When is the last time you saw a website with a clearly outdated design appear at the top of Google search results?
If you can even remember this happening, it probably occurred quite some time ago.
Google understands that people want up-to-date content, and do not like to spend time visiting sites with slow, ineffective, and unoriginal designs; furthermore, people who click on outdated sites in search results often quickly leave those sites to go elsewhere. So, to win with both people and search engines, you need your website to appear current. Of course, what "current" means is constantly changing, so to help present several suggestions for 2018, I interviewed Danny Donovan, founder and creative director at Dsquared Media, who has been involved in creating websites for nearly twenty years, and who has witnessed the evolution of Web technology and trends. Here are some pointers he provided:
1. Use animated site navigation technology.
The first thing most people notice when they look at a website is its design. Shortly thereafter, they begin to seek whatever it is they came to the site to find. Site navigation refers to how visitors move around within the site. You want the navigation on your site to be easy, aesthetically pleasing, and attention grabbing, offering a great experience to people while they easily locate that for which they are searching.
As Donovan told me, "There are a number of exciting new ways to deliver great navigation. Replacing the standard website user experience menu with animated navigation technology, for example, allows visitors to experience navigation through 3-D slideshows, the fading of one page into another, moving between pages by swiping, and various other modern interfaces and visual experiences." Consider enhancing your site -- and your brand image -- with this type of new technology.
2. Busy is in.
We've all heard the saying "less is more;" for several years that aphorism has been widely cited about proper website design. Clean lines, solid colors, and strict organization seem to have evolved into the norm. While there is certainly nothing wrong with wanting to deliver a crisp, simple look, Donovan told me "research shows that internet users are actually responding well to busy-looking websites. Experts once thought many images or overwhelming colors can deter users, but, today, many believe the opposite may be true: a loud experience may draw in individuals, build curiosity, and entice people to want to discover more about a site." While some experts may argue that simplification and site speed are key to improving SEO results, giving users what they want in terms of design and customization is often at least as important. So, consider what your goals are, and make your website match your customers' styles and wants. One simple way to incorporate a busy, maximalist feel, without introducing overcomplexity, is to regularly invest in new brand-inspired graphics, which can transform the look of your website without requiring substantial changes or harming SEO.
3. Use video.
Written content and graphics are both great ways to showcase what you do and how your goods and/or services can make a difference in the lives of potential prospects. But sometimes, words and images do not quite capture sufficient attention, spark enough intrigue, or provide information as powerfully as video does. Online video usage has been surging, and in 2018, there is little doubt that websites will continue to increase their utilization of video technology.
4. Implement a great mobile website experience.
While mobile website capabilities may seem like something everyone who has a website should have addressed at least half-a-decade ago, the sad reality is many websites still do not deliver proper mobile experiences. As Donovan noted, "Considering that over half of Google's searches are performed from smartphones and other mobile devices, and that millions of people ask phone-based Siri or Alexa to perform various searches, not having a mobile-optimized portal means potentially forfeiting many site visitors -- and, perhaps, even a majority of them -- to the sites of competitors."
5. Utilize ubiquitous, attractive calls to action.
The time, energy, and money put into a website is not simply to display a beautiful face to prospects and customers; you want to convert visitors into paying customers. While there are many ways to convert them, the most obvious and effective way to start the process is by integrating calls-to-action into your website. Calls-to-action, or CTAs, can be used to collect users' email addresses in order to send them a free periodic newsletter, gather prospects' contact information for follow-up calls, or to provide people with the ability to contact the website administrator with a single click. CTAs, of course, are only effective if they are designed well, and offer people value in exchange for providing contact information or the like. Effective CTAs will also be prominent, available on every page of a website, offer eye-catching design, and provide easy-to-understand instructions.
6. Use design elements that improve SEO.
Keeping up with Google and other search engines' standards for page optimization is undoubtedly important in order to direct the maximum number of relevant users to your website. As part of the SEO process, however, it is important to understand that Google utilizes various methods to measure the effectiveness of a website's design, and rewards those with good design with improved search result rankings. Unless you have someone on staff who keeps up with trends, hiring an industry expert may be a worthwhile investment. Remember, the design of your site is not only one of the key elements that makes it different from every other site on the internet, it can also be your ticket to more visibility, greater conversion rates, and increased business.