When Workhorse started developing websites, there were far fewer factors to consider to make a project successful. By far the largest hassle was making sure the site displayed well on Internet Explorer 6.
Today, while browser discrepancies are still a concern, there are many more factors that influence the success of a website development project. Not only that, but each one is a discipline unto itself. From our experience, we’ve learned that it’s vital to focus on five core “pillars” during a web-development project.
Making a project a success, therefore, requires leveraging diverse skillsets of our team during the various phases of the project to make sure these pillars are properly considered.
So, what are these pillars?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Most clients request that their site be built with SEO in mind. However, for too many web designers, it’s an afterthought. SEO, or search engine optimization, is a set of strategies and tactics that grow a website’s visibility in organic (non-paid) search engine results. SEO is made up of both the technical and creative elements required to improve rankings, drive traffic, and increase awareness in search engines. There are many tips and tricks to rank well in search engines, from the content of your page to the way other sites link to you on the web. In addition, the way search engines understand a website is constantly changing and becoming more sophisticated. SEO is not just about climbing the ranks, though– it’s about making a site easier to navigate and more accessible to potential clients. The two work hand-in-hand. SEO, therefore, overlaps with user experience.
User experience (UX)
UX refers to the ongoing process of optimizing a digital experience based on user feedback, research, and testing. UX can cause your conversion rates to grow or plummet. Understanding UX best practices, getting user feedback, and testing hypotheses can help create a final product that is a delight to use and navigate. For example, spending time making sure your site navigation is intuitive and the overall experience is tailored to the visitors you expect to have on your site.
Website accessibility refers to ensuring that a user can access and use the services provided by a website regardless of disability. Incredibly, the internet allows previously silenced voices to be heard and makes knowledge universally accessible. It allows people to find and create communities where they otherwise would have felt isolated. However, if a significant portion of users just aren’t able to access your website, the opportunity to reach these potential users is hindered. Whether it’s for holiday shopping, booking a vacation, researching a term paper, or making an appointment with a healthcare provider, content should be accessible to everyone regardless of disability.
Specifically, some (but not all) examples of accessibility challenges a user might face include:
- Visually impaired users must use a screen reader to read text to them on a website or cannot read small font sizes
- Hearing impaired users can not listen to video content
- Color blind users may not be able to distinguish between text and a background color
- Users with fine motor coordination challenges might not be able easily click on small navigation items or links
- Users with reading difficulties, including dyslexia, may have a hard time consuming text in certain typefaces or sizes
Performance (page loading speed)
Your website’s speed and performance is a key component of user experience and an important SEO factor. Modern consumers expect snappy page loads, and Google announced website speed would begin having an impact on search ranking. When building a site, it’s important to consider how design decisions may affect page performance. In addition, kicking off the development portion of a project, it’s vital to make sure that site performance is considered when making technology decisions.
Security breaches have probably touched every person who uses a computer in one way or another. From Equifax, the IRS, and Yahoo!, even the largest organizations have fallen victim to both sophisticated and painfully simple attacks. Website security should be considered for every project and at multiple touch points. For example, while it’s non-negotiable to use an SSL certificate for ecommerce sites (and all sites, in our opinion), how are the sensitive payment processor credentials, passwords, and other sensitive client data stored by the developers? Are they stored in a Google spreadsheet or are they encrypted and stored in a secure password management system? In addition, does the development team stay on top of security patches for your application?
It requires that the entire team be onboard with security best practices as well as a proactive, ongoing, approach.
By baking these pillars into the development portion of a website project, we can ensure that the site will perform quickly, match user expectations, and meet marketing goals. Today, users are savvier and have more options than ever. Cutting corners on any part of a project can cost you.