It is hard to believe it is 2020 – a new year and a new decade. This post was originally published in December 2019 as “7 Website Essentials for 2020,” but it is one of our most popular posts! With that said, these website essentials will be updated from year to year as things evolve.
Website Design From 2010 to 2020
Looking back over the last decade, it is truly amazing how much website design best practices have changed. Flash-based technologies used to be common. Horizontal scrolling bars were frequently used. The concept of designing for multiple devices was just emerging! Image sliders were new, not typical of every website. The transition from text-heavy websites to visual designs was just beginning.
Throughout the last decade, it is truly amazing how much website design has evolved to be more user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing. What worked for you 5 years ago, much less 10 years ago, is drastically different than what will work today. The new year is a great time to make improvements and upgrade your website. If a website redesign is something you have been putting off, make it happen this year!
8 Website Essentials 2020 & Beyond
Looking ahead, there a few basics that are essential for every website in 2020 and beyond. Everything listed below is implemented on our website as well as our client’s website. It is not about bells and whistles or trying to upsell you, rather this list is intended to be the bare minimum you need to keep traffic to your website and prevent search engines from penalizing your website.
#1 Content is King
As Google indicated in July 2019, it is time to “focus on content” (Google, 2019) It is more important then ever to have quality and original content on your website. It must be free of spelling, grammatical, factual, and/or stylistic errors. The content should be unique to your website and provide greater value in comparison to other website pages and be authentic.
Furthermore, your content should promote your expertise, authority, and trust.
- Expertise: Demonstrate that you are an expert by incorporating case studies, work samples, portfolios, blogs, ebooks, & other helpful resources. Always remember to be truthful and useful.
- Authority: Clearly site your sources, provide relevant background information on the creator of your content, and illustrate that you know the topic well.
Content marketing is not going anywhere and will only grow in importance! Make sure your website has great content today and a plan for improving that content over time. For more on content marketing, view our Content Marketing 101 post or check out 6 Steps to Craft Your Content Marketing Strategy
#2 Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing the quantity and quality of traffic driven to your website. SEO is becoming increasingly important – there is no sense in having a website if your prospects and customers cannot find you! As the internet grows, it is getting more competitive and increasingly challenging to remain on the first page of Google, much less the first search result.
Not only is the competition increasing, but the search engine algorithms continue to evolve. Google’s search engine algorithm takes into account over 200 factors! Every day Google improves its search engine algorithm to deliver better results to searchers. Many of the best practices outlined in this article are reinforced by Google’s algorithmic updates over the last decade including: HPTTS secured websites, site speed, mobile friendliness, title tags, links, content length, keyword density, etc. (Backlinko, 2018).
Today, search engine optimization best practices revolve around quality and authenticity. On-page optimization is becoming the standard – page title and meta tag optimization, heading optimization, content length, image alt tag optimization, keyword density, etc. Most website builders have an easy to use SEO section for these updates, while WordPress requires the use of a plugin (i.e. Yoast).
As SEO evolves, it is essential to remember that the get rich quick schemes do not last and are quickly penalized. What you heard was a best practice 5 years ago may actually be hurting your website today. Keyword stuffing and link farms are so a few decades ago! Ten years ago, SSL Certificates and Mobile-First were just emerging and were not a ranking factor yet. For more details on the evolution of SEO, check out White Hat vs. Black Hat SEO. When it comes to SEO, don’t just listen to anyone. Do your homework first or hire a professional!
#3 Integration with Your Marketing Strategy
Websites are no longer static brochures with copy that describes the what, when, where and how much. Now, it is about content and providing value to the user. The purpose of copy is to inform and drive customer action, while the purpose of content is to provide value and build a relationship. There has been a shift from solely copy to copy and content. Content is engaging and personal. Plus, it comes in many forms – written, spoken, or visual. Therefore, it is essential that your website is not text heavy and instead includes various forms of content! Now, more than ever, it is about the user and providing value.
In addition, your website should be a tool for your business that aligns with your overall marketing strategy. Your website should be integrated with your social platforms – whether it is social media icons, social sharing buttons, or an embedded social media feed. Your website should have an email opt-in to help you increase lead generation and build your email list. Lastly, your website serves as a home for all your content marketing efforts!
Lastly, it is essential that you optimize your website for conversions. Tell your website visitor what is the next step with a call to action. Conversion optimization is all about increasing the number of website visitors who take a desired action. For every website, Kreative Solutions recommends a primary and secondary call-to-action.
- Primary Call-to-Action: Your primary call to action defines what you ultimately want the customer to do. Often, it’s buy or request a consultation. Even though you may want a customer to buy a product, not all visitors will be ready to purchase. Some prospects may need a little more nurturing along their customer journey.
- Secondary Call-to-Action: To help nudge these visitors closer to purchase, this is where your secondary call-to-action comes in. Subscribe or follow us on social media are two great examples. Both allow you to engage the website visitor and prevent them from leaving your website without any action.
Integrating call-to-actions is a very basic step you can take to conversion optimization, but you can take it a step furthering. By pairing each call-to-action with a benefit to entice action as well as a button/form that makes it easy to take the action! Furthermore, you might want to create a sense of urgency to encourage customers to action or you might use your blog to answer FAQs and answer all potential concerns up front. Pricing and costs, problems, comparison, reviews, and best in class are the top 5 content subjects that generate the greatest traffic and conversions (Read more about the Top 5 Content Topics)
#4 A Positive User Experience
User experience design revolves around the user and aims to enhance customer satisfaction by providing positive, pleasurable interaction between the user and the website. To provide a great user experience, your website needs to be: (1) visually appealing, (2) user-friendly so that visitors can find what they are looking for and easily navigate your website, (3) enable users to efficiently and effectively accomplish their goal, and (4) be accessible to all.
Overall, you want to ensure a smooth and seamless experience for website visitors! Modern websites have a visual design and provide interaction opportunities to promote engagement. Consider how your use of color and motion guides the eye. Also, be mindful of user’s limited attention span and make your website is scannable. Simply substitute text with visuals to make your website more scannable.
More importantly, keep it simple. Use buttons and call-to-actions to make the next steps apparent. On the main pages, keep it at a high-level and allow those who want more detail to tunnel through your content by exploring your blog or browsing your portfolio. When Kreative Solutions works with a client, we start by outlining content streams – blogs, events, news feeds, portfolios, etc. This way, you have a plan for where to place your content and your website visitors know where to find what they are looking for!
#5 Mobile-First & Responsive Design
For 2018, it is estimated that 58% of the time spent online in the US is on mobile devices (Perficient Digital, 2019). This number is only expected to grow, so it is essential that your website is mobile-friendly.
A responsive design approach focuses on designing a website to align with the user’s behavior and device. For an optimal viewing experience, responsive websites automatically adapt to fit the user’s device whether it is a desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Easy-to-read text, predominant call-to-actions, large and clickable buttons, image resizing, content repositions, and simplified menus are all characteristics of responsive websites. In a mobile-first world, it is essential to have a responsive website to avoid frustrating your users!
Furthermore, in July 2019, Google implemented “mobile-first indexing” for all new websites. Mobile-first indexing refers to how Google crawls and indexes your website. For all new websites, Google will crawl your mobile website version to determine how your website page is indexed. If your website is already online, check your email and/or Google Search Console to see if mobile-first indexing has been enabled for your website. Today, mobile-first indexing is common and the majority of websites you see in the search results have mobile-first indexing enabled.
#6 Security & Transparency
Security, transparency, and privacy are increasingly common concerns! As of July 2019, Google began flagging unsecured websites without a SSL Certificate. Additionally, Google updated its search engine algorithm to reward secure websites and encourage more websites to implement this security.
An SSL certificate is simply a text file with encrypted data installed on your web hosting server. An SSL Certificate provides privacy, critical security, and data integrity for your website and your website visitors. The purpose of an SSL Certificate is to encrypt information end through the website so that only you the intended recipient can access it.
#7 Easy to Update Websites
Websites are no longer built out of custom code, rather website builders (i.e. Squarespace) and content management systems (i.e. WordPress) are helpful website builder tools. It should be easy to update the text and images on your website as well as simply uploading a blog post, adding a project to your portfolio, or adding an event. All these activities can now be done by novices or content marketers. If your website is built intuitively, you should not have to contact your developer to update an image.
Not only do website builders and content management systems make it easier to update the content, but it also makes it easier to get your website up and running quickly and more affordable.
It is important to note the two are not interchangeable. A website builder is a tool with the ultimate purpose of creating a website out of pre-built components, while a content management systems is a type of software that helps you create, manage, and modify content. CMS’s are known to be more powerful and customizable than website builders. If you are curious about the differences between the two, check out Website Builder vs. WordPress: Which is Right for My Business?
Accessibility pertains to ease of use and understanding for all users. Your website needs to be accessible to everyone regardless of disabilities. Your website should be designed with accessibility in mind. For example, you can use alt image tags to label images so that screen readers can understand the image and incorporate transcripts that can be read instead of listening to the video. To take your website’s accessibility to the next level, you can install Userway or Accessible to make your site even more accessible.
Is your website ready for 2020? If all seven items are already in place, great! If you are not sure, contact a professional for a website audit. If you know you have a long way to go, then start planning your budget and collecting website redesign quotes. Please keep Kreative Solutions in mind!
When you are seeking a website designer, make sure to vet their search engine optimization skills, content marketing knowledge, and awareness of best practices. All to often, there are website developers who are stuck in the development world and/or stuck in the past. Make sure you are hiring someone who understands the big picture and keeps up with the best practices!