Back in the day, company websites were basically a digital version of the company brochure. It was a linear journey viewed from a desktop with little thought about how quickly pictures load.
Well, things have evolved. Websites are now accessed on the go, engaged in a Red Queen-like battle for search engine optimization (SEO), and are expected to appear on the screen all but instantly. They should also take the user on their own personal journey, or at least give that impression.
So how do you make that happen? Here are eight tips for making sure your website is ready for now and the future.
1. Choose a responsive design
The mobile revolution has completely changed how we interact with the internet. These days websites can be viewed on a desktop computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone. Different brands offer different screen sizes and resolutions. And to complicate matters further, screens can often be rotated too. Correctly displaying images, graphics and videos can therefore be a nightmare.
This is where responsive images are key. This relies on adding a specific piece of fluid code to your website that allows for variable percentage widths or heights to images.
2. Get up to speed
According to Portnet, website conversion rates drop with each additional second of load time. For every second, we lose 4.42% of customers. Large images are the biggest issue here, especially in the land of smartphones that rely predominantly on 4G, sometimes even 3G. At the same time, larger images and videos will look much better on larger screens, so what can you do?
The answer lies in serving up different images for different devices – something developers call adaptive design. It allows us to provide the right image for the right screen resolution and aspect ratio.
3. Build mobile first
It’s very common to build the desktop version of a website first then adapt it for mobile and tablet later. But actually this needs to change. According to Perficient, 68.1% of website visits in 2020 came from smartphones.
So even before coding and designing a website, focus on a great mobile design. Not only will this give users a simpler and faster web experience across all screens and devices, but it’ll also put you ahead of the game in terms of SEO. This is because Google is currently in the process of switching all sites to mobile first indexing.
4. Use good SEO practices
Talking of Google, optimising the website to search engines is something else that is often left to the last minute. Without it, our hard work will be lost in an ocean of websites.
Good SEO practices early on will save time and heartache later. These include keeping text easy to read and broken up by subtitles, making content unique and relevant, including keywords, linking pages and adding meta descriptions to images.
5. Consider readability
On the topic of keywords and subheads, it’s important to recognise how we read webpages these days. In one study, it was found that 79% of people didn’t read a webpage fully; instead, they scanned it. They went fishing for the information they were interested in.
So webpages should be scannable. This means subheads, highlighting key points, and using bullet lists. It’s even advisable to start with the end – by which I mean, let people know what the conclusion is at the start, so they know if the webpage is for them.
6. Tell the user what to do
Don’t leave them hanging, or searching around for how to use the information provided. If they get lost or frustrated, users often close the browser and move on.
So every few sections on each page, make sure there’s a call to action (CTA) that really stands out. Things like Read more, Sign up to our newsletter, Get started, and Add to cart. These CTAs help to guide the user through the website and focus them on the journey you would like them to take.
7. Consider what we’re used to
We know Amazon. We know YouTube. We know Instagram and Facebook. We’re used to how these websites operate, how they navigate, where to go to search. So it’s a good idea to stick to this and leave inventing the wheel to your product or service.
For example, Google and Amazon have subconsciously trained us to expect a search box at the top of the page. Put it at the bottom and we likely won’t find or use it. These small details can greatly impact the useability of your site.
8. Don’t forget security
And finally, don’t forget to keep security updated. Few things evolve faster than the threats from cyber criminals. We owe to it to ourselves and customers to keep data safe. According to IT Chronicles, a whopping 67% of all companies have had a cyber-attack against them.
At the very least, encrypt the website and get an SSL certificate – also known as the https prefix – for your site to show customers that their purchasing information is being protected.
From eight to 80 tips
I could add more and more tips because in truth these eight are just the tip of the iceberg: There’s site navigation, backlinks, videos, and coding practices to think about too. Then there’s the need to keep your content fresh and updated.
But the key point to remember is this: if you get the above right first, you’ll have a strong website platform to build from and maintain well into the future.