New technologies, tools, advancements in mobile, and the power of social media have altered the online landscape over the past decade. Businesses who have kept their websites up to date with emerging trends and technologies have seen their efforts rewarded through increased opportunities for traffic and exposure. However, those that have allowed their websites to become outdated are not only missing out on the latest features, but may even be penalized for lacking them.
This article has been written for those who understands that their website may benefit from a modern redesign. The following list will describe the 6 of the essential elements of a modern website redesign, based upon the most successful and established brands and trends currently dominating the online arena.
Design and Navigation
Most web users (myself included) have a small amount of patience when looking for specific information on the internet. Visitors are not going to hang around a site very long if they can’t find their way around. I believe that it is important to keep in mind that recent generations will have been raised with the internet from a young age, and these users will be incredibly efficient browsers. I believe that their knowledge of the internet coupled with their comfort level and speed will cause them to have an even lower patience threshold when looking for information, on average, than we do now. We need to begin designing our websites in preparation for this by providing the most efficient user experience possible.
Your navigation menu should be the primary gateway into different sections of content on your site. It should be very easy to find, have obvious section names, and be consistent across every page of the website. Aside from the navigation menu, links can be strategically placed on pages to help lead the viewer into other content that might interest them. For example, on an eCommerce site, customers should be able to easily find the shopping cart and links to complete a purchase. By keeping visitors interested and moving throughout your site, you gain more page views, better customer perception of your brand, and more conversions.
There are many reasons why a well-designed website will attract more visitors. It’s important to have the best possible SEO (Search Engine Optimization) utilized for your website, and the content you choose to provide with your design should reflect this. Great aesthetics and organization will give users the impression that your site is modern and professional (if that is your goal). Try to keep logos consistent across all pages and platforms to help reinforce your brand so that it is more memorable.
A great design with efficient navigation will guide visitors to take action with ease. While most navigation and design decisions may be made before the website goes live, the work does not stop there. The next step is to monitor the analytics of the website to determine where improvements may be made. By analyzing metrics such as bounce rate and average pages viewed, we can gain an idea of where users are losing interest and leaving the website. We can then make changes based on this data to improve the user experience. We’ll touch more on analytics later in this article.
The goal with content is to provide the information and products that visitors to your website are looking for. Having great content on your site can improve the reputation of your brand and result in increased visitors, sales, and possible SEO benefits as well. Content is what gives your website substance. Your website needs to feature the content that visitors are assuming they will find when they visit your page. Otherwise, visitors will leave your site before viewing more content, which may result in the loss of a sale or ad revenue.
In this case, “content” can mean a number of things. For example, let’s imagine that a car hobbyist is looking for aftermarket car parts online. They visit two websites that sell car parts. The first site they visit has an impressive quantity of aftermarket and other parts available. They see articles about the industry, a blog, and a sidebar that shows the latest mentions of their brand on social media. The second site, on the other hand, has the part they are looking for but contains a simple store layout and does not have any other content to reinforce the reputation of the company. Chances are better than not that a customer will return to the first site when looking to make another purchase because of the amount of content that reinforces a positive reputation in the mind of the consumer, as opposed to the second site that appears outdated and stale.
As you read further, you’ll see how by having quality content can also benefit other factors such as SEO and social media exposure.
Over the past decade, web users have shifted from the desktop to mobile devices, and the internet is responding. Mobile users deserve a rich experience that functions seamlessly between the desktop and mobile device, and when they visit a webpage it should be formatted to fit on the phone and tablet appropriately. Google, who holds some of the largest influence over all things internet-related, has been at the forefront of advancing the way the internet performs for people on mobile devices. As a result, they’ve been rolling out updates to their algorithms and they’ve boosted the search rankings of mobile-friendly websites on search results. Another way of stating this is that your site may be penalized for not being mobile-friendly, which means you lose potential visitors to your website because of lower rankings in organic search results.
“While the mobile-friendly change is important, we still use a variety of signals to rank search results.” Says Google. “The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal — so even if a page with high quality content is not mobile-friendly, it could still rank high if it has great content for the query. ” You can check the status of your site through the Mobile Usability report in Webmaster Tools. If your site’s pages aren’t mobile-friendly, there may be a significant decrease in mobile traffic from Google Search.
To summarize, we want to make sure our sites are mobile-friendly so that we can avoid the loss of potential web traffic and penalization as a result of poor mobile functionality.
Social Media Integration
Social media is a very hot and evolving topic. Countless other articles have been written to describe the importance of having a social media page setup for your company. We’re going to discuss the ways in which social media can be integrated into your website.
Incorporating social media into your website may allow you to reach potential customers and interact with them in more ways than you can through your website alone. Adding share and “like” buttons to content and graphics allows visitors to share such content with others in their social circle. This results in free promotion and marketing for your brand at no cost to you. For example, let’s imagine that John visits a website that sells artwork. He doesn’t purchase anything, but he “likes” an image on the website and shares it on Facebook. On Facebook, John’s friend Jane sees that John liked the artwork, and she likes it too, so she heads to the website to look at other art on the page. Jane likes a piece of artwork on the website enough that she makes a purchase and “likes” the page too. In this scenario, not only did the art page gain a sale off of John’s share, the process could potentially be repeated by one of Jane’s friends who sees that she liked the page.
You may also incorporate social logins into your site. Social logins allow visitors to avoid a lengthy registration process by allowing them to login to a website using the credentials on their social media account. This may reduce the rate that visitors leave your site before registration because you turned the registration process from a form to a simple one-click signup. Social logins may also allow users to feel more comfortable during the sign-up process because the user does not have to share information with a site they aren’t very familiar with.
Additional benefits include allowing a more individualized user experience, reduced failed login attempts, spam protection, and additional analytical data.
Speed and Performance
People can be impatient, and waiting for a website or other media to load can cause visitors to leave your site before they’ve viewed your content. Do you remember all of the talk about Net Neutrality? One of the major issues (among many) was the idea of bandwidth throttling, which is the intentional slowing of internet services by an internet service provider (such as Comcast). In this case, ISPs wanted to charge companies more to have their sites load faster, essentially segregating the internet based on who paid for faster bandwidth. The reason I bring up this issue is because companies spent a lot of money and resources fighting this proposal because of the negative impact that it would have to their business if their sites slowed down, especially if their competitor could afford to pay to have their site load faster.
It’s important that your bandwidth limits and storage space are appropriate for your site. Bandwidth caps limit the amount of data that can be transferred over a period of time. Typically you pay for a certain amount of bandwidth per month. If this is exceeded, users will not be able to load your page unless the limit is raised or the limit period passes into the next. The “slashdot” effect, or what’s known on Reddit as “hug of death,” is when a large popular site links to a smaller site, which causes a massive increase in traffic to the smaller site. This overloads the smaller site, causing it to slow down or even become unavailable. If you owned the smaller site in this case, you’d be overjoyed to know that so many new people viewed your site, and then you would feel emotionally crushed when you realize your site went down and was unable to handle the visits to the page. While it’s uncommon to have a “hug of death,” it’s quite common for sites to underestimate how and in what ways their bandwidth limits get used up.
Space is another factor. If you host videos and media, you’ll need more space on your website than if you only had text. Once this space is filled, you will not be able to add more content until more space is freed or the total amount of space is increased. If you do have videos, you can host them on sites such as YouTube to take the bandwidth load off of your own site. Bandwidth caps and storage space should be monitored to determine if limits should be adjusted.
Tracking and Analytics
Web analytics deliver data about your website’s performance, and you can analyze this data to assist with continual improvement of the online experience that your visitors have.
According to Google, “One of the most important steps of digital analytics is determining what your ultimate business objectives or outcomes are and how you expect to measure those outcomes. In the online world, there are five common business objectives:
- For eCommerce sites, an obvious objective is selling products or services.
- For lead generation sites, the goal is to collect user information for sales teams to connect with potential leads.
- For content publishers, the goal is to encourage engagement and frequent visitation.
- For online informational or support sites, helping users find the information they need at the right time is of primary importance.
- For branding, the main objective is to drive awareness, engagement and loyalty.”
Once you have an idea of what your goal is, you can begin analyzing the habits of your visitors and web traffic to help understand what actions and experiences are driving your visitors towards that goal. You’ll be able to review data on your audience and their behavior such as how many visits you’ve had, how many users return to your site, and demographic data such as what country they are visiting from. If you recently invested a new form of advertising such as paid search, you can use analytics to track its performance and determine where optimization can be made and whether you should continue investing in that campaign.
Don’t let the size and scope of analytics intimidate you. If you want to learn more, Google offers a fantastic help center and training program to get you started with Google Analytics.
If you’re currently working on a redesign of your website or are thinking of going through the process, be sure to speak openly with your designer about the needs and goals of your business, and ask how they are implementing these essentials into your website. Each of these topics have been covered in great detail by others, and with a simple Google search you can find many more resources on a specific topic if you would like to read further.
Have you recently redesigned your website and want to share your experience? Do you have anything to add to this list? Want to correct a mistake I made? If so, let me know!