It’s 2017. And like everything else, the World Wide Web keeps changing. “Experts” have a list of to-do’s, suggest certain looks, and put high value on certain functionality. You see and hear buzz words – like “responsive” or “user interface”. One person says one thing, someone else says another. You have a business to run and don’t have time to keep up with this world, entangled with technology. But these questions remain: What do you NEED to accomplish with your online presence? And how quickly can it be done?
Let’s cut through the hype and the tech-noise and just get to the point. You’ve probably heard the word “responsive” when it comes to websites. It simply means that the site can appropriately resize to any size screen; it should be completely and easily usable. Another term for this capability is being “mobile-friendly”. Google has been pushing for this for years and this year it has become mandatory by their standards. If your site is not “responsive”, Google punishes you by lowering where you rank when someone does a search for you on their search engine. It’s true that this is one of several items that Google uses to determine where you show up in the rankings, but this weighs enough to negatively impact the search results. Considering the majority of searches these days are done from a phone, if someone can’t easily work your website on their phone, they will move on to someone’s that DOES work on their phone. Worse yet, they might not even get to your site because it isn’t responsive.
With online security becoming more and more important, there is a push (again, primarily by Google) to have all websites run over a secure connection. You are most likely already familiar with this when doing online shopping as the carts and payment pages are over HTTPS://www.yourdomain.com. What this means is the connection from your computer or phone to the website is encrypted and the data flowing across that connection cannot be accessed from other people or systems. It could also be described as a “secure channel”. The data itself isn’t encrypted but the channel it’s sent over is secured or encrypted. In order for your website to have the ability to establish a secure channel, it needs to have an SSL Certificate. I’m not going to get into all of the technical details but these certificates are tied to your domain and have to be renewed every 1 to 5 years.
It is not yet a hard requirement for sites to support this but it soon will be. I’d recommend to plan to have it done this calendar year. The good news is there are different levels of certificates and if you’re not doing payment transactions on your site, you can get by with an inexpensive option. The more expensive certificates exist to provide validation that your domain belongs to your company, and you are the one that has control over it. (This is why some payment sites will have a green bar in the browser when visiting their site.) It gives your visitors another level of comfort knowing that this website is who they say they are, and have taken steps to help protect the information you are giving them.
This isn’t the place to go into a lot of detail on site design, but know that the one big trend for 2017 is to have content laid out in blocks. The reason for this ties back into the fact that blocks of data are easier to be made responsive and work well on your phone. If your site is already responsive, I wouldn’t make it a project in 2017 to update it to include these “blocks” – it’s just not worth it. If you are already working on updating your site for 2017, then I would suggest trying to incorporate this style into it.
I hope you’ve found a few useful tips here that you can incorporate into your business plan for your website and online presence in 2017. For more information, or if you have more specific questions about your situation, please feel free to contact me.