Web development and web design practices emerge one year and solidify as trends or fade away as fads in nearly every industry. It can be confusing for businesses to prioritize their best practices approach to building effective websites. Fortunately, GovCon and AEC have the benefit of being able to adopt best practices after they’ve already been tested and proven in B2C and B2B sectors.
The pace of change in the digital world seems to dictate a web design refresh or a complete website redesign every three years or so. If you wait five years to do anything to your website, it’s nearly impossible to assume that it’s not out of date or in need of some TLC.
As a new year approaches, it’s a great time to resolve to take a hard look at your B2G website and spot the dead giveaways of obsolescence, recognize enduring design classics, sort fad from trend, and take advantage of the latest web design thinking. You can then build a plan to incrementally improve your website in the new year, or you can build the requirements to issue an RFP and hire a vendor to help you rebuild before the next year takes control of your working life.
While the definition of “Top Ten” can and should vary from business sector to business sector, or even company to company, we see the following ten issues as central to having a website that helps you meet your organization’s goals. Check out the best practices below as you consider whether or not it is time to take action and narrowcast which improvements you should prioritize.
- Security: This one is obvious. Many browsers, Google Chrome in particular, have been upping their security requirements. Chrome now flags websites that don’t comply by marking them with a Not Secure warning. Are you okay with a Not Secure in front of your site URL? Your users won’t be. Furthermore, that Not Secure can drive down your search rankings. How can you guarantee a secure site? Make sure you’re using https vs. the now-ancient http protocol. Https is the secure version of the http protocol; the “s” stands for secure. Https is used to protect data sent between your browser and your website. If you look at your browser to the left of your domain name, you’ll see a green lock. It means your site is secure. Don’t have it? It’s something you should address immediately.
- Long(er) Scrolling Pages: Long pages allow users to consume your message without getting lost among pages in your site or having to click through your site to find what they need. Longer pages also correlate directly with better SEO results. The average word count for a page listed first in a Google results page is 1,890. Long pages serve your readers, make your site look up to date, and raise your search engine rankings. We’re not recommending spamming readers with tons of content just for the heck of it. Rather, content should serve a purpose, fulfill the need of the end user to learn, and be structured (headings, numbered lists, bulleted lists, nice images) so that the content is easy to understand and consume. What could be better?
- Page Speed: More users are browsing the web on mobile devices than ever before. Think about it: Most of us now abandon a web page if it takes even a few seconds to load. Google uses site and page speed as a ranking factor in search results. One sure-fire way to keep your page load time fast is to optimize your imagery. If you’re using large imagery (you probably are), make sure you save and optimize your images for the web. For example, images that spread from left margin to right margin need to be no larger than 2,000 pixels in width. PNG images, while useful in certain cases, tend to be much larger than JPEGs. And the “metadata” inside your images should be stripped out. Do this, and you’ll be winning that part of the page speed race.
- UX (User Experience): Your website should be like an old-fashioned switchboard, not a static brochure. Remember those switchboards with the operators connecting telephone callers to other people? That’s how your website should work—constantly working to connect site visitors to related content and inviting them to take further action. Calls To Action (CTAs) can vary per page. They can include a message and an invitation to click a button on your homepage, a bio at the bottom of a service page inviting someone to reach out to one of your company leaders, or a sign-up to an email newsletter. CTAs are the way to go. Focusing on web development that enhances the user experience ensures you’ll be able to keep visitors on your website, improve conversions (people taking action), and even improve your search rankings by increasing time spent on your site.
- Metadata Images: The word meta is becoming more apparent with Facebook’s corporate name change. In our lingo, metadata is the data (title, description, and feature image) for each page of your website, including your homepage, bios, services pages, and blogs. What does metadata do? Well, when someone else shares a link to one of your blog posts on LinkedIn, for example, the title and image that you pre-select will automatically appear in the social media post that they share. That’s pretty powerful. Metadata is a way to really boost the effectiveness of a website on social media.
- Active Blogs: Does your company blog? It should. Websites that are static, with no new content, are websites that Google assumes are not very authoritative. But websites that are regularly updated with new content that displays your expertise and shows your company’s vitality are websites that people like to visit. Not to mention that when websites are updated with new content, it’s an invitation for Google to recrawl your site and reconsider how authoritative it is.
- Videos: Not enough brands publish video. In the past, video was considered an expensive content option. The thing is, it’s getting faster, easier, and less expensive to create and publish video content using tools like Canva. Video is a hugely popular way for people to consume content, and videos published on YouTube tend to rank exceptionally well in Google search results (remember, Google owns YouTube.). Then you can take that YouTube video and embed it in a related web page. We’ve seen countless times how video helps the web page shoot to the top of Google search rankings, improving organic search.
- Rich Content: How rich is your website? Do you have blogs? Web pages? That’s a great start. But by employing website development, as opposed to just design, you can create custom pages that deliver exactly the information your audiences need. For example, services pages with customized titles, body copy, and related personnel; a bio page that features specialties, contact information, and education credentials; or case studies that showcase customer name, industry sector, problems solved, and tools used. Web development like this can raise your game above the competition and help you demonstrate thought leadership.
- On-Page SEO: What is each page of your website about? Are you telling the right story? If you sell widgets to automobile makers, does your widgets page title simply say Widgets or does it say High-End Widgets for Automakers? Your page title needs to be specific about what you do so that human readers immediately understand and Google does too. Pages written and built strategically for search engine optimization help immensely with authority and organic search. The same specificity holds true with the headings on web pages and the “anchor link” text with embedded html links.
- Don’t Forget the Details: Pay attention to classy details, such as favicons. You know those snazzy little icons that appear in web browser tabs? Well, having these favicons appear on your web page won’t win you tons of awards for SEO from Google, but we see too many websites that look like they are still living in 2005. Chances are, if you are paying attention to having favicons, then other areas of your website are going to look visually classy too. Don’t forget, you can uniquely title your website here as well—which helps Google and human users alike know what your company does.
Caution: Don’t Just Set It and Forget It
If it’s been a few years since you updated your website, consider hiring an outside firm to perform an unbiased digital audit to help assess your site’s performance versus your competitors’ sites and chart a path forward for up-leveling your website with a web refresh or rebuild.