3 must-haves for any company website in 2016

What should a modern website have and how should it function?

Are you feeling "not so up-to-date" on web design and digital marketing? Are you looking to hire a web developer to build your website but need some updated background on what to look for? Then start here with the "big 3" (things your website should have) for 2016.

In no particular order, make sure you are getting:

1) Responsive Design
2) A Content Management System (CMS)
3) Analytics

Sure, great design, UX (user experience), SEO optimization, video integration, blog functionality, e-commerce and other elements are still critical depending on your needs. But if you're creating a new site or updating a site that hasn't seen any major updates in the last 2-3 years, then focusing on these 3 must-haves should be your starting point.

Here's a closer look at those terms, what they mean, and some questions you might ask your web designer/developer.

> 1 - Responsive Design

Responsive design is a design approach that allows your site to "flex" and shift to fit any screen size. Rather than designing a separate mobile site (a dedicated site design for smart phones), we design one site that flexes and reformats to fit the devise it's being displayed on – PC, tablet, or smart phone.

Why is that important?

GOOGLE says: “...more Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries including
the US and Japan.” (Google May 2015)

In short, it's likely that 30-40% of your site traffic is coming from a phone or tablet. If your site isn't designed to display properly on all of today's popular devices you're turning customers and leads away.

Furthermore, Google’s algorithms now include a ranking metric that evaluates whether a website is mobile friendly –  effectively penalizing your site within Google rankings for not being "mobile friendly."

Note, how this design from Squarespace "condenses" so that the navigation, images and text are still highly readable and usable.

In the following example, we demonstrate how a more traditional "fixed-width" website (meaning it doesn't allow for a responsive change) displays on a smart phone versus a responsive version of the same site. The first version displays the traditional fixed-width site, or "desktop" view, that functions poorly on a phone. More importantly, no one wants to use a site this way and it makes you look bad. Where as the second version demonstrates how a responsive version of the same site delivers a highly usable mobile experience. Note, the change to the "hamburger" (3 line) navigation and large text size.

What to ask your web developer:

Start by asking: "How will you approach making my site responsive." Your web design team should be able to break a few things down for you, including the differences involved in modifying your existing site vs. going to a new template/theme. Often times, getting your site to function in a responsive manner requires some level of redesign pertaining to your navigation and content (most of which is geared at making your site faster and more fluid in its "responsiveness"). So it's a good time to consider if your site could use a basic design refresh anyway.

> 2 - Content MANAGEMENT System (CMS)

A content management system (CMS) allows non-technical users (meaning you don't code websites) to edit basic web content such as text and images as well as adding things like blog posts, links, and video. If you haven't been offered a content management system by your web developer or marketing agency, you are seriously missing out.

We are labeling this as a "must-have" for 2016, but in truth this has been part of our "must have" list since 2012. That's why all popular website platforms and developers now offer a CMS option. As a marketing company we actually prefer that our clients handle basic website edits themselves so we can focus on more significant strategic and creative elements with regard to digital marketing.

If you have not used a CMS for website edits, know that most systems mimic typical word processor interfaces and tools. If you can handle MS Word and your typical web form, you can run most any CMS. (below are screen shots showing a few popular CMS interfaces.

What to ask your web developer:

There are dozens of viable CMS systems on the market. Some are tied directly to development platforms, some are open-source, some are separate 3rd party products that can be added to any site, and others fall somewhere in between. Ask your developer what options they use and why? At Diversa, we look at your needs and how your site is currently built prior to suggesting one of several options. Point is, there's no "perfect" CMS, so don't go crazy doing your research – just know that a savvy developer will help find the best option for you.

> 3 - Analytics

Heard of Google Analytics? Big Data? (Maybe, not exactly?) Just be aware that web data is driving modern marketing and you don’t need to be a statistician or an IT expert to get solid, useful data from your website.

Simply understanding the basics regarding how much web traffic you receive, where it’s coming from, and what parts of your website are visited most can help you be a better online marketer. In 2016, there's no excuse to not understand the basics of digital and web analytics. And if you care about your company's marketing ROI, you should care about web analytics.

What to ask your web developer:

If your agency or web company isn't providing basic Google Analytics reporting or data via another 3rd party analytics solution, it's time to speak up. If tracking your web stats is more than your team can handle, ask for a quote on an analytics and SEO (search engine optimization) program with monthly reporting. (here's a few samples of reporting data showing traffic volume, bounce rates, and referrals).

> Conclusion

Are you looking for further clarification on our 3 must-haves? Or maybe you have a handle on these and you're looking for a deeper conversation on digital marketing all together? Give us call at 330-673-6763 or request a quote for web services here: