Keeping up with the latest trends in web design and user experience is a never-ending battle. As we explore how the latest innovations can help our users, we can’t forget the first step: providing a usable site, quickly.
Here are three ways to improve your website and website’s performance
1. Mobile. Mobile! MOBILE!
Mobile is now the primary way many users experience the web. A new Google Analytics update, ‘Mobilegeddon’, which was released in April, reinforces this new reality. If your site isn’t mobile friendly, you’re taking a hit with every search on a mobile device. If moving your site to a fully responsive design isn’t feasible, start with these tips to make your site more user-friendly.
- Start with your most visited pages.
- Remove any content that requires a plugin, including Flash (Flash isn’t supported on iPhones or iPads). Replace content with images or HTML5 media elements.
- Use percentages and ‘em’ units instead of fixed pixels in your layout design and font sizes.
- Utilize CSS media queries to optimize the major sections of your pages for your visitors common screen sizes.
Just like your first driver’s education class, speed kills. In the case of the web, a LACK of speed kills. We’re past the days of dial-up modems and patient users who wait for sites to load. Signal noise, interference and sharing bandwidth with other users can cripple expected speeds even though Wi-Fi and 4G LTE connections are ubiquitous. Optimizing your site using the smallest footprint possible will help you fight through the noise and outperform your competitors.
- Optimize Images. The most common problem I see when loading slow websites is image size. Most image file sizes are way_ too_big.
- Remove Unused Plugins. We’ve all tested a bunch of new plugins or used the new shiny plugin and forgot about it months later. Re-evaluate your needed plugins and make sure they’re up-to-date. Oh, and make sure you’re CMS is updated, too (for both speed and security updates).
- Enable compression on your server. If you’re hosting your own site make sure your content is zipped before being set across the network. Yep, there’s a site for that too.
- Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN). CDN’s host your content on servers near your users to help reduce latency. Some hosts, like WP Engine, make it as easy as clicking a box to enable a CDN.
- Start with Google’s Page Speed Insights and learn more form Moz.com about page speed.
- Keep it simple and play the classics. If you don’t design websites regularly you may have a strong desire to stand out from the crowd with unique sections for your website. However, sticking with the classics will make your users happy and efficient. Use Products (or Services, if you’re service company), Pricing, About, Contact for your primary sections. If you’re an ecommerce company put a shopping cart icon in the upper right hand corner with a checkout link. Amazon and countless other retailers have trained us well to be efficient shoppers online.
- Add a mini-site map in the footer to capture the common sections and links that aren’t needed at the top of the page. Support, Blog, Contact and Careers/Jobs pages may live here. It is also common to link to your active social media profiles (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc.). If the page has a strong call to action, I’d add a button to reinforce the desired activity.
- Finally, as with any change or website update, remember to keep your user and their goals in mind. If you haven’t added Google Analytics to your site, stop reading and add it now (we’ll wait for you to get back). Great. Now, remember to regularly review your analytics reports. It helps you keep an eye on what your users are interested in and what content will have the most impact on your social media channels. Think about your customer journey and send actions to Google Analytics to gather additional data.
Remember: A fast site is a happy site, and happy sites have happy users. Want to chat more about web design? Email me firstname.lastname@example.org.