When I first got into website design during my career, I had very little knowledge on how to build a site. Ok let’s be honest, I had no knowledge. I knew there was some coding that took place and that there was something called a hosting company and maybe a domain company, but I had no idea what any of it meant. Nevertheless, I set out to build my first website to showcase my marketing services.
At the time, I had minimal knowledge on how website features were incorporated, what affected the user experience, and what affected search engine ranking. Through that initial experience and many more throughout the years, I have learned that there are so many factors that are taken into consideration to get a final product that is not only beautiful, but also functional.
1. Incorporating Website Features
I had taken a website design course back in high school where we used Adobe Dreamweaver to code simple websites and understand the basics on what was required to build a site that users would want to view. Much has changed since those coding days back in high school, especially when it comes to the available tools and platforms to build a site. We now have content management systems (CMS) such as WordPress, an open-source platform that features different plugins, that allow the designer to integrate almost anything the client wants to their site.
The first WordPress site I built was for a dental practice in 2012 that was looking to incorporate a referral system where general dentists could submit patient referrals online to cut down on the number of calls. I had no idea how to do this, so I set out to complete hours upon hours of research on what the best approach would be. I knew I needed to come up with a portal that was easy to use and reliable since I definitely didn’t want a site error to be the cause of my client losing a potential referral. I found a plugin developer that had something similar to what I was looking for. I worked with their team to customize the coding of the existing plugin to match what I needed in terms of usability and aesthetics. After some back and forth, the custom portal was integrated into the site and the client couldn’t be happier.
With the network WordPress has created, we are able to bring almost anything a client desires to life in their website.
2. What Affects User Experience
When I’m browsing online and I come across a website that is running slow or doesn’t display correctly on my browser, I’ll move on to the next site. With the busy schedules we have, we don’t have time to patiently wait for a site to give us what we need. Have you heard the phrase “bounce rate” before? A website with a high bounce rate percentage means that visitors are leaving the site after viewing just the landing page rather than clicking through and engaging with the content. The two most common reasons for a high bounce rate are website speed and display.
Approximately half of global web traffic comes from mobile devices meaning if your website design does not adapt to a user’s screen it will negatively affect their experience. There are multiple screen sizes that a website needs to adapt to with all of the different types of phones, tablets, computers, and projectors. It is imperative to have a responsive design that can automatically adapt to all types of screen sizes. No user wants to visit a website on their phone and be forced to view the desktop version where constantly zoom in and out to find what they need.
3. What Affects Search Ranking
Have you ever wondered how Google determines the order of websites listed on their search results page? It all comes down to search engine ranking (SEO) best practices. Page speed and being mobile friendly are just two of the many factors that impact a site’s ranking. Some other areas to consider are website security, schema markup, content quality, content length, backlink quality, image optimization, social media, domain age, and website security.
During our design process, we ensure that the website has a strong foundation that is SEO friendly. This will cover the majority of the items that affect search ranking. One of the simplest things to do to help your search ranking is purchasing an SSL certificate through your hosting provider. As of July 2018, Google announced that they will be dropping the ranking of any website that does not have an SSL certificate for their URL. Remember the “https” that you used to only see on bank and ecommerce websites? Well that’s now required for all websites. If a site does not have the SSL on their hosting, the user will see a “Not Secure” warning next to the URL.
Once a website is live, the second part of SEO comes into play which includes consistent posting of quality content. Posting quality content shows you are an authority on your subject matter and increases your web exposure.
As time goes on, the best practices of designing a website are constantly changing. It is the designer’s responsibility to remain knowledgeable about these updates and implement them into your site.