As more users continue to stay reliant on digital platforms to meet their daily needs, web presences are in high pressure to deliver and perform. All this, however, is subject to how businesses establish their offerings online. A company’s website presence is an integral component to its overall digital presence, and the way it is presented can ultimately make or break a business. The industry of software development in Sri Lanka has long since been focused towards customer-centric web presences, and together with leverage from the world’s leading cloud support services, it’s an endeavour that is constantly in the works, thanks to evolving technologies.
While trends come and go, many nuances are fundamental for the development of a website that is functional yet engaging. Add to this newfound technologies such as voice-based search and AI, and you have a mix of components that can add immense potential to the final result. Ultimately, it all boils down to what your customers want and how you can fulfil their needs, so your website needs to be a medium that can bridge the gap between the two. Here, we focus on some key trends and principles which are essential for a successful website today.
A combination of both evergreen tips and emerging trends, here are some of the ingredients for a powerful yet versatile website.
This may seem like a given to most website development teams out there, but it is still a point that needs to be stressed. In spite of thorough competitor analysis or being well-versed about what your customers have always wanted in your trade, it is still good practice to conduct dedicated user interviews to ascertain what exactly it is that customers desire, especially from a website. Understand that the whims and fancies of your users are constantly changing in this digital era, especially since round-the-clock connectivity and limitless competitor options influence just what people want, when and how.
Speaking to both existing and potential users of your brand/business is a highly useful exercise, as it will directly aim at where gaps lie in terms of what’s yet unfulfilled for users – and how you can step in to fill those very gaps. Added bonus – this will also shed light on product development issues, if any, within your brand/business. Use this feedback as the foundation for preparing your website’s design scope, as well as wireframes, the final design and even testing procedures.
With today’s digital experiences becoming increasingly complex, it makes sense to determine just what the final CTA is going to be – and how a user is typically going to get there with as minimal effort as possible. As businesses rely on services provided by external entities to in turn offer a conglomerated service to their customers (think Airbnb or Uber, neither of which own a single property or vehicle respectively), integrating a multitude of externally supplied services comes with its own complicated set of variables.
Add to this the on-demand nature of today’s digital landscape, and you have a predicament that is a challenge even for the most seasoned of businesses. In this case, it is imperative to first analyse what you want your customer to eventually do. Whether it’s purchasing a product or making a reservation, it’s key to determine which user action is going to classify as a conversion, and help your company’s bottom line. From this point onwards, engage your team in a strategy session that now determines just how your user is going to get there as quickly and easily as possible – before beginning to delve into the design stage of your website.
The evolution of digital experiences through the decades has led to many UI/UX elements getting subconsciously regularized by users. Three horizontal lines signifying a menu, and a magnifying glass indicating a search bar, are such examples. In order to maintain a web presence that’s relatable to users, it’s crucial to stick to elements that have sustained to accomplish a certain task, in spite of all the changes which the world of web design has undergone through the years. This will make your website familiar to users, even if they are visiting it for the very first time.
On top of that, icons that now bear a sense of consistency in UI/UX design are highly useful for display dimensions that are constrained, as these elements can be conveniently placed within smaller screens. On the other hand, trying to add brand new elements with the aim of ‘training’ users can be a risky move, as the lack of familiarity can frustrate users and get them to further add to the high rates of abandonment which even well-functioning sites are chronically subjected to, these days.
As your website development team embarks on the journey to create an all-new web presence (or revamp an existing one), it’s essential to also add mobile application development into this mix. With more users connected via their smartphones more than ever before, it’s important to ensure your brand/business is accessible via multiple means and channels. Today’s businesses have the option of forming dedicated partnerships with leading cloud service providers (such as becoming an AWS partner, for example), which can offer immense leverage for the purpose of building high-performance and scalable apps.
Wither its virtual infrastructure, microservices or containerization, your development team will be able to access any resource they need, as and when it’s required. On top of that, pay as you go, or only for what you use; there’s no need to retain any resources on standby, and therefore pay for what you don’t use. This makes it increasingly convenient to build and maintain multiple custom digital presences across the spectrum – even making mobile websites and PWAs valuable yet easily maintainable additions to the entire mix.
While an attractive and feature-rich website is essential to powerfully position your brand across the digital landscape, it will eventually be futile if users aren’t able to land and/or navigate through it if it’s too slow. In other words, page load speeds need to be up to standard so that users can be engaged and thereby retained across your website. Sluggish page loads are one of the primary contributing reasons for user abandonment, as even a lag of a few seconds can cause people to get impatient and finally leave, in order to fulfil their needs from somewhere else.
While a lot of factors can contribute to slow page loads, a lack of image optimisation is one of them. Placing bulky images across your website can cause pages to load more slowly, and these need to be compressed before they are uploaded onto your site (without compromising on resolution, of course). Additionally, websites that load slowly are also penalised by search engine algorithms, which can then negatively impact overall search rankings. Therefore, page load speeds are as important as the visual aspects of your website – something which designers also need to think about, and not just developers.
The overall design and layout of your website will determine how well it ranks on search engines. This is a broad and oversimplified statement, no doubt. But website design needs to go beyond simply offering a user-friendly and valuable web presence in order to impress search engine algorithms. While nuances are many, title tags are an important aspect that should be incorporated into any website’s design structure in order to keep search engines happy. H1/H2 tags are a prime example, and these determine whether your website is relevant to a particular search query. Placement also matters, so that content throughout the site is relevant while being easy on the eye at the same time.
In the event of a broken link, does your web design framework have a layout in place to indicate that something’s amiss, lest a user has such an encounter? While notifying users of broken links are important, having a system in place to re-direct broken links can further sustain website reputation among users and search engines alike.
Assuming that all interactions within your website and mobile app will happen based on clicks and touches may make your entire digital strategy fall short in this current technology climate. Voice-based searches are on the rise, and more users are relying on a quick voice note to interact with search engines. With voice-based assistants inbuilt into smartphones, this has become even more accessible. As a result, ensuring that your website and mobile app is able to accommodate voice-based searches is of immense value, so users can obtain the same level of convenience to search for products and services within your website/mobile app as well.
While this will involve some new challenges pertaining to voice-based searches, improving the accuracy of search results as well as the interface used to display results needs to be an ongoing process. With voice-based searches gradually increasing, this will also be a great foundation for your website development team as they can then scale and invest in this particular feature further, for both the long and short term.
Even the shortest and simplest web design project isn’t going to be a one-off project – and definitely not in this day and age of rapidly advancing technology. As customer trends and technology advancements evolve, your website and mobile app needs to do the same too – or else lose out to competition. With every interaction lies the opportunity of data; which if crunched correctly, can reveal actionable insights. Integrating a competent business intelligence platform or even a fundamental data analytics tool can go a long way to determine how your users are interacting with your digital presence, but also whether your offerings need revamping from a product development point of view.
An Agile project management methodology is one that is capable of embracing ongoing changes, while keeping timelines and budgets at a minimum. In a way, this goes all the way back to the first pointer, which focuses on building web designs that are centred towards user requirements. At every update, consistent rounds of user feedback can determine what needs to be changed, so improvements can be made in order to offer an experience that’s truly customer-centric and memorable.
The world of web design is ever-evolving, but there are some nuances which are pretty much evergreen – and should be adhered to, if you want your web presence to be successful. Websites alone aren’t going to suffice; mobile apps are another integral resource for a digital age that is empowered with the use of smartphones. Building and running an integrated digital presence is essential to stay relevant as a business, while the right design strategies can make all the difference between customers loving your product/service, or choosing to abandon it. Web design goes beyond simply offering visual appeal and easy navigation; it’s the cornerstone to also keeping search engine algorithms happy, while also staying on par with emerging trends such as voice-based search.
Understanding the psyche behind what your users need and how they are interacting with your website will provide feedback for improvement, so your website is a constant work in progress to offer nothing short of the best in terms of a digital experience. Business intelligence and one-on-one user feedback are some out of many ways such actionable insights can be gathered, so your website development team knows what to prioritise on with every iteration.
Last but not the least, keeping it simple and familiar through design consistency is more important than one may think, as it offers users a relatable means of navigation around your website or mobile app. With consumers and businesses alike increasingly depending on digital platforms to buy and sell, how a website/mobile app is presented goes a long way to determine its overall success.