It is not unusual for companies to redevelop a website every two to three years. The extent of this can vary – sometimes a design refresh will be enough, but to make major structural and functional changes, a complete overhaul is the only option.
Sometimes technology compels you to create a new website but it is difficult to know what technology will be permanent, and what is flash in the pan.
Many companies have adopted technology or content management systems that have turned out to be inadequate or obsolete within a few years. When selecting a new system, picking the right one is imperative. How can you do this?
There is, unfortunately, no magic formula to guarantee a completely future-proof website. The nature of technology is to evolve, and this will inevitably affect your website. However, there are steps you can take to select the right systems and supplier.
1. Research and consult
Take time to educate yourself on the available options. If this prospect is daunting, consider undertaking consultancy to understand what is possible and save you the legwork.
Pay particular attention to the external environment, especially social and cultural behaviours. Coupled with technology, these are the factors that will have the biggest impact on your website.
A key issue is what platform and code to use. There are many options – off-the-shelf website solutions such as WordPress or Sitecore, or open-source PHP, .net or Java. I would recommend that you always ask for a demonstration of any system to make sure it is easy-to-use and can resolve any frustrations with your existing website.
Ten years ago Flash was a popular choice for web builds as it allowed designers greater creativity. Now, no one would build in this program as technology has caught up. However, at the time, it was the right choice for some websites. This is okay – you may need to accept that a trend satisfies your requirements and you can mitigate this by acknowledging it and planning when it needs to be superseded.
Now in 2021, one of the most important factors in web design is site speed. If you are looking for better rankings within the SERP, having a bespoke user experience is key. If a user goes to your website, and it takes more than three seconds to load it, your potential visitor will leave, increasing your bounce rates. For that purpose, make sure that you regularly check your site. You can use page speed insights and check!
This is a trend that is here to stay. Desktop PC sales have gone down as smartphone and tablet sales have gone up. Having a responsively designed website or mobile-specific version is more likely to satisfy users and increase leads.
Check analytics for mobile traffic – if it is steadily increasing, then this will continue and you should plan ahead for when the traffic will reach significant numbers, e.g. 20%.
Also, look at mobile adoption rates for the demographic and/or countries you are targeting. If they are going mobile, then you need to meet this demand.
If you want to optimise your site for mobile in 2021, there are some aspects that you should take into consideration.
Smart load and scroll
Smart scroll is a webpage that includes all the relevant content on your site, that will generate longer dwell times and higher levels of engagement. This is, keeping the basic information about your site on a webpage will make the most of your site. Creating a "summary page" will differentiate your site from the competence.
Use large buttons
If you want to own a mobile-friendly website make sure that your buttons are large enough, so your users won't need to use zoom options. The links should be separated one from another, enabling smooth navigation free of accidental clicks.
3. Less is more
It’s tempting to put everything on your website so users can access everything. However, this can lead to bloated and confusing websites that quickly become hard to maintain and unattractive.
When planning the website, ask:
- Is it really necessary?
- How will it benefit my users?
- Will they actually use it?
Focus on search intent
Did you know that the average time that someone spends on a website is 33 second?
That means that your site must be capable to attract people's attention during that time. For that purpose, you need to consider if your content serves the customer: is it accessible? is your content responding to search intent factors?
This is a top factor in 2021. Users are submitting their queries because they are looking for something very specific, and your site needs to respond to that query.
Are users looking for an answer to a question? A how-to tutorial? It is important what you make sure that your content and keywords match.
For example, if someone is looking for "web design" on Google, that means that the users want information about web design. But if a user is searching "web design services", they are looking specifically for the services for their website needs. If you look for these keywords on Google you will be able to understand the intent of a keyword before writing any content.
4. Focus on users
Don’t lose sight of what your users need and want to do. Remember the purpose of your website and what actions users will be taking. It is easy to fall into the trap of what preferences and desires (or those of others) overtaking the needs of the audience.
Today’s web users are time-poor and expect simplicity. Keep it clean, simple and intuitive.
The experience that you are offering to your users must be unique and customised. If you have seen the same content posted on different websites, you will lose interest in it. Remember that generic content does not serve everyone and that custom-created content will engage users. Personalised content is highly important for ecommerce sites, as showing recently viewed or liked products might increase conversions.
For example, you could focus on demographics, based on the visitors IP address. If you know where your audience comes from, you could offer them personalised content to target their needs. Interactive options such as adding a map template to your website can certainly make the difference when building your site. On the other hand, this will also leverage your local SEO and will help you escalate your rankings within the SERPs.
5. Continually invest
Budget is usually set aside for a one-off web project with little consideration to what will happen after the website launches. Your website should never be viewed as a static product operating in isolation – it will be affected by technological and marketing changes. Therefore, always allocate budget to the future development of the website to keep it fresh.
As a small aside, don’t pick a website supplier on price – “If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys”. Choose a supplier that meets your requirements and that you want to work with. This is more likely to end in creating a website that will deliver the best long-term results.