2D. Make sure your site isn’t going crazy with the gradients.
  • Video in 4:3 aspect ratio
    Most videos now are widescreen, like at a movie theater, which means they have a 16:9 aspect ratio. Just like you wouldn’t buy a TV with rabbit ears, most people expect their videos to be widescreen instead of 4:3, and take up most of the width of the page.
  • Low video quality
    It’s so easy to record HD video these days, there’s no excuse not to. Make sure your videos look sharp and modern and not fuzzy and out of focus. Wistia can help. (Also, Wistia lets you distribute your videos to mobile, desktop and tablet, all with the same video file!)
  • Too many embedded video players
    A common mistake! Don’t stick a lot of separate video players on one page. It slows down the page load time and looks messy. The best sites draw your focus to one large video player instead of many.
  • Small, unreadable text
    We all use so many different screen sizes, readable text is a must. Don’t be afraid to bump up the size of your copy.
  • Standard fonts instead of custom fonts
    There’s nothing wrong with standard fonts like Georgia or Verdana, but they can make your site look a little amateur. There are hundreds of free web fonts available at Google’s font archive.
  • Too many different fonts together on one page
    Does your membership site have the schizophrenic look? A competent designer will make sure you’re using a palette of fonts that complement each other instead of distracting the reader.Standard rule of thumb: one font for the headers (h1, h2) and one font for the body text. Google Fonts (see above) has great recommendations for font pairings.
  • Belcher Buttons
    You’ve seen these “Buy Now” buttons: they’re bright yellow/orange, surrounded by a dotted red line, usually with some credit card logos. This is a very old school look, and it’s got to go! We’ve seen our customers increase sales by up to 46% by changing out those old-school buttons for something more modern!
  • Outdated social media logos
    Social media sites update their design and logo every year or two. Check out the differences between these old and new logos. The differences may be subtle, but keeping these logos up to date on your site shows that you’re socially savvy.Facebook (old logo on the left, new logo on the right):

    Twitter (old logo on the left, new logo on the right):

You can always download the most up-to-date logos and usage guidelines from the official websites:
Facebook: https://www.facebookbrand.com/
Twitter: https://about.twitter.com/press/brand-assets
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/yt/brand/downloads.html
Instagram: http://instagram.com/press/
Pinterest: https://business.pinterest.com/en/brand-guidelines

  • Low/grainy image quality
    Like video, it’s easy to get high quality images these days. It’s not hard to retouch your photos in Photoshop, either. There’s no excuse for less-than-perfect images on your site.
  • Old copyright date
    Does your site say ©2009 at the bottom? Your students will think you haven’t updated your course content since then. Change it to ©2014, update it every year after, and you’re good to go.

Quick and easy ways to update your design

What’s the easiest way to do your facelift? (Please, don’t call a plastic surgeon.)

The first thing you can do is forward this email to your web designer and ask them to check out our Outdated Design Watchlist and update your membership site to remove any of those items.

If you aren’t using Summit Evergreen yet, you’ll get an instant facelift when you sign up.

It’s incredibly easy to migrate your existing course content into our platform, wherever you’re hosting it now. You can pick from a selection of pre-made themed templates, all of which follow modern design best practices. (Right now, our most popular themes are “Laravel” and “Sleek.” Sign up for a free trial to check them out.)

You can also enlist our in-house designer to make you a custom theme specific to your brand.

If you’re already a Summit Evergreen user, updating your theme or tweaking your current look is super easy. You can switch themes with a single click, or have us design something brand new just for you. Reach out to us for more details.

Like we said earlier, the need for a design update is nothing to be ashamed of. Every single company — from the smallest start-up to the biggest corporate behemoth — updates their design from time to time. It’s just what you have to do to stay in the game and give your customers what they want.

Even Summit Evergreen isn’t exempt from the design facelift!

You may have noticed our website went through a few changes recently. We loved our existing site, but we wanted to invigorate our brand and take things to the next level. So we hired a talented design consultant, Nathan Powell, to do a complete teardown for us. His impartial opinion and wealth of expertise were just what we needed.

Here’s what Summit Evergreen looks like after we implemented Nathan Powell’s design suggestions:

SE-new front page

Much better, right?

Every brand can benefit from an objective opinion about their website.

When you’re ready to take it your site to the next level, take a look at the existing design themes in Summit Evergreen, or get in touch with a consultant like Nathan who can give you the benefit of his expertise. We know your site will come out looking better than ever!

Whatever you do, keep things looking modern and fresh. You wouldn’t want to risk looking like the original Space Jam website from 1996, would you? (Trust us, you want to click this!)

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