By Kyle McCabe | August 27, 2009
As a business owner or marketer, you’re always taking steps to stay ahead of the competition in a marketplace that’s always changing. The web is no different; it’s always changing as well.
Businesses online must keep up with the constant changes in web technology, trends, and techniques, or be left far behind very quickly.
As for your website, you need to take dozens of constantly-changing elements into account that will, at some point, affect the value of your web presence and the viability of your business online. Here are nine.
1. A “brochure-style” website is good enough.
This hasn’t been true for almost a decade. Competition on the web is stiff, and you’ll have a hard time maintaining a successful website if it’s a purely static, online “brochure.”
Instead, you should be constantly updating your content to reflect changes in your business or organization, your market, technology, and the needs or desires of your customers and website users.
Further, your content should be configured or “optimized” to cater to your specific market. We call this search engine optimization (SEO).
2. Websites should contain as much information as possible.
While placing every bit of content you have on your website may seem logical, it can actually hinder the user experience and reduce conversions. If you have a very well-designed website, you may not have a problem offering a lot of content. But this sort of design takes not only good visual communication skills (read: graphic design, information architecture), but also a well-thought-out content strategy.
Anything less and you run the risk of publishing a website that’s bloated, slow, overwhelming to the user, or ineffective for search.
3. The “home” page is the entry page.
This may have been true at some point, but it isn’t anymore. Most website traffic comes from search engines, and any given search can bring up any page of your website – not just the homepage. So a visitor can come to your website through almost any page.
But realize this is a good thing! It helps you better understand your website traffic; who is entering your website, where did they enter, and why. Then you can better structure your website and content to better serve these visitors.
4. “Intro” animations or “splash” pages are awesome.
With sincerest apologies to anyone I ever built a splash screen for: no, they are not awesome. They are clumsy and superfluous, and as a visitor to your website I can assure you they do not add anything positive to my experience of your content, but simply get in the way.
5. The focus of my website is me and my stuff.
Wrong. The focus of your website is the visitor, and how they experience it. Does that seem backwards to you? It shouldn’t.
This shift in focus has been a long time coming. It’s changed the way we do almost everything on the web, whether content structure, navigation layout, page layout, graphic design – it’s even changed the way we analyze web statistics.
So keep this in mind when thinking about your website: it’s all about the user.
6. “Click here to see more!”
Again, we’re more than a decade into this era – do we really need to tell people to click? I mean, assuming you’ve provided some form of differentiation for links (i.e. underlined, blue, bold), there isn’t really a reason to tell people they have to click it.
There are, however, several reasons not to, the most important being its affect on accessibility and SEO.
7. Welcome to our website!
When the web was young, each new person or organization to join up and publish content was overflowing with excitement. With all the ecstatic jubilation of a 4-year-old who’s just received a new playhouse, they proclaimed: “Welcome to our homepage!”
Alright, well…it’s a little played out, and a lot unnecessary. A better tactic would be to analyze what your current visitors find most important on your website, and highlight that in place of a welcome message.
8. “The Fold”
I remember 640 by 480 pixels. You know, the maximum screen resolution on those tiny computer displays we all had at the dawn of the Internet. Boy, those are long gone now aren’t they?
Well “The Fold” isn’t quite extinct, but it certainly isn’t as important a consideration as it was.
“The Fold,” by the way, is a metaphor drawn from newsprint where content of supreme importance was placed on the top half of the front page, “above the fold,” so as to be immediately visible to readers or passers-by. Likewise content of great importance should be placed “above the fold” on the website – that is, above the bottom of the browser window.
The problem is we have so many different screen sizes now, it’s difficult to identify exactly where the “fold” is. Further, we’re over a decade into the “web” era – I think most of us are accustomed to a bit of scrolling.
9. Because I can!
Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Yes, you can add a hit counter to your site. Yes you can make text blink, or add scrolling marquee, or animated GIFs and clipart. But think for a second: are you adding it just because you like it or think it’s “cool”?
What about your target audience (see number 5)? Is their experience improved or made worse by the addition of these things?
Look, would you base a marketing campaign decision involving TV/radio/print (read: $$$$) on something as shallow as “because I like it”? No? Then why would you do it online? This is all part of your marketing effort, so your decisions should be based on strategic goals and research.
You do have strategic goals for your website, don’t you?
So there’s only nine out of dozens; clearly there are a lot more. But if you think I missed any big ones, let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear what others think about this topic.
Photo credit: gothopotam