By Rupert Rowe
‘Future-proofing’…….. What a ridiculous term.
If you want to cut to the chase and jump straight into Diffusion’s tips on future-proofing a website, then skip the next few paragraphs to “FOR THOSE WHO DON’T CARE ABOUT THE MONKEY ON MY BACK”, because there is a monkey on my back and I want to get it off!
‘Future-proofing’ is often taken to mean making sure that something will not become ineffective or meaningless in the future.
As a small cog in a digital agency, I’d expect that everything we do would be in the interest of maintaining relevance and functionality down the line. There is no doubt we all – in our own particular fields -strive to create things that will stand the test of time, however, this is far easier said than done.
If you find yourself talking to an agency who promises you a ‘future-proof’ website, as I have heard from several people speaking to agencies in recent months, then proceed with caution as there is no way of definitively ‘future-proofing’ anything in the digital world.
The speed at which tech moves makes ‘future-proofing a website’ an almost impossible task and I believe, is one of those terms that’s used to pull the wool over potential clients’ eyes.
The reality is that what is in now, will likely be ‘sooo last year’ tomorrow, or in a year or so.
This is not for lack of ambition, creativity or skill – I work with some of the most talented designers, coders and UX-ers in the industry, and they’re all at the forefront of innovation within their respective fields, but their own ability in itself make their own ideas hard to future-proof against.
(Admittedly, for someone who doesn’t like the phrase ‘future-proofing’, it might seem odd that I’ve mentioned it so frequently in such a short space of time.
I apologise. I’m actually a SEO and ‘future-proofing a website’ is where the search volume in this particular case is, and as an SEO I’d be going against my better judgement not using it.
This is not to say that the content isn’t relevant – it absolutely is! Sorry. Again. (I’m also British and have the tendency to apologise too much. Sor…..hmmmm)
This all said, those of us who have worked in this game for a substantial period of time can see patterns form and make relatively sound judgements as to what will be happening over the coming year or two. From there we can attempt to make a product or service that will stand the test of time – in our case, a website.
FOR THOSE WHO DON’T CARE ABOUT THE MONKEY ON MY BACK
(Long rant over – I apologise.)
In late 2018 into early 2019, as expected, we’ve continued to see a substantial move towards mobile first, the terrifying rise of AI continues, marketplace eCommerce is becoming more popular for big brands, the move towards voice-search continues, Google’s ‘E.A.T’ core algo update is becoming clearer, and so on. This is not to say that AI won’t be restricted down the line, or Google changes its algorithm again (it will), or voice search becomes defunct, but currently, this is where the trends are heading.
When it comes to web design/development there’re four key parts; the design, the user experience (UX), search engine optimisation (SEO) and the code. Each evolves at its own pace, however, each has its own intrinsic impact on the other elements. So, without further unnecessary to do….
You know what – as an SEO I’m not going to pretend to be an authority in this area. Coders are a rare breed of people and only they can fully explain the intrinsic world of computer language and more importantly, provide an insight into where this alien place is heading.
But if you’re looking for a quick fix then our friends at Forbes have written a concise judgement on where they think code is heading.
Whilst I know what I like and what I do not, my design experience doesn’t extend beyond my doodling, so again I must defer this to someone whose skills revolve a little less around a bic and notepad.
This said, I will say one thing…
Why are blogs posts often visually so dull? (This one included!)
For what’s worth I believe more attention needs to be paid to the design of blog posts. They need to be pretty (for want of a better word), engaging, even encouraging…. They’re often the first page new visitors land on your site and forgive a well-worn expression, ‘first impressions count’, whether you like it or not.
In danger of sounding like a broken record, there are people who are better placed to talk about this and so, once again, one of my colleagues will contribute to this down the line.
Search Engine Optimisation
Remarkably I’m not going to deflect this part onto one of my colleagues. No, I have arrived in my little world of expertise. So the following is an overview of areas that I believe will continue to be in focus over the next few years, or not as the case may be!
This is less of a ‘how to’, and more of a commentary of areas that I believe will be dominating SEO for the foreseeable future.
There is a lot of chatter around voice search and whilst people are starting to look into optimising their websites for voice queries, traction, as yet, has been quite slow as webmasters are being quite tentative in saying when they think it will be a front and centre consideration of SEO and indeed, UX.
Leading mobile, digital, online market research specialists Juniper predicts that 8bn voice assistants will be in use by 2023. Despite this, however, it is still unclear how much voice-search will be used as so far we’ve only seen a few highly specific types of questions being asked.
Where have we seen voice search gain traction so far?
Local search: Where is the nearest chemist? What is the weather like?
Regularly brought products that are easy to reorder and don’t require visual scrutiny so to speak: I.e. “Hey Siri, buy Aerial washing up powder”
Historical questions: i.e. How old was Mohammed Ali when he fought George Foreman?
Music: Alexa? What song was last on shuffle?
Beyond these sorts of questions, well, the jury is still out. Will voice search takes over the world as has been predicted?
I’m not so sure.
But once we get over the slightly uncomfortable feeling of shopping through voice search, which is inevitable, there is no doubt that those websites who have optimised for it will benefit greatly.
One of the focuses of the industry is how to design well for voice-based user interfaces (VUI). Once again, as a humble SEO I’m going to leave this one for a (VUI) designer to tackle, but essentially when designing for VUI, you’re using sounds or lights rather than images. Think of the beep and blue blinking light when Alexa activated – that has been designed by a VUID. (I made that acronym up I think – Voice User Interface Designer, I think it’s a winner!)
Facebook Pixels — Re-marketing
This obviously depends on your business and what products/services you are selling, and to who, but increasingly people are less likely to convert on the first visit to a website.
Pixel remarketing is nothing new, especially for websites whose products take a long time to sell, i.e. three or four visits before conversion. How many visits did it take you to a website before that favourite pair of trousers you are now proudly wearing? (No, well you know what I mean.)
Whilst social shop fronts are increasing, in other words, where people enter your store/website, organic search is still is the biggest driver of traffic, generally speaking, and the cheapest in terms of ROI.
Getting people to convert at visit #1 is tricky and, so as to not lose this potential customer, a pixel allows you to track your visitors and market to them down the line.
Again, nothing new.
What is, however, is that we’re seeing SEO KPIs move towards volume being the most important metric (quality traffic of course), NOT conversions. The conversion KPIs fall under the remit of those who are heading up the remarketing. Once again this depends largely on the type of website but for most eCommerce sites this is increasingly the case.
With products and services increasingly being delivered directly from websites to the SERPs (search engine results pages), optimising your site to ensure search engines are able to capture these products is increasingly important, especially as more people are converting directly in the SERPs.
Many SEOs argue that this is bad because the website in question is not receiving any of the traffic hits, thus potentially undermining its authority. However, the reality for most retailers is that, if they can sell directly on the SERPs then they should.
We are impatient.
That is pretty much all I need to say about this.
But just to drive home how impatient we really are, here are a few stats from 2018:
- 46% of users say waiting for a page to load is the most frustrating thing to them online.
- It takes a shocking average of 15 seconds for mobile web pages to load
- With websites that load in less than 4.5 seconds there is a 70% increase in session duration
- A 100 millisecond delay causes a 7% drop in conversion
- 79% of shoppers say that if they experience something negative on a webpage they will not return to that site – even bad grammar, so I’m buggered
- Pages that load in under 2.5 seconds have an average bounce rate of 9%. This increase to over 38% if the load time takes longer than 5 seconds
It’s here and it’s here to stay.
If you aren’t already, then you should be prioritising mobile over desktop, or at least giving them the same amount of attention during the design phase.
Also, and forgive me for perhaps stating the obvious, it’s always worth bearing in mind that the design you implement on desktop, might take longer to load on mobile.
Read our article on how to build accelerated mobile pages
Not page authority as in Moz’s mectric. No, Authority as in – are you an authority or expert in your field?
As has been crudely demonstrated in this post, don’t write about things you don’t know about.
Since Google’s medic update in 2018 (although there is still speculation as to the impact of it), being an expert or authority in your field is a significant ranking factor.
This doesn’t only apply to authors of blog posts/articles, your website as a whole should have a direction and theme that needs to be maintained if you are to see yourself move up the rankings. Nothing new again, but with search engines improving on understanding the meaning of their searchers’ queries, people with authority around the subject will naturally benefit. So, essentially, don’t write a load of tosh to try and boost you up the rankings. Keep it relevant. Keep it simple.
An example of this is that many people claim that post the update their rankings fell, but when they simply attributed their blog posts to the ‘expert’ who wrote it (I’m sure many fib), their rankings recovered.
We’ll write more about this in a later article.
This falls more towards UX but, improving your customer journey by putting relevant products in front of them more quickly, will naturally increase dwell time and the number of pages per session, both of which are taken into account in search rankings.
There are countless new softwares and plugins that can be used to improve the functionality and usability of a website, most of which are designed with one thing in mind – increasing conversion.
Read more about out top artificial intelligence apps to improve conversion.
Content has been and will continue to be at the forefront of SEO for decades to come. Who produces this content however seems to be changing. Whether it’s traditional copywriters, SEO writers or journalists, the role seems to be changing with the times.
Over the years UX has become an increasingly important aspect in web design and development. The importance of understanding customer flow and engagement is paramount to success in the ever more fickle world of eCommerce.
In 2019 though, UX seems to be pushing the boundaries further, and with a futuristic sounding topic like ‘future-proofing’, it only makes sense that the roles, or names of roles, evolve alongside.
Let me introduce you to the UX-writer.
(I sense a lot of tut-tutting scepticism. Or it could just be me….)
User experience is all about flow and encouraging a user to move down a page or through a website and towards the point of conversion.
Previously copywriters were responsible for creating the copy to fill in the gaps in the most engaging and entertaining (where appropriate) way, and indeed it still is, people are just creating new niches to try and upsell to their clients in order to add a little more to the profit margin.
But this new role may well be short lived I’m afraid. It seems before too long, robots and AI will be out-Shakespearing Shakespeare.
Probably one of the more important areas and I’ve actually written an extensive post on this for another website. So if your nerves can take it – read more about keeping your eCommerce website secure.
To quickly recap, whilst I wanted to offer a very brief insight into what we expect to come, my main point is that things change and change quickly, especially when it comes to design, functionality and programming. These are spaces that move astronomically quickly and this should always be taken into account when working in these areas.
We have to recognise change is coming and in doing so, we can build websites in such a way that they can absorb changes as quickly as possible.
I fully appreciate that the list above doesn’t cover the half of it, but if you think I’m way off the mark then please get in touch through the button below.
If you’d like to chat about how Diffusion Digital can ‘future-proof’ (grrrr) your website, then also follow the button below. As a leading eCommerce agency, we specialise in giving brands a digital presence that they can be proud of and their customers recognise and enjoy engaging with for years to come.