If managed correctly, a solid design for your website can result in a healthy foundation for your business and your presence on the web. In this article we discuss why working with a professional website development team is important, and the hidden costs (financially and otherwise) that emerge as a consequence when you do not.
Some Fun Facts About Website Design
- The very first website was published in 1991 by Tim Berners-Lee.
- Flash was introduced by Macromedia in 1996.
- Dynamic design language PHP gained popularity with its PHP3 release in 1998.
- In the year 2000, Microsoft Internet Explorer 5 became the first web browser to achieve better than 99% support for CSS1.
- In 2008, mobile access to the Internet exceeded desktop access for the first time in history.
- Today, two thirds of cell phone users say they access the web/email from their device, and mobile devices now outnumber traditional PCs.
Basically, website design changes all the time.
The Evolution of Web Design
In August 1991, Tim Berners-Lee published the first website. It was a simple, text-based page with a dozen or so links. This website simply served to tell people what the World Wide Web was all about.
In 1994, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) was established, and they set HTML as the standard for marking up web pages. Why did they choose to do this? Well for many reasons, but mainly because it discouraged any single company from building a proprietary browser and programming language, which could have had a detrimental effect on the web as a whole.
To this day, the W3C continues to set standards for open web markup and programming languages.
Table-based designs emerged a little later and these gave web designers more options for creating websites. Table-based designs grew in complexity over time, incorporating sliced-up background images, often giving the illusion of a simpler structure than the actual table layout. This era of websites paid little attention to semantics and web accessibility, often opting for aesthetics over sound programming and structure.
Then in 1996, Flash (originally known as FutureSplash Animator, then Macromedia Flash, and currently Adobe Flash) was developed. It started with very basic tools and a timeline, and progressed to have powerful tools to develop entire sites. Flash presented a ton of options beyond what was possible with HTML, and Flash made it possible to create complex and interactive sites with animated features.
Steve Jobs however was, well let’s just say, less than a fan of Flash and its corporate developers. He called Adobe “lazy” and Flash a “CPU hog.” In fact, Jobs would later famously refuse to support Flash on the iPhone and the iPad, because beyond all the complaints about speed and security, there was one fatal flaw with Flash technology: Flash animations need a mouse pointer and this wasn’t practical with touchscreen technology.
This brings us to CSS-based designs. These started gaining popularity after the dotcom boom in the early 2000’s. While CSS had been available long before then, there was limited support for it in major browsers and many designers were simply unfamiliar with it (and even intimidated by it). However, CSS-based designs have many advantages for table-based or Flash designs. CSS is a best practice for laying out a web page, where table-based layouts are not. CSS makes it easier to maintain sites, as the content and design elements are separated. In fact, you can change the entire look of a CSS-based site without ever having to touch the content.
Why An Experienced Web Development Team Is Important
Everyone always says “Technology changes at a rapid pace.” It does. Believe me, it does. This is why it is important to work with an experienced website designer. A web designer who doesn’t possess an extensive knowledge (or any) of HTML/CSS isn’t as rare as you might think.
A designer without the knowledge as to how the Internet performs, functions, or processes their designs belongs in the realm traditional print media, not the digital one.
If a designer is just pushing out images and PSD files, they’re just making a picture of a website. It’s not actual web design until it’s being rendered by a browser, interactivity and all. So if your designer doesn’t completely understand how the programming functions and how their design works alongside VERY IMPORTANT new technologies (such as SEO, which itself is evolving at a rapid rate), then you are only getting a fraction of the product you’re paying for.
It’s the equivalent of buying a brand new car (and paying a lot of money for it) only to later find out that there isn’t anything under the hood (or at best, a lawnmower engine instead of a V8).
Now That We Know Programming Constantly Evolves, What Else Is There?
To be honest, a lot of things are important. At Mediaura, when we first start on a project, our entire team gets together to talk about the latest trends in technology, and our experience helps us to identify fads versus innovative new directions. This process allows us to build a website, from the ground-floor up. One that is not only secure and technologically sound, but incorporates invaluable facets of technology into the design (Search Engine Optimization for example).
Why is this important? It saves you money in long run.
We have many new clients that come to us from other developers complaining about their Search Engine performance. No one wants to be on page 16, 17 of a Google Search return. In fact, if you’re not on the first two pages…it’s time to revisit some things about your website.
What is surprising (or not surprising as someone that does SEO every day can attest) are the number of websites that rank low in SEO due to fundamental flaws in the website design itself. These are things that can easily be fixed and/or items that never would have manifested themselves with a professional website development team, but they can end up being costly to fix over time.
What are they? Well it varies, but here is just a list of some common items:
- Poor Design
- Bad Copywriting
- Programming flaws
- The size of the website / how long it takes to load
- Accessibility & Ease of use
A Good Design Helps SEO By:
- Making your site easy for search engines to crawl and index
- Helping visitors find what they need quickly and easily
- Giving your business a way to provide information for both customers and search engines
- Lowers the required budget for PPC or Search Engine Marketing
A Poor Design Affects SEO By:
- Making it more difficult for search engines to find and index the pages of your website
- Making it difficult for visitors to find what they are looking for
- Not presenting the right kind of content to visitors
- Increasing the budget required for PPC or Search Engine Marketing
There are a lot of things to keep in mind in regards to website design, but here are some common mistakes that we see both developers and businesses who contract with them make:
Designing for print media is not the same as designing for the Internet
“Website Design” is far more than just the way a website looks; an important fact that many designers and agencies seem to overlook. A website’s design is everything from the code that supports it to the content that is displayed to visitors, and everything in between. The graphics and looks of a website are some of the important things that visitors remember, but if no one can find your website, there will be no one to appreciate the work that went into creating it.
In fact, it’s usually pretty easy for an experienced web developer to identify a website that has been designed by a “Traditional Media” designer and/or an inexperienced developer, because they tend to make the same critical mistakes. Your website doesn’t have to be boring, but it does have to function easily for the user. You may think that the design elements you’ve incorporated into a website “look cool” but if they convolute the user experience…you’ve failed your mission and your viewers won’t return.
The size of your website / How long it takes to load
This isn’t a problem for most websites, but if your website is too media-heavy, or the media is not formatted or rendered correctly, it can become an issue. If a user can’t load the page quickly and completely, the user will likely leave (or “bounce”) before your website even finishes loading.
According to surveys done by Akamai and Gomez.com, nearly half of web users expect a website to load in 2 seconds or less, and they tend to abandon a site that isn’t loaded within 3 seconds. 79% of web shoppers who had trouble with a website’s performance say that they won’t return to buy again and 44% of those individuals would tell a friend if they had a poor shopping experience online.
The number of pages your website has makes a difference
This one is kind of easy to explain. If your website only has one or a few pages, and your competitor’s website has dozens, it is probable that they will be enjoying the benefits of increased SEO traffic more than you will be. However, it’s important to note that the ease of use comes into play here, because if a viewer has to click (“drill down”) several times to find the information they’re looking for, then they’re going to be bouncing from your website as well. Keep your website well-organized and simple in regards to navigation.
Copywriting, what you say and how you say it matters
Many search engines have adjusted their algorithms (algorithms are a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or operations) to align with SEO. An SEO copywriter maximizes the use of certain keywords while still creating a valuable experience for your visitor. This is about understanding how Search Engines match content to online queries being entered, and if your website is full of rich information but it’s not presented in the correct format, this has a negative consequence.
Structure and Code Are Key
It goes without saying (or should) that how your website is coded and structured has a massive impact on how your design affects SEO. Programming languages all behave a little differently. For example, HTML uses one set of protocols to accomplish the visuals you see when you open a web page, whereas PHP uses a completely different set of protocols.
Accessibility and Ease of Use Are Important
The easier it is for a search engine to find your website, the more quickly it will be found and added to that search engine’s index. The more quickly your website gets indexed, the sooner potential customers can find you!
Good Programming Maximizes Your Marketing Budget
Organic Search Returns are the ones you don’t pay for. They’re what happen when a website is programmed correctly and the copywriting is structurally sound. What this means for your budget, is this - It allows your website to rank higher on Search Engines through unpaid search returns.
For example, we recently had a new client that came to us because they were not even in the Top 100 of Google Search returns, despite the fact that their company was considered “the best” of their industry. So to make up the difference they were paying a mind-boggling amount for PPC (Paid Search Marketing) to drive traffic to their website. After working closely with them to change some basic programming and reorganize their content, they began to rank 1 and 2 organically on keywords that they used to purchase at a premium. This allowed them to cut their PPC budget in half and redistribute those funds elsewhere.
Your Business Website Must Be Mobile Friendly
Whether you’re opting for a mobile friendly design, a responsive design, or a secondary mobile website – every business needs to have a website that is optimized for mobile users. At this point it’s almost become an imperative.
A high-quality website design that is visually appealing, easy to navigate, and properly coded/optimized is going to do wonders, not only for your SEO goals, but the overall growth of your business as well.
So while working with a programmer whose prices are too good to be true (and they usually are) or who has very little knowledge of the ENTIRE PROCESS may seem like a financially savvy choice for your business at first glance, in the long run it will end up costing you; monetarily, brand imaging wise, and viewers/clients.
Also recognize that a professional website development team will be able to take your ideas and leverage their knowledge and experience to give you the best product for your budget. It's also important to know your own limitations. Remember, website design is not easy. The extra-value of working with a professional website development team is that you really shouldn't have to worry or micro-manage the project. A professional website development team will be able to take your ideas and designs, and do exactly what they are trained to do: develop them for the web. So while your design or plan may change slightly, remember, they're utilizing their extensive knowledge to give you the best possible product.
There are ways to get a solid website design without breaking the bank. However, the first step is working with a qualified website development team to make that happen.