At Liquid 11 we are strong believers that our websites are the shop windows to our products and are therefore vital to our business.
Not only do they have to look good but more importantly they need to work. That means that they need to actively engage our visitors and keep them using our site so that they can learn more about our products and start generating some sales.
The problem is that the internet is always evolving so this is always going to be a work in progress. What worked yesterday isn’t necessarily going to work today so how can you possibly stay on top of that and what can you do today to ensure your websites are as up to date as possible?
Below are some techniques we use for staying on top of the constantly evolving digital world and what we are doing to our sites today in order to keep them up to date.
Find out how things stand
Always be learning
Technology is evolving so quickly that any course at university involving Information Technologies is probably going to find that by the third year of teaching, what was learnt in the first year is out of date.
With that kind of staggering speed of advancement it is important to constantly be improving skills as there’s no way that we can afford to just sit back and trust that our current skills are relevant.
To do that we are constantly reading blogs, magazines and other publications around our chosen professions. Our designers are always reading blogs like Web Designer Depot, Smashing Magazine and Abduzeedo to stay on top of the latest trends and technologies surrounding web design to ensure that our websites are still up there with the latest and greatest. Our developers do the same with various technology blogs as well as just general reading that comes up from constantly browsing google for the news and information surrounding their fields of interest.
One app everyone at Liquid 11 highly recommends is Flipboard. This app not only makes reading content on your phone more user friendly and engaging but by setting your preferences it will automatically search the best blogs and online magazines in order to feed you the very latest news on all of your favourite topics.
Become part of the community
One of the great things about design and development is that there are huge communities out there eager to explore and discuss the latest going ons and offer support to people looking to improve.
Get involved with these communities. Ask and answer questions on forums, take part in online debates and basically grow your online network with all the people who, like you, want to be at the top of their game. Soon enough the information you need to stay on top will be coming to you to save you having to go seek it out.
Use Google Analytics
On top of understanding what is going on with the web as a whole you need to understand how your websites are working themselves. We can always take what we learn elsewhere, apply it and hope for the best or with the help of Google Analytics we can track those changes and make sure that they are working.
With Google Analytics you can find out which pages on your site are working best, where your traffic is coming from, what browsers your users are using and even what device and screen size. All of this information plus much more available from Google Analytics allows you to find out what works and what doesn’t on your website and improve accordingly. By using Google Analytics regularly and using the information to create lots of small wins you are going to start seeing big results in no time.
Changes you can make today
Below are a few of the things we have found we need to be on top of right now to stay in the game:
Don’t forget about the mobile web
The number of users looking at websites from mobile devices is at an all time high. Currently about 15% of your online traffic is probably coming from a smartphone or tablet and while that might not seem like much, when you factor in the fact that a person browsing from an iPad is more than 50% more likely to make a purchase over the web then suddenly that number becomes a lot more important.
Customers who come to a website that hasn’t been optimised for mobile viewing are going to start searching somewhere else. Everyone knows that internet users are impatient and if they think your site is going to be hard to use or doesn’t work properly on their phones, they are going to be gone within seconds of the page loading.
At Liquid 11 we take a ‘mobile first, responsive design’ attitude to all of our new and some of our older websites. This means that when we start designing our websites we make sure they work on a mobile device first and then scale up accordingly (and automatically) depending on the size of the browser our visitors are using. By using responsive design rather than dedicated mobile websites cuts down on having to keep on top of managing two different websites and it keeps us ready for both our mobile and our computer based customers.
Optimise your websites
With so much of today’s traffic coming from mobile devices and with people expecting everything to happen the very moment a press a button or click on a link, optimisation has never been important.
A few years ago Amazon said that for every 100ms a user has to wait for their page to load, they have a 1% dropout in sales. If you apply that same ratio to your website then you can roughly estimate that for every second your page takes to load you are going to see a 10% reduction in the achievement of your web goals. Therefore page optimisation is very important.
We are still working to make our websites ever quicker but here are a few tricks we have learned to make our websites load faster:
- Optimise your images to be the smallest possible file sizes they can be without losing quality
- Merge all your stylesheets and scripts into single files where possible to reduce the number of calls a website makes upon loading
- Look into ‘lazy loading’ techniques that will load elements of your website only when they are needed which reduces initial page load time
- Where possible use html and css rather than images to save having to load unnecessary extra files
Simple is better
People don’t want complexity. It make look cool but if people can’t find what they want or worse, if they simply can’t figure out how to use your website then you won’t see success. In this situation we use the old acronym KISS (Keep it simple stupid) when designing our websites. The more simple your website is the easier it will be to use and navigate and the happier your customers are going to be.
A few tips we use to keep things simple are:
- Get straight to the point. Say everything you want to say in as few words possible so people don’t have to search through reams of text to find what they consider relevant.
- Don’t reinvent the wheel. Some things, like simple navigation and standard icon sets, have stood the test of time for a reason, because everyone knows what they are and therefore have less to think about or learn.
- Keep web forms straight forward and minimal. Where possible keep web forms as a single column affair with as few fields as possible to save people getting confused or overwhelmed.
- Bite size chunks are best. If you have a lot of information or a long process to go through then definitely break it up into smaller pieces. Not only will it make your website look less daunting but it will make life easier for your users.
Get started today
As we’ve already established your web presence is incredibly important and it is something that is definitely worthwhile staying on top of. We have a whole team of designers and developers constantly working on this problem and the results of keeping on top of this are very real and often significant. So we recommend that you get started to day and see what you can do to improve your web presence and hopefully your company profits.