Make Your Website Better for 2019
Once upon a time the idea of having a website was enough, of itself, to make people think you were special, whereas today, it’s much less about whether you have a website and how “good” your website is.
Of course, “good” is a subjective measure that can be misinterpreted by many business owners as being limited to just one aspect, such as speed, aesthetic design, or the fact there’s a mobile version of their site available. It’s therefore wise to look into what makes a good website “good” and how to make your website better for 2019.
This isn’t going to be a highly technical article, as it’s important the basics are covered so that it is accessible to all business owners, meaning we will be looking more to the basic building blocks such as the need to have a responsive website that responds to the viewport size (i.e. screen size such as a mobile device) rather than more advanced concepts of mobile-first indexing, for instance.
The reason for this is that many people, today, find themselves building a website on their own with the help of a framework such as WordPress or a WYSIWYG editor such as Wix, meaning they create a functional site but it is not necessarily optimised for commercial application
Load times are critically important when it comes to websites, as people today have much shorter attention spans than they once did – indeed, research demonstrates that if your website hasn’t fully loaded within three seconds, people are likely to click off or infer that your company isn’t particularly professional.
Many people developing websites use fast internet, but it’s worth being mindful of the fact that some people in rural areas or developing countries might not have access to the internet speed that you are used to.
You therefore want to make sure you don’t have too many requests put on the server, or sizable content to download, for instance lots of high resolution image files, and if you do have lots of images to load it’s worth using tools to compress JPEGS into smaller files that mean they will load much faster.
Load speed really does matter, and there are tools such as Pingdom that can help you test your load speed and diagnose what’s causing the site to perform slower than you would like it to. This way, you can diagnose and fix each issue, meaning your site’s load speed will significantly improve.
2. Content Architecture
You want people to land on your home page and be able to find what they are looking for very efficiently. The way to achieve this is to use simple and easy to understand navigation – which all comes down to chunking categories of information down to the appropriate level; for instance, Amazon sells millions of products, yet their content architecture and indexing allows for an easy to use website; because you can either search for something using the prominent search bar, or drill down into categories.
To better understand what is meant by the term “drill down” in this context, let’s think of a blog that has a variety of aspects to do with personal development. There might be a top level category of ELECTRONICS, which then extends to several other categories such as Hi-Fi, TV’s, Phones, and so on. Then, within the Hi-Fi category, there might be Headphones, Speakers, and so on.
The point being that this is a sensical way to filter your content, rather than having everything present on your homepage as a flat structure. People like to find relevant content, and one of the best things you can do, once you have someone reading a blog article on divorce, as per the example above, is to then recommend other relevant content or products that are aligned with that topic.
This is why the importance of user testing cannot be overstated.
You want to see how real people interact with your website, in terms of the clicks they make and the paths they take to reach a particular goal. In doing this, (ideally with someone providing verbal feedback as they go through the process) you can assess whether your design needs to be tweaked to make it more user friendly and easy to navigate.
The visual design of your website is important, as you can have a super fast website that provides easy-to-use navigational tools… but if it’s ugly or distracting in terms of its visual appearance it will put people off and make people not want to stay around.
You therefore want to make sure the design compliments your content, meaning it makes it comfortable and easy for the user to consume your content and engage with what it is you offer.
In this sense, it can be helpful to think like a property developer in the sense that you want neutral colours that are easy on the eye, rather than loud contrasting colours, that might be appealing to one person but might feel hideous to another.
4. Does it work on all browsers?
Getting a little more technical now, as you can have a fast site that looks lovely and is easy to use, but if it doesn’t work or display correctly on all browsers, people aren’t going to be able to access your website.
It’s therefore important you test your site on all browsers.
5. Screen Sizes (viewports)
Today, a lot of people will be accessing your site on a mobile device. This means your site must be responsive, that is, it must respond to the different screen size of the user (known as a viewport), so that the content is easily accessible on any device – from a huge monitor to a small smartphone.
There are something known as breakpoints which might be useful to research when it comes to responsive design. The majority of templates from WordPress and certainly in website builders like Wix will be responsive, as standard, but if you’re developing a site in HTML, on your own, you will want to make sure to pay close attention to the way each page displays on different devices and screen sizes.