Edinburgh Web Development

4 website tips for 2014

Pointers for your website this year

by Iain Wilson

14 January 2014
Website tips

Another year upon us, and another year where we need to look at our websites and wonder how we can possibly keep up.

It can become overwhelming when thinking about how to improve your site, so here are 4 tips on what you should be thinking of in 2014.

None of these need necessarily be expensive to do, and could make a big difference to your website's performance.

1. Continuous Enhancement

If your website's been around for a while, there's a fair chance at least some of it might be starting to look a little dated. Does it need a complete redesign?  Maybe, maybe not.  

Design fads come and go, but if your site has been built correctly it may just need a few enhancements here and there.  In fact, continuously and progressively enhancing your site has a whole bunch of benefits.

  • The look and feel remains current and features keep getting added - you show your customers that you are a go-ahead, dynamic company - the kind they want to work with.
  • Your visitors get access to information/features that your competitors might not have yet and give you a better chance of getting their business.
  • The search engines like to see regular updates, so your search rankings will likely improve.
  • You save money because a few enhancements will cost less than a complete re-design.
So here are a few things you could think of doing to your site:
  • Increase width. Screens are wider than ever and older sites were often built to cater for the lowest common denominator at the time.  Now they look a little small when viewed in the present day screens.
  • New fonts.  For years web designers were stuck with only being able to use around 9 fonts, some of which looked terrible on screen.  That's why you see so many websites using Arial.  We now have all manner of new web fonts available, which can instantly transform and modernise the way your pages look.
  • Photographs.  Check the photos on your site.  If they look old, fuzzy or amateurish, your company will too.  So upgrade them with decent ones.  A good photo can make a bad page look good.
  • Video.  People buy from people, and a personal video adds the personal touch.  It's easy to add video to a webpage, particularly if it's already on YouTube.  And it's not expensive to get it done professionally.
  • Social media.  If you're using social media for business reasons, get the badges on your pages, or maybe add a feed of your posts.

2. Get Mobile

Not a day goes past now without a story in the press about the increased use of mobiles and smartphones to access web sites.  I know from looking at the stats of the Blot website that just under 50% of access is from mobiles and tablets.

Now, your site may look just fine on a mobile device (it should if it was developed properly), but that's not the same as being optimised for mobile.  

Optimised means that the pages respond and adapt themselves to the smaller screen, so they are much easier to operate and read, without needing to be resized.  The Sportsmans Charity website is a good example.

So, if you've got a site with a lot of reading, visual content or perhaps an ecommerce site which needs a fair amount of user input, it may well be worthwhile optimising it for mobile.

3. Meta Page Titles for SEO

SEO can get pretty complex, but one of the simplest and biggest bangs for the buck you can get is by having good titles for your pages.  This is the text that goes between the <title> </title> tags on a web page.

Search engines love this text and consequently rate it highly, but often web designers and owners completely negate its value by having text like 'Welcome' or 'Home Page' in the title tag.

Use it to describe the key messages about the page.  Imagine someone knows nothing about the page and will only understand what it is about by reading the title.  Try to include :-

  • A key phrase
  • Geographic context
  • Call to action, if appropriate

For example, for an Edinburgh company selling chopped liver:

"Chopped Liver in Edinburgh - Call Now - Acme Butchers"

Or a blog article about liver

"Why liver is good for you - Acme Butchers, Edinburgh"

Aim for around no more than 11 words.

Add a meta description that is a couple of narrative sentences, summarising the page and including a geographic context.  This is the page description that Google will show in the results. Alternatively, you can omit the description entirely, and Google will work something out from the content on the page.

Oh, and while we're talking about meta tags, if someone tells you to get good search rankings you should put lots of keywords in the meta keywords, please ignore them. This is outdated rubbish, and won't help at all.

4. Replace Flash with Video or Javascript

Flash animation was a fantastic technology a few years ago.  We had websites with all sorts of beautiful animation.  And it was the only real way of putting streaming video on websites.

Things have moved on now, especially as mobile devices don't support Flash.  This means if you have a website that uses Flash, the Flash content is not viewable by the every increasing number of mobile users.

Time to say goodbye to Flash, I'm afraid.  You can replace it with a video perhaps or some Javascript animation.

Or if you're really keen on keeping your Flash animation a while longer, you could do what we did at Springfords Accountants and wrote some code to check if the visitor's browser could play Flash - if it could we played the animation, if it couldn't we presented a Javascript alternative.

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