As a web design agency, we are often approached by clients with existing websites that they’d like us to re-develop. This means that we come across an array of websites set-up by clients themselves – a common and understandable move for start-ups and small businesses at the very start of their journey. Often created with site-builders like Wix or Squarespace, we’ve noticed that there are 5 common elements that are overlooked during development.

Let’s take a look.

Compression of Images & Videos

This is one of the easiest changes you can make to your website that can yield incredibly powerful results. On average, images comprise over 20% of a total webpage’s “weight”, and aside from any video content that you have on your site, should be the first thing on your list of improvements.

A photograph showing a photography studio with three lights read for a content shoot

How Do I Deal With Videos on my Website?

We often come across websites that have not really planned to deal with site media/content that ends up on their pages – whether it’s images taking far, far too long to load (or just not loading in at all) or video content sprawled across every page without any compression, it doesn’t make for a great user experience.

As a general rule, we’d always start from the position of asking why you want to host videos directly on your website. For most, it makes much more sense to host your videos on YouTube or Vimeo – this allows you to directly embed these videos onto your website/webpage and avoids having to concern yourself with bandwidth/storage.

An additional advantage of this approach is that whilst your videos are on YouTube or Vimeo, users may come across your video organically, thus potentially driving additional traffic to your site/content.

If this is something you don’t want, for whatever reason, you can always have your video as unlisted so it cannot be found through search, but can still be embedded.

Can I Host Directly On My Site?

Obviously, this won’t be an option that works for all cases, so if you do have to host directly on your site, then ensure that your video is as compressed as possible without compromising the watchability of the content itself. There are plenty of free tools out there that can help with this, like Free Convert. 

It’s also worth remembering that although video can be incredibly effective, with 72% of customers declaring they’d rather learn about your product or service through this medium, you should be careful with how much video you are using on your website and also honestly assess the quality of the content.

Shaky Iphone footage with terrible audio isn’t going to represent your brand well, and forcing a mobile user to waste their precious data watching a 5 minute rambling video that could have been succinctly communicated in a small paragraph of text isn’t a good move either.

A man sat using an iPad to view YouTube in front of television screen

What About Image Compression?

Like video compression/external hosting, much of the benefit you can bring to your web presence through image compression lies in the fact it can greatly aid your site speed.

Site speed matters for many reasons – with 1 in 4 site visitors abandoning a website if it takes longer than 4 seconds to load, and nearly 50% of site visitors reluctant to ever revisit a poorly performing site, it can be make or break for your conversions.

However, it also can’t be overstated how important site speed is to your rankings/performance generally on Search Engines. Google hates slow sites just as much as people do – and with image compression being such a low hanging fruit for so many websites, it’s worth looking into as your first port of call.

Again, it’s about balancing compression with the user experience – compressing an image so much it looks like it’s made of lego isn’t going to reap much reward – the best thing to do is experiment with tools like Free Convert and see if you can take your images down to a manageable size.

A screenshot of free convert website

Mobile Optimisation

All too often we’re confronted with a website that looks pretty decent and functional on a desktop, yet take one look on a mobile device and the very same site becomes unusable.

It seems to us that most people aren’t aware of the importance of mobile optimisation and how much of an impact it can have on your business. According to Statista, mobiles now generate around 58% of web traffic. That’s nearly 60% of users that you just cannot afford to ignore.

How Do I Optimise for Mobile?

We will be soon publishing a more comprehensive guide on Mobile Optimisation, yet for now we can focus on a few key points that will hopefully make it easier for you to offer a better user experience on mobile.

Firstly, you should look at the content on your website with mobile in mind. Have you packed walls of sprawling text on top of one another? Is there something on the page, like a form or pop-up, that doesn’t work for mobile? Making content work across all devices and screens is your number one priority.

This might require some serious rewriting & reworking of content, but after this initial workload you should see some real improvement and know how to optimise any future content/pages.

Another element that is key for mobile is a simple and considered navigation/menu. It’s bad enough having to click through 5 pages to access content on a desktop, but forcing mobile visitors to do so will annoy a large number of users. 

A photograph of a person using a mobile phone with a blurred background of an office behind them

Will Responsive Design Work Every Time?

It is worth noting that many site builders, like Squarespace, will allow you to utilise “responsive design”, where blocks/site content will automatically rearrange to display on mobile devices. A vast majority of web developers believe that responsive design is the key to successfully keeping visitors on your site. 

This automated stacking is not always perfect, however, and may require you to adjust layouts until it works just right – don’t rely on the “view mobile” button when building and always check the version on a real mobile device before publishing to your site.

What Tools Can Help Me Optimise for Mobile?

Finally, go through your website on your mobile device and see what problem areas you have, noting them down as you go. Google has a fantastic tool that enables you to determine how mobile friendly your webpage is and provides some great insight on what you may need to work on.

This will produce a list that you can work through and attempt to resolve. Some might be easy fixes and others may require you to reach out to more technical developers/designers to resolve – prioritise the low hanging fruit and then you can determine whether more technical issues are worth investing in.

As mentioned earlier, we’ll be making a full guide to this in the near future, but please get in touch if you have any questions about mobile optimisation on your website.

A screenshot of Google's page speed insights tool in use

Choose an Appropriate Domain Name

This is something we have to contend with quite often in our initial meetings with clients. It is not uncommon for clients to look to purchase their business name as a .co.uk or .com domain only to find that someone else already owns it – a fair few of our clients have then gone on to purchase a domain that has unusual suffixes, like “www.exampleclient.uk.com” or have gone for odd variations of their actual business name.

Like mobile optimisation, we are writing a comprehensive guide to domain/URL selection to be published soon, but for now there are a few key things to keep in mind.

So What Makes A Good Domain Name?

A good domain name is one that is concise, memorable and easy to type out or reference verbally. If you have a domain name that requires unusual spelling, hyphenation or is just far too long (over 15 characters), you could be accidentally scuppering word-of-mouth driven visits. 

Why Should My Domain Avoid Hyphens?

Whilst there are some cases where it may be appropriate to use a hyphen in your domain name, the vast majority of the time it is wise to avoid using one if you can (and avoid using more than one entirely!).

Hyphenated domains are strongly associated with spammy websites and it is unwise to put yourself in this same boat in the eyes of site visitors and Search Engines alike. As mentioned above, you always want to avoid needlessly complicating your domain name so that it is easily memorable – if our website was “www.wilkes-wood.com” rather than “www.wilkeswood.com” we would have added another thing for a site visitor to remember and have to communicate should they want to recommend our services to a friend or colleague.

An infographic showing cartoon a website domain registration

What About Getting Keywords In My Domain?

There is nothing to say that adding in a keyword in your domain name is a bad thing to do, and it can actually help make it very clear what your services relate to, your geographic region, or create a more memorable or branded domain.

If you had a dentistry business called “Smile” based in Sheffield, “www.smiledentistry.com” and “www.smilesheffield.com” would both be very valid domain names that have added keywords, and offer more information to search engines and consumers than just “www.smile.com”.

What you should absolutely avoid is creating domains like “www.best-dentists-in-sheffield.com” or “www.dentists-for-crown-fillings-in-sheffield.com”. This sort of search query matching may have once worked as a ranking factor yet nowadays Google and other search engines would likely be associating you with spammy or poor quality content and it could negatively impact your SEO.

What Suffix is Best For SEO?

It goes without saying that a “.com” or “.co.uk” would be the most popular top level domain choice; these suffixes are the most memorable and trusted (by consumers) of all available and therefore we’d usually advise getting these if you can. That being said, there is no evidence to suggest that Google or other search engines rank these higher than other domain suffixes, so if you’re forced into a different domain there’s no reason your SEO should suffer.

Utilise Analytics

Analytics seems to be an area of website ownership that most clients recoil at, often assuming that you need vast technical expertise to extract any sort of valuable data from. The truth is, whether you’ve built your site on site builders like Squarespace and Wix, or even if you’ve opted for a Wordpress site, it really isn’t difficult to get analytics configured and start reading into valuable data.

A photograph of a laptop on a sofa showing google analytics on its screen

What Can Website Analytics Do For Me?

Whilst analytics can be used to track and provide data on more complicated site usage, even at the simplest level you could be getting incredibly useful insights into who is actually using your website and how. The data available might seem overwhelming, but once you familiarise yourself with some basics you can uncover the following with ease:

  • Gender, Age and Location of site visitors
  • Amount of site visitors
  • Popular site content
  • Unpopular site content
  • How site visitors find you (Acquisition)
  • How site visitors are interacting with each page
  • How many button or form interactions you’ve had
  • Compare site performance over time

Why Is This Data Important?

Simply put, if you’re not tracking some metrics on your website, you have literally no indication of site performance and don’t know if your investment of time/money to create your website has actually been worth it. Knowing your website’s audience and how these visitors have actually found you can give you great insight into whether you’re reaching the right people and how effective your marketing efforts have been.

Quite often, we find that clients think they are targeting a completely different audience to who they are actually reaching – knowing this can help them adapt content and marketing campaigns to capitalise on this different audience or take steps to ensure they are actually reaching their target demographics. 

Data is knowledge and knowledge is power. There is no disadvantage to knowing more about how consumers are interacting with you, and analytics can provide a wealth of information for you and your business to use to your advantage. 

A photograph of a laptop screen showing various website analytics

So How Do I See This Data?

If you are on Squarespace or Wix, you will have access to an in-built analytics suite that will show you some of the data we’ve discussed. These are typically very user friendly and are a great starting point if you’re unfamiliar with analytics.

If you want more powerful insight, Google Analytics is an absolute necessity and remains the most popular tool worldwide. It is free and relatively easy to set-up; there are plenty of great introductory guides (like this one from Hubspot) to assist with setting up your account, but take a look around YouTube for video guides as these often visualise the process in a more digestible way.

Drive Traffic To Your Website

There is a misconception that a website will easily and immediately start to produce organic traffic and leads without any consistent effort across other marketing channels. Unfortunately, this just isn’t the case – you might have built yourself the best website in the world, but if you’ve not told anyone about it then you can’t expect traffic to find you.

Should I Use Social Media?

Social media is the most commonly used channel in marketing and is a vital component of marketing strategy for businesses of all industries and sizes. Social media marketing is a vast discipline with varying degrees of complexity, but these fundamentals will get you started on the right track: 

1 – Know Your Audience and Where to Find Them. 

Different social media platforms attract different audiences and some might be much more tailored toward your target market than others. For example, nearly half of Facebook users are over the age of 45 whereas Instagram appeals much more to younger audiences (84% of US teens use the app at least twice a month); for B2B marketing efforts, LinkedIn would be the top social media platform by far, with 89% of college graduates and 50% of US adults that earn over $75,000 having a profile.

An infographic of backlinks, social media, email marketing, banner ads, direct traffic, search engines all leading to your website

2 – Prioritise Good Quality Content

It can be tempting to pump out content on social media just for the sake of it, prioritising output over quality. This approach is not recommended – for followers to grow and, most importantly, engage with your social media posts, you need to be providing relevant content that is of high value to really reap the rewards. Treat every post like it is representing your business because it is – that means no blurry, poorly lit photos, no rants at rude customers and no lazy duplicates of competitor’s content. 

A good strategy for content doesn’t have to be labour intensive – you can combine original posts/photos with sharing content made/posted by customers/followers and also share useful content made by third parties – this could be an interesting TED talk, a handy guide or anything you think your audience would enjoy or find valuable.

3 – Be Consistent

Consistency makes it easier for you to plan, but also ensures your audience knows when to expect content and that you’re regularly in their feeds. What you actually pick as a schedule will vary wildly depending on how much time you have in the week, what your business does, if you need to take photos/film videos, etc, etc. Don’t overpromise and underdeliver, and if you can pre-plan and generate content ahead of time then you’ll take the pressure off yourself.

How Can I Drive Traffic Without Using Social Media?

You don’t have to use social media to get traffic to your site – we should know, as we spent 4 years growing the business without it. There are loads of options available to you, and the best marketing strategy would be to try and combine a few of them together. PPC (Pay-Per-Click) Advertising, SEO/content marketing, email marketing (if you’re interested in this then you should buy this book), networking/word of mouth, Google my Business optimization, magazine advertisement, competitions, the list goes on and on.

The important thing is you start – pick a marketing channel, get it up and running, get familiar with it, and once it’s running smoothly you can look to add some more strings to the bow.

This All Sounds Too Complicated, Can You Do It For Me?

Yes. We’re web design specialists with over 4 years of experience building sites for businesses of all shapes and sizes. If you want a hand with anything we’ve mentioned in this list, just get in touch and we can have a chat.

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