All research and real life experience points to the same thing – desktop usage is declining and mobile device, both tablet and phone, are on the rise. It’s almost embarrassing to even state this – as if I’m stating “hey, did you notice this thing called the internet?” But since some small business owners remain oblivious to this, or think it doesn’t matter, I’ll include a few actual studies and statistics with proper references.
“Websites that aren’t mobile-friendly annoy users and that’s bad business. Consumers are doing more on mobile devices, including shopping and product research; when they do, users look for content to meet their on-the-go needs.”
In “13 Killer Mobile Web Usage Statistics“, mobilewebrockstar.com has a great list of statistics to help convince your boss that your website needs to go mobile, including:
- A sale coming from mobile phones on eBay comes every 2 seconds.
- Smartphone sales have become bigger than PC sales
- 86% of adults own a mobile phone.
- 53% of adult cellphone owners use it to access the Internet.
More and more, websites are being designed for mobile and tweaked for desktop, not the other way around.
2. Visual Design
Seriously, outdated is not a style. It’s not a plausible design choice. It’s more like forgetting to install plumbing while building a house. It’s a faux pas. Even if the industry you’re in is a product that invokes nostalgia, there is a modern way to brand it. Design that looks outdated looks uneducated, not nostalgic. Customers will wonder what else you haven’t thought of, what else you don’t know about. Hire a designer you trust and then trust their design input. I can’t tell you how many clients hire respected designers, designers who are making waves, and then try to remove from the project everything the designer knows about design.
Clients who do this illustrate one thing quite clearly – they didn’t hire a designer. They hired someone because they thought they could use software they themselves didn’t know how to use. Don’t be one of these clients.
If you hire a designer whose passion is the artistry and functionality of excellent typography and design, one who’s spending every waking moment keeping themselves informed on modern trends and classic design, be willing to learn from them. Their job is to listen to you, and produce good design. Your job is to explain your needs, not manage the design aesthetics themselves. If you think you know exactly what your website should look like, then what you need is “someone who knows how to use photoshop”, not a designer. A good designer won’t go along for the ride. And you won’t get the results your business or non-profit really needs.
Kudos to Preston D Lee for recognizing this mistake among designers and clients alike in our industry. ‘Let’s assume you’re not a designer anymore. Rather, you’re an accountant. Your client comes to you and says something like “I like what you’re doing with my tax return this year, but I think it would work better to …”. As an accountant, you know this tactic will hurt their business or may even be illegal. Would you do it anyway just because the client thinks it’s the best option?’
Of course not.
So don’t expect your designer to make the same mistake.
I’ve got two things to say about navigation.
It should be intuitive.
It should be simple.
The days of 15 items on a top bar each with 7 sub items and a sidebar on every page with a footer repeating one of those menus are over. I’m not sure why sites were ever built this way. I think it’s supposed to make the site look busier, more informative, more substantial.
But it doesn’t.
Besides the fact that this is very difficult to navigate on a mobile device, it leads people on wild goose chases, doesn’t let them remember where content is, and just looks pompous. Remember, design for mobile first, then tweak for desktop.
The gift that mobile-geared design has offered us is a second chance at simplicity. Websites became over complicated, and mobile devices have forced us to reconsider what information we choose to make accessible and visible up front.
I consider this a blessing.
4. Content, content, content
Websites are not online billboards. They are living breathing online presences. They are virtual representations of your company or yourself. Are you a cardboard cutout? If not, your website shouldn’t be an electronic version of the same. Your online presence should be talking to other online presences daily. Social integration is key. It should be easy to share website content with a number of social networks. Any website designer should help you set up social presences on major social network accounts, design your website with sharing in mind, and educate you in using the tools.
Here’s where your involvement plays an irreplaceable role. Unless your website creator has an ongoing social media contract with you (not a bad idea in many cases), you’re going to be the voice for your company.
The best website in the world, built with the best SEO strategies in mind, isn’t going to cut it in this social sharing world.
Many web dev companies will convince you that they can create a fully SEO optimized site as a once and done deal and deliver you the goods. But they can’t. SEO used to be about key words, a very long time ago. Now it is about social interaction. If you’re not sharing your content frequently on twitter, facebook, instagram, linked in, etc, you can’t keep up with the next organization or company that does. Blog posts and sharing content is the way to drive traffic, and no designer can do this for you, unless (again), they have a social media contract with you to do so.