Everyone recognises now that the technology industry is incredibly fast-paced and constantly evolving, with new technology constantly being announced and existing technology moving forward every year. This certainly holds true for the online sector, especially in the last 3-4 years, which has lead to change in the way websites are designed and built to adapt to new devices, increased demand and new ideas for how to present information on the web.
For those of you with websites that were put together a few years ago, you may be wondering what has changed and why you should consider updating your current site or maybe even getting a new website altogether. Here is our brief overview touching on some of the key changes to websites in the past few years:
In the early days of digital smartphones many websites started to develop “mobile” versions targeted at the most popular phones on the market. This worked OK because there were only a few different screen sizes to cater for and the number of people using them was far fewer than today. Since then the mobile market has diversified wildly to the point where the are now literally hundreds of different sized devices available and with some sites now receiving near 40-50% mobile traffic a simple mobile site is no longer the ideal.
To address this problem the industry has changed and modern websites are typically now built responsively, this means that the website design, layout and content will adjust automatically to fit it to the visitor’s device, regardless of the screen width and height. The biggest benefit to this is your website should be a lot easier to use and therefore more effective when viewed on mobile tablets and phones. This also means that websites are tested on a greater range of devices and the techniques used to display content must be compatible with each device or at the very least a suitable alternative provided.
To build a website responsively involves more time in both design and development, so it is a contributing factor to why websites cost more now than they did before, but the added cost also reflects the increased quality and performance of a modern site.
If your site was built a number of years ago, chances are it is not responsive therefore it is probably not delivering as good of an experience to its visitors as it could be and is therefore not as effective. Search engines like Google are also now favouring responsive design when determining which websites are of higher quality and should therefore be given higher importance in users mobile search results
Website design has evolved a fair bit over the past few years, particularly with the recent trend of “Flat Design”, which involves designing websites and user interfaces in a way that focuses on content while leaving the user interface and supporting elements fairly simple with solid background colours and clear typography. This is in contrast to the “web 2.0” style of design that saw gradients shadows applied to elements to give them a bit of depth.
Why does this matter? The idea is to improve the user experience and makes websites simpler and easier to use – while keeping them looking modern. An older site can easily look dated compared to a site that has adopted these trends which can reflect negatively on your business as a whole.
It is now becoming almost a necessity to pull in at least some content from social media services like Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, Instagram and YouTube. This can usually be done quite simply making use of widgets that are readily available from some of the social media sites, but websites are now moving forward with this and turning increasingly to custom integration using feeds and APIs.
A growing trend for websites involves displaying a “mashup” (or mixture) of content from each social network onto a single easily digestible page. There are a number of important benefits for pages like these, most importantly they encourage your website visitors to engage with your brand on social media which can help spread the word through sharing. Secondly, social pages allow your website to be kept up to date with ease, which is something favoured by search engines and also shows your visitors that your brand is active.
If your website was built a while ago, while you might have standard follow/like buttons and maybe even a Twitter or Facebook feed, the likelyhood is your site could be using social media in even more ways now and could benefit greatly from doing so.
We’ve seen techniques like Parallax being used to create rich and engaging user experiences, as well as completely new ideas for ways to display user interfaces in a nicer way.
Older sites tend to have use less of these technologies because at the time they were built web browsers were not advanced enough to display them. As a result, older sites can easily seem a little “clunky” and less user friendly when compared to a modern site, which could put you at a disadvantage to your competitors.
Content Management Systems (CMS)
A Content Management System is the software used to manage the content on your site as well as providing the basis for standard functionality like interactive forms and databases of information.
Years ago not every site would necessarily be built with a CMS, but now websites are more complex and website owners require more control to be able to add fresh content to their site on a regular basis, so content management systems have evolved to be much more flexible and advanced.
E-commerce websites require more features to compete with leading online stores like Amazon for example. We’ve seen the rise of new e-commerce platforms like LemonStand and Magento that have made it possible for online stores to do more.
The breadth of tools available for analysing your website visitors and your website’s performance has increased dramatically in the past few years.
Existing tools like Google Analytics have advanced significantly, making it possible to see more data on the demographics of your visitors for example which can really help with making key business decisions.
There are now more ways we can setup a website to be monitored and tweaked which means websites can be tweaked and improved further to produce better results.
An older website might not be making use of some of these tools and may not be setup to be tracked and monitored in the same way as we can today, and so it could be missing out on potential opportunities to increase conversion rates and sales for example.
There are a few emerging technologies that may well affect how websites are designed and built in future and the online marketing strategies that surround them. One of these is the introduction of wearable technology like smart watches and even digital glasses for example. Web developers and designers are already experimenting with these devices to see how websites and online services might get involved.
With the web evolving at such a fast rate and technology constantly changing, how you can you keep up and more importantly how can your business stay relevant online?