Websites and the internet are constantly evolving and changing. These changes are largely driven by the availability of better technology, the desire to improve user experience, and the need for security and privacy. As such, best practices and design recommendations tend to change too. The following is a list of items that are very much worth reviewing with your own website goals in mind. If you have questions about any of these, don’t hesitate to ask us!
WOULD A BASIC HTML SITE SERVE YOU BETTER THAN WORDPRESS?
If your site rarely changes, and / or if you don’t make the changes yourself, you actually might be better off with a website that’s built using plain old HTML. Yes, really – the code that was used for websites in the 1980s. It’s still very much the standard for websites today, only tools like CMS (content management systems) write it for you. We’ve been finding over the last year or two though that if you aren’t trying to manage content yourself – that is, if your site goes relatively unchanged for long periods of time, and you’re okay with having someone else do your updates for you, publishing the site in HTML actually performs better than than using a CMS to publish it for you. We’ve had a few clients recently change to simple HTML sites, and they’re scoring 100 in Google’s Pagespeed Insights. Pagespeed is a relatively significant factor in SEO. Faster site = better user experience = better ranking in search engines.
SHOULD YOU REMOVE VIDEO FROM THE HOME PAGE?
Probably. While it certainly can give a very pleasing aesthetic to your visitors, and while search engines do favor sites with multi-media over sites without it (marginally), having a video on your home page can actually hurt your site. The explanation for this can be long and complex, but in short, having a video load on your home page either in the background or as an embed makes the page take longer to load – especially on mobile devices using cellular data. There are some ways you can still have a user-initiated video on your home page without using embeds or backgrounds, but as a general rule, we recommend not putting video on your home page at this point – background, embed, or otherwise.
You can still use video on other pages; we just recommend keeping your home page faster-loading for both user experience and search ranking reasons.
COULD YOU BENEFIT FROM A CUSTOM WEB APP?
In the last two years we’ve been doing a LOT of custom “widget” development. In some cases these have been WordPress plugins to add functionality that is unique to the client’s site. In other cases it’s been “stand-alone” tools to better connect our clients to their clients. A third scenario has included automating processes to just make your “website life” easier. A few examples of our development work include:
- A tool that provides first responders with information from a voluntary mental health database to help ensure safe / best outcomes in emergencies.
- A class registration tool with a LOT of flexibility for an art teacher whose schedule is seasonal.
- An API-driven sports “ticker” with up-to-date scores and betting odds for major and college sports.
- A branded survey tool that turns customer surveys into reviews.
If you’ve ever found yourself thinking, “I wish our website could ___,” we can help!
Each of these items really warrant their own answer, but a safe official answer is, “It’s better to have them than not.” A really safe official answer is simply, “Yes.”
Website ADA Compliance
The U.S. Department of Justice (Civil Rights Division) maintains a set of accessibility guidelines as part of the Americans with Disabilities Act. You really should be considering this from two perspectives – the “compliance” aspect deals with your efforts to meet requirement in an official capacity, but from a “practical” standpoint, this is about making it easy for ANYONE to use your site effectively. Depending on the type of organization and the purpose of the site, there’s a little variation in what is required, as well as what is enforceable. Off the record, ADA non-compliance with websites is a bit like speeding 5mph over the speed limit. If you’re a small business or nonprofit, or if you just have a personal website, it’s very unlikely that you’d be contacted about non-compliance in any official capacity. As a site’s traffic or services become more significant or serve a larger number of people, then the site can fall under greater scrutiny. In a nutshell, your goal should be to make your site as user-friendly as possible for as many users as possible. The guidelines are there to help you do that. In recent years we’ve made great effort to ensure ADA compliance to whatever extent we can and that is reasonable. When clients manage their own content, they may make changes that are not compliant. There are tools available to help you check and even maintain your ADA compliance, and we’re always available to assist as well.
- Check your site for ADA compliance: we like the tool provided by https://wave.webaim.org for quick and simple feedback. You simply paste your url into their tool, and it scans and reports back any issues it finds.
- There are several paid tools / services available that actively monitor your site, and can both report issues and even assist with resolving them in real-time. The most popular is accessiBe, but there are others as well.
- Talk 19 Media is also available to provide guidance and feedback; just let us know what your concerns and goals are, and we’ll work something out with you!
- If you are a relatively small organization and / or your site sees relatively little traffic that is essentially U.S.-based, a “boilerplate” document can be used for all practical purposes.
- If your site serves an international community, or carries any obvious liability for information or services that it provides, you should probably have your attorney advise you about what you publish.
- There are online services that will provide this for you based on your specific configuration and location for a fee.
As stated at the beginning, the goal with all of these considerations is to make the web a better place, whether that be by improving user experience, making things safer / more secure, or helping you get more out of your site. If you’re feeling like it would be a good idea to dig a little deeper into any of these areas, just let us know. We’re here to help!