Web Design

Let’s Make Websites Great Again

Are you worried that your website isn’t doing enough for your business? It might be in need of an upgrade. The web is constantly changing, and if you’re not consistently updating your site to follow best practices, it’s easy to fall behind. Web design strategy is all about ensuring that your site matches the needs of your user and helps them reach the goal you’ve created for them in a simplified way.

First impressions are important, yes. But there is such a thing as too much design. Web design doesn’t need to be over complicated, and if you want to improve your site there are several things you can look at that will instantly improve the usability and overall experience for your visitors. The first, and maybe most important, is page speed.

You can spend as much time as you want to create a site that looks beautiful, but if it takes forever to load, everyone is going to bounce. When it comes to the web, everyone is impatient. When is the last time that you were actually okay with the internet being slow?

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On average, your pages need to load in three seconds or less, but to ensure that people don’t bounce you’ll want to shoot for less than that. Bounces drive your search ranking into the ground, so a slow site can cost you.

To speed up your site, one thing you can do is decrease the page size. Images are great, but a ton of them, or a few huge ones, take forever to load, which means your site takes forever to load. Stick with one image, and make sure the final size of your page is less than 3MB. Then, look at browser caching. If your site is cached, it’ll be easier for web browsers to pull it up once they’ve already visited it. Caching stores the bigger files, so that they don’t have to be downloaded over and over again.

Another thing you can do to improve your website as part of your web design strategy create active 301 redirects. If you’re going to change the URL of the page, it’s important to have these in place to ensure that any old links will still forward to the right page. Otherwise, your visitor will land on a 404 page. This not only makes you look bad, but it’s likely they won’t stay, which will stick you with a bounce. Just like people are impatient with your site speed, they’re not going to look around for the right link. 301 redirects are a quick fix that will keep you from worrying.

Better site performance will make your site easier to use, and that will encourage your visitors to stay a while and look around at what you have to offer.

Use a CDN to Make Your Site as Fast as Possible

While you can optimize your site to be as fast as possible, sometimes the best thing you can do is to actually remove the things on your site that are weighing it down altogether. Instead of putting them directly on your site, use a content delivery network, or CDN, to deliver your images, videos, JavaScript files, HTML files, and CSS files, so your website as a whole can load almost instantly.

What is a CDN? A CDN works by creating replicate servers of your website files around the world, so instead of having to go through your origin server to load your website every time, visitors can receive your larger files from the server that’s nearest to their location.

What benefit does all of this bring? We have a CDN on our site, and its made a huge difference in the amount of time it takes for our pages to load. After we started using it, we saw a reduction of about 1.4 seconds in page load time per page. When you only have about two seconds until people will leave your site, that makes a big impact.

On average, sites see about 50 percent reduction in page load time, which could be a huge boost to your search ranking, your visitor’s experience, and the overall look and feel of your site.

Working on First Impressions? Let’s Up Your Game

Now that you have your visitor on your site and slow speeds aren’t driving them away, what is your site doing to keep them there? While content is king in the world of inbound marketing, first-time visitors to your site are going to be influenced by how it looks.

Does your site match your brand? How does it reflect the way you talk about your business? The impression you make in the first few seconds matters, and if you want to establish credibility, your web design strategy needs to include how you’re going to consistently represent your brand on the web.

Here are a few things to think about:

  • You should only use your brand’s specified colors, two minimum, and four max
  • Animations and background music are typically unnecessary and distracting
  • White space is your friend, lay out your design in a grid fashion
  • Avoid funky fonts, stick with what’s associated with your brand and make sure it’s easy to read
  • Try to avoid stock images, use photos of your business and culture for a human feel
  • Make your navigation clear and easy to understand, don’t make it hard for people to find things by using names only your staff would know
  • Make sure your site allows visitors from any browser or operating system to maximize the views you receive

Each of these factors will help you clean up your site so that no matter where a visitor lands they’ll be able to understand who you are as one coherent, living brand. Then your content can work together to help them understand what you do.

Jump Into the Modern Age

If your business got a website because everyone is on the internet now, you’re probably behind the times. Not only is everyone on the internet, but everyone is accessing the internet in different ways. At first, all you needed was a site built for a desktop computer. But now with the ability to access the web from almost anywhere, your site has to be built to be flexible for any screen size.

Think about it literally. Your computer screen is likely over ten inches in width, whereas your phone might be about three. There’s no way that all the design you put into your site can be squished into less than five inches. That’s where mobile web design comes in.

This isn’t a separate site, it just means that your site design can be flexible to fit on any screen whether you’re on a phone, a tablet, or a desktop. Each version might look a little different, but the main goals for your design structure are all still there. If you want an example of how this works, grab the corner of your browser and move it to the left so that the width resembles your phone screen. Our site is optimized for mobile, so you’ll see the different design elements reorganizing to fit the smaller screen.

This makes a huge difference to your visitors because if they reach your site on their phone, (which they likely will, over half of the searches come from mobile,) they’ll still receive an easy-to-use experience. Instead of trying to pinch and zoom in on your screen.

The other (very) important reason to mobile optimize your site? Google said so. Google is basically in charge when it comes to deciding how the internet will work, and in 2015 they said they would start penalizing sites that were not optimized for mobile devices by pushing them down in the search results and giving sites that were optimized a boost. So, if you want to ensure that you keep rising in the SERP, you have to be prepared for searches from everywhere.

What’s All This Talk About “Mobile First” Design?

With recent Google updates pushing for sites to be more mobile friendly, a design trend has emerged called “mobile first” design. What does this mean for you? Basically, it’s a design strategy that is a step above having responsive design as part of your desktop site.

While responsive design allows your website to be fit to any screen size automatically, mobile first design consists of building your site around a mobile view first and then focusing on how it is responsive and how it looks on a desktop after.

If you’re asking why — Google is slowly starting to look at the mobile versions of sites before the desktop version. If the mobile version is well optimized, Google is ranking that higher than, say, a competitor who has no mobile capabilities. It benefits you to have a site that’s designed for mobile whether it was through a mobile-first strategy or not. Those with responsive sites won’t be punished and will still be treated as having a proper mobile version. The only people who need to worry are those who have nothing at all.

With over half of all web traffic coming from mobile devices, it’s pretty easy to see why it would be beneficial. Even if you don’t want to impress Google, you still want to impress your audience, and no one wants to try and navigate your desktop site on a mobile screen.

Protect Yourself, Protect Your Visitors, Protect Your Site

Speaking of Google banging out internet decrees, here’s a newer one that will also affect your web design strategy. The Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is a certificate that you put on your site to protect user’s information that is inputted anywhere on your site. Security certificates used to be a recommended good practice, but now it’s becoming a mandatory requirement.

Security on the web is hot on everyone’s mind, and Google is all about improving the user experience. It’s kind of a no-brainer that their next big update includes requiring having a security certificate on your site. The update will come with Chrome, and the browser will throw up a warning that tells you that you’re about to enter an unsafe area and your computer could be compromised if you choose to keep going. Even if your site poses literally no security risk whatsoever, if you don’t have an active SSL, the warning will come up.

This is a big deal because most people aren’t going to want to go to the other side, which could have a serious impact on your site traffic. Thankfully, getting an SSL is not a difficult task. They do cost money, but not much, and your IT team can easily put it on for you.

The SSL will display as a green lock, and the top of your browser (if you’re in Chrome) will say secure before the URL. If you’re reading this in Chrome right now, you should see this currently in your URL. As long as you have an SSL, you have nothing to worry about, and neither will the people who visit your site.

Want to learn more about building a more effective web design strategy? Check out the posts below for a more in-depth look at everything we talked about.

Posts in Web Design