As with everything technology related, websites also evolve very quickly. What was new and cool just a couple of years ago, could now feel old and dingy. The thing is, a website’s quality and performance matter just as much as its content.
So, if you want to have a website that’s performing well in the search engine rankings and to also useful and eye-catching to its visitors, you’ve got to cover a lot of areas and requirements – and they change all the time. So, to keep up, you have to constantly follow the latest developments and see what becomes a trend to make sure your website is up to date with the latest tech.
Let’s explore some of the latest requirements and best practices for websites in 2023. Of course, it’s probably not possible to implement all of them and in most cases that would be a mistake. But what truly makes a good website is the proper mixture of the practices and features that would work best together with the website design, hosting and content. All of them must complement each other well in order to have a website that is useful to users.
We will separate the tips into three categories: content, design, and the technical side. First up, it’s the content. Content is king. It’s the reason why we have websites in the first place. People, institutions, and businesses create websites for the purpose of showing and sharing content.
Content is king
Creating content starts before you even have a website and have written a single word. Before you start with your new website or rework an existing one, you need to ask yourself a few questions:
What does the website offer more than the competition? What content does it offer? Of course, that content might not be just text, but in fact an online store. Or a presentation of your company’s services and products. Whatever it might be, there are others out there doing the same. So, you have to see what they are already offering to the visitors and explore if you can be better.
But wait. There’s more: Does the website have a clear purpose and audience? What is your goal with the website? Have you identified who the core audience is and what you want from it? To inform it? To attract buyers? To entertain? A lot of other questions will pop up as you answer the main ones and start getting a clearer picture of your actual goals and capabilities.
The answers will help you decide what content to create and how to shape it. For example, if your audience is mostly in their early 20s, then your content style and language should reflect that. If you are going for a corporate audience, then it’s probably not ideal to write in a cool street style tone.
While it may be tempting to create an elaborate, attractive looking content page which flows and animates as you scroll along, that approach will exhaust users and drive them away. You could use this approach just for special highlight pieces but keep most of the content in the good old flat design with a simple interface. Despite all the new technologies and their capabilities, some things don’t change. Among them is people’s desire to read a simple, static text. Especially when they are looking for specific information and are not in the mood for flashy designs.
Don’t forget the mobile version. While it may not seem like it, on average, about 50-60% of all online content these days is accessed and used via a smartphone. So, while you develop your website on a computer with a comfortable big monitor, chances are most of your future visitors will be on a much smaller screen. Plan your content with that in mind. Yes, the overall design of the website will be responsive, but despite that make sure your actual content is also formatted in a way that’s easy to view and read on a smartphone and a tablet.
Also, don’t forget the images. They are a vital part of every website and the content. Even if they are just there for decoration. In most cases though they are needed to showcase products, to further illustrate the author’s point or simply to add a feeling of action and movement. Whatever the purpose of the images, they all have to be of good quality. Avoid blurry images, ones with low quality or the wrong size. It could take some trial and error until you find the right balance of size and number of images for each page and article. There’s a lot more about content, but those are the basics to get you going. Luckily, most of them haven’t really changed.
The website must look and feel good
Right, moving to the website design. Here a lot has changed. The user experience (UX) and the user interface (UI) have evolved and have become the reason why your visitor will like your website and will stay. Wait, what? Weren’t we just talking about how content is king, and the reason websites exist in the first place
Yes, that is still true. But imagine the best possible article and information placed on an ugly, clunky, confusing and slow webpage. No matter how good the content is, most users will look elsewhere. Here are a few key UX and UI expectations visitors have in 2023:
· Fast page loading.
· Simplified and uncluttered page.
· Easy to read texts – this includes fonts, formatting, paragraphs.
· Responsive design of the website and a consistent look across devices.
· Mobile-ready, mobile-friendly. Everything mobile.
· Accessibility features to make the website useable by everyone.
· Chatbots – but don’t go overboard with them.
Seems straightforward enough, right? Well, let’s try and make it a bit more complicated. No, no, we are just joking. But they were just the basics. We have the opportunity now to explore a few actual trends in web design.
One of them is data visualization and graphics. It’s tempting to use ready-made graphics, but if you put some effort into making some bespoke designs, this will really give your website a more personal touch and users will feel that. It can help establish a connection with your visitors. Also, try and use images which add to the text content or help visualize key elements of it.
Another trend is more white space. It doesn’t mean to just add more space between elements. The goal is to create a minimalistic and simplified look and feel to your website. White space can help achieve this, but again, it will depend a lot on the type of page, content, target audience, etc.
Another interesting trend is parallax scrolling. A lot of websites now use endless scrolling which keeps users on the page for longer. Parallax scrolling is a design feature which makes the backdrop scroll slower than the foreground. It gives the impression of depth and improves the UX as the visitor will feel you gave some extra effort.
The next trend is asymmetric grids and layouts. You’ve already noticed that some pages, especially ones with more imagery, apply this trend a lot. They love having one big image and a few smaller ones dotted around the layout. This gives the impression of some dynamic in the design.
Another trend that gains popularity is micro animations. Those are small animations that get activated during some user interactions. They help improve the UX and give the impression of a more “luxury” and sophisticated website. But don’t go overboard with them – keep them to a minimum. They could activate only during specific actions like opening a specific product, pressing the “add to cart” button or something else. If they are present with every click, they will have the opposite effect and could even annoy the visitor.
Let’s get technical
In order to have a website which not only looks good, but works well, you have to hone the technical side, too. The faster your website loads and performs the better. Users love a fast loading website. It’s a great boost to the UX and it helps keep visitors on the website longer as they find it a joy to use and browse through the pages. Here are a few ways to increase the speed of your website:
· Optimize images. Use compression and modern file formats which preserve image quality but significantly reduce size. Big images often are the main reason a page loads slow.
· Minimize HTTP requests. This will reduce load times, too.
· Allow browser caching. It’s a good way to store static files on the visitor’s device and thus save on loading them every time.
· Use fewer scripts and clean up the code of the site. It will help with the loading speeds.
· Use a content delivery network (CDN) whenever possible. They provide a good way to store big content and the majority of the elements on servers closer to the users, thus increasing loading speeds.
Also, your hosting is very important. Your website goals will dictate what hosting you need. For example, for a small site to showcase your company simple shared hosting could be fine, but if you want to make a big webstore or a site, running different features and services, then you may want to opt for a dedicated server in a data center. This will give you more control over your setup and you will be able to make the most out of the hardware, too. Plus, you will get the extra benefits of additional security and the better connections a data center offers, along with scalability and extra support.
Other absolute musts for your website from a technical viewpoint: the aforementioned responsive design along with the use of the HTTPS protocol. They both are great for UX and user trust. Plus, search engines like Google could severely penalize a website’s ranking if it doesn’t use HTTPS and nor has a mobile-friendly design.
Don’t forget GDPR, too. The General Data Protection Regulation is a key law in the European Union. If your website collects user data from EU citizens, it must adhere to the GDPR. This will require the addition of a few modules and features to the website to collect, inform and process the data and get the needed consent from the user.
Finally, stay vigilant. Maintaining your website is a complex task which requires constant attention and effort. At the very least to monitor and act during hacker breaches, DDoS attacks or other disruptions. Also, always remember to implement new technologies and features and to optimize and improve the UX, UI and content on a continuous basis. This is why creating the website is the easy part. Maintaining it and keeping it attractive to the users is the real challenge!