It’s 2016, but is your website ready for the new year? January is a popular month for updating and refreshing websites to meet a new set of standards, take advantage of the latest Web technologies, and keep up with ever-increasing expectations from visitors.
A lot has changed in the past twelve months. Browsers have evolved, the percentage of users browsing on mobile devices continues to climb, and key metrics like site speed have never been more important.
In this quick guide, we will examine five ways you can improve your site in 2016.
If you’re using a content management system such as Joomla, WordPress, or Grav, then there is a good chance updates are regularly available for it and any themes and/or plugins you are using.
It’s important to keep this stuff updated, and the new year is a great opportunity to catch up on any out-of-date bits and pieces in your website.
It’s also recommended to test all updates on a non-production server first, as this will let you see any incompatibilities as third-party theme and extension builders catch up with unexpected changes in new CMS releases.
Website design trends are constantly evolving, and if your website hasn’t had a visual touch-up in a few years, it might be time to consider doing so.
Modern web design is heavy on flat elements, simplicity, and the smart use of whitespace where trends dating back just a few years ago would favor a more cluttered and 3D element appearance.
This is also an excellent opportunity to recreate the look of your site to match any additions you’ve made over the past year, or to add those bits and pieces you’ve been putting off because the current design didn’t work quite right with them.
One great way to hit the ground running with a site redesign is to pick up a theme from a theme provider (like RocketTheme). These themes usually come with an easy-to-use set of customization options so your site will look and feel exactly the way you want it to with minimal (if any) development experience required. A modern, optimized theme can also take advantage of better optimization techniques which will improve site performance, which happens to be our next tip.
There are a lot of ways to improve the speed of your website. We’ve covered several of them in a previous blog post. But, if you haven’t put your site through some benchmarks lately, now would be an excellent time to do so.
Free website speed testing services such as Pingdom’s Website Speed Test will benchmark your site’s page load times and give you insight into how you can improve performance.
Search engines like Google or Bing take page load time into account when determining how high to rank a webpage in search results. If your website is slower than another one with similar content, you might end up lower on the search results page for that reason.
Also consider faster hosting providers. Not all hosting services are created equal, and there are exceptional low-cost alternatives to traditional hosting out there such as Amazon AWS which offer scalable hosting services that meet a wide range of needs.
Are you looking for a hosting provider that does more for you and is pre-optimized for content management systems like WordPress and Joomla? We have a couple listed on our Perks page, with exclusive discounts available to our members.
Social networks like Facebook and Twitter are where a lot of people go to find new and interesting websites to visit. If someone thinks something on your site is interesting, they may be inclined to share it with their followers on these social networks.
If you haven’t already, consider adding social sharing buttons to pages in your site. If you sell products, having these buttons on product pages will help people spread the word about what you’re selling. If your website has a blog or news articles, having it there as well will only add to the potential traffic they will generate.
Another way to make your site better equipped for social is to take advantage of meta tags that help your links look better. For example, you can use meta tags to tell Facebook which image to display along with your page title and description when someone links to a page on their network.
Doing this is pretty easy, and most content management systems have plugins that will help you do this. Here are some links where you can find more information about using Open Graph meta tags for Facebook and Twitter.
No matter what your website is for, be it personal, professional, or corporate, you will benefit in 2016 from creating consistently good content for it, regularly. This could be as simple as adding a blog where you post tips and tricks for your customers that will help them use your products better, or great documentation that helps people use your products and services more easily.
The more quality, useful content you produce for your website, the more likely people are to find it while they search for information on a topic that relates to you or your business.
If you run a bakery, consider posting recipes for drinks and main courses that complement your pastries. If your website is for your plumbing service, offer tips for people to help them prevent clogs and save money on their water bill.
2016 is set to be a remarkable year for the Internet, and your website is your mark on this ever-growing platform. Make it a good one, and have a great year!