Back in the day; way back in 1991, the first website on the World Wide Web was published, and, despite being a static page with rudimentary, print-based design, it was a wonder of its time. It gave the world an idea of the potential impact websites could have on the way we all do business.
It took another few years before there was any level of expectation that a business might have a website, but by 2003, all but the very smallest businesses had some kind of web presence, even if it was just a static page. From 2003 to 2010, there was a boom of services created to help bring the small business online, leading to the current market, where customers not only expect, but demand that businesses have a website…. and then came social media!
Web Design Evolution
While early web designers began with print design principles and experimented to learn what would work in this new medium, print and web design quickly diverged, and web design developed its own set of principles and best practices. In trying to discover what web users would respond to, those early web designers subjected us to everything from black pages with retina-searing neon text to illegibly intricate fonts, weird, blocky graphics that didn’t scale well, and auto-play sounds, which they quickly discovered is the most expedient way to get people to leave your website.
As web design practice moved from text-based pages into frames, there were more options for creating a better looking site, but frame-based design was inflexible and temperamental in displaying correctly across platforms and browsers. Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) technology helped a great deal with those issues, as did HTML 4.0. Though no one realised the significance at the time, Google launched in 1998, and it has grown into the strongest force driving contemporary web design.
SEO Driven Web Design
Search engines like Bing & Google offer businesses more opportunities than they ever had before to reach vast numbers of prospects who would not have found those companies otherwise. In order to take advantage or those opportunities, though, businesses have to design their websites in very specific ways.
Prompt Page Loads – A study by DoubleClick by Google recently found that 53 percent of all mobile users will give up on trying to access a website if the page doesn’t load within three seconds, and 50 percent of mobile users expect web pages to load in two seconds or less. Currently, desktop users are willing to wait an extra second, but the gap is shrinking rapidly. Designing a lean website with elements that load in the correct order is imperative for a successful business website.
Mobile-Responsive Pages – Since Google changed its search engine results page (SERP) algorithm and other search engines have followed suit, designing mobile-responsive websites has gone from an optional extra to a mandatory criterion for achieving top SERP rankings. Search engines test sites for mobile response, and those that are not fully functional on mobile browsers are penalised in SERP results. Aside from SERP rankings, designing websites for full mobile response is a key factor in bringing traffic to your business’ physical location. Another Google study found that 4 out of 5 mobile users search for local businesses using “near me” or a post code, half of smartphone users and a third of tablet users who made those searches visited one of the stores they found that same day.
Unique Content, Frequently Updated – Fresh content is another critical factor in SEO web practices, because search engines reward sites that have fresh content with higher SERP rankings, if that content is unique. Websites that publish content duplicated on another site are penalised in SERP rankings. Publishing fresh content also keeps your current customers and followers coming back to see what’s new, and those visits help your rankings, as well.