We have been letting our clients know for the past 25 years what makes a good website. So we have decided to create a guide highlighting good website design and practices.
Having a 24/7 365 days a year online presence is even more important now that social distancing is the norm. Shopping online is increasing tremendously and everyone is using the Internet for their goods and services. A simple website is no longer enough, you have to make sure it is performing well in search engine ranking (SEO) and in user experience. If nobody can find your well-designed website it may as well not exist. Or if the customer has a poor experience and cannot navigate to what they want quickly and easily it could mean losing them.
The most important place in your website is “Above the fold” (a borrowed newspaper term – on the top of the page without having to scroll down) on the home page. This is the prime real estate, where the visitor has that all important first impression of your website. It has to be attractive, well designed, easy to read, grab your visitor’s attention and convey exactly what your website is all about. You have about 10 seconds (according to Google analytics) to accomplish this, or the visitor will “bounce” (hit the back button) and is off to another site.
The text should be very easy to read, short, and concise. This can start with a header (H1), followed by a short summary of your website, and it should have the key words so that Google can index your website properly. The visitor also has to easily navigate to the relevant pages of your website and be able to quickly find what they are looking for.
Also, you can no longer have a great design that only looks good on a 24-inch desktop screen. Clients are increasingly using their smart phones / mobiles, smart TVs and tablets to view the Internet and to make purchases. Your website has to be responsive, and adjust to function and look good on all these devices automatically.
Having a responsive website results in a higher Google search engine return. Google will not include your website in any search that is made on a smart phone if your website is not responsive to smart phones.
“The most important real estate in
your website is ‘above the fold’ on
your home page”.
“You cannot afford to fall behind,
as this will affect functionality and security.”
You cannot create a website and just leave it. Technology, Platforms, Themes and plugins are evolving all the time and need to be constantly updated. Typically, all this website software will have 15 to 20 updates each month. You cannot afford to fall behind, as this will affect functionality and security.
When the updates are performed it normally goes well, but on a rare occasion they can go wrong and your website will break, and you will need someone there to sort it out.
There is a lot of technology behind the scenes. Servers also need updating as well as the software that runs on them, and the computer language that websites are built on – all need constant managing and updating.
All our Hosting Packages are Managed Hosting Packages. We make sure that your platform, theme all your plugins are the very latest and always up to date. This takes the worry and expense of having to do this yourself. We perform nightly backups and weekly archive storage of all our client’s websites. So if anything should break we can quickly restore your website.
And if you need any changes to your website, we are only a phone call or an email away. Support included!
Search Engine Rankings and
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
Following Google’s guidelines to correct SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) practices ensure that your website will continue to rise in the ranking returns. This will take some time (can be up to 6 months), and if done properly by using Google’s recommended techniques like useful relevant body content with well positioned (industry) key words presented in a natural reading way, will go a long way in potential customers finding your website.
Adding new and unique relevant body content that is easy to read to your website will greatly improve your websites SEO. So will making your pages more visual with high quality images.
Web structure and metatags and page titles and image tags and names are also important factors in SEO.
Keeping your navigation structure within 3 levels of sections or categories and sub sections or sub categories will ensure that they are indexed properly by Google. The web indexing crawlers generally will go no deeper into your website than this.
Strong, well-researched keywords in your metatags and page titles as well as (often overlooked) image alt tags will boost your ranking returns. Indexing crawlers are unable to read or “see” images so they should have descriptive strong keywords in their “alt tags” to help the crawlers index your websites visual content.
“Adding new and unique relevant body
content that is easy to read to your
website will greatly improve your
Beware of offers to instantly boost your search engine rankings to the first page. We get these emails all the time. They are often made by unscrupulous so-called “experts” who charge a lot of money and yes, you find you are now on the first page, only to find Google permanently de-indexing you shortly afterwards. When they find that you have been keyword stuffing, flooding the background with white-on-white body text, using automatically generated content, participating in link schemes, having too many redirects, and hidden links, scraped content (plagiarism), and participating in affiliate programs without adding value. You no longer exist in the rankings and the “experts” are long gone.
“Linking out” to other websites can also help a little but only if they are related to, and add value to your website. As well as internal navigation links for both the visitor and indexing web crawler. Links that point into your website help more. Especially if the website “linking in” ranks high in the search engine returns. Google look upon this as, if a highly ranking website that “links in” to your website, means that you too must also be important and should rank higher. Lots of different people in social media pointing in to your website also means you must be important to them (and therefore to Google). But you have to be careful not to go overboard with this as too much can affect your ranking in a negative way.
You are far better to add your own unique content and add value to the Internet, and increase your search engine ranking organically over time according to Google’s best practices advice. We have always said “Content is King!”
“There is nothing more frustrating for a
customer waiting for your content and
images to load before they can access
Page Loading Speeds
Lots of factors affect how fast a website page loads, there is nothing more frustrating for a customer waiting for your content and images to load before they can access your page. The bottom line is the faster a page loads the higher Google will rank your website in the search engine returns. Factors like errors from conflicting plugins, using outdated formats, or the biggest one which is having content heavy pages.
Uploading large or full-size images to your website and only displaying them as small images on the page is a waste of loading speed. Images realy need to be optimised for the final size used on the page. Text loads almost instantly, and websites would be visually boring without some attractive relevant images to accompany the text. But if you have a 4,500 pixel image and want to display it as a 500 pixels by 500 pixels image on the page, edit or crop it to 500px x 500px and optimise the file size before uploading it to your website.
Adding video directly in your website is even worse as the file sizes can be enormous, thus slowing down the loading speed considerably. To get around this there are techniques like uploading the video to YouTube and having a coded link in your website to display it. Also reducing the file size and the display dimensions to suit your page also helps.
We do this with all our images used. The result is faster loading pages and a higher return in the Google rankings which translates to more visitors to your website. After all this is the name of the game.
Secure Hosting – Https and SSL Certificates
Not only is it important to have security in place for the server and also for the website, but the connection between your website and the visitor is also important.
Google search algorithm looks to whether or not your website using a secure data transfer protocol called HTTPS. This means that the transfer of date between your website’s server and the visitor’s device is encrypted. So, it cannot be intercepted. It was first used for online shopping and the use of personal data and credit card information.
But a few years ago, Google determined that all websites should use the HTTPS protocol. So, they started ranking websites that have a SSL (Secure Socket Layer) Certificate installed and are using the HTTPS protocol, slightly higher.
If you are not using the HTTPS protocol an alert from many browsers (like Chrome) will let the visitor know that your website is unsecure – not good!
In addition to a small boost in the rankings by Google there are other benefits of using the HTTPS protocol:
- A small padlock in your URL indicating the details of your SSL Certificate.
- Establishing a trust with your new visitors and customers.
- Faster website speed (the new HTTP/2 protocol favours HTTPS).
- Access to new tools that require increased security (ie. listed in Google Maps).
- Increased analytics data.
We can purchase SSL Certificates and install them into your website.
“Google ranks websites that have
an SSL Certificate installed
and are using the HTTPS
protocol, slightly higher.”