Improve Your Web Site With 3 Simple Hacks

by | Oct 3, 2017 | General Information, Web Design, Web Hosting

Introduction

There are tons of articles and research on the web about what constitutes an effective web site these days. Unfortunately, there are just as many variables to use in deciding what works for each of us.

My name is Matthew Upton and I’ve been designing, building, hosting, and maintaining award winning web sites for over 20 years. From my humble roots coding with a text editor, I’ve built well over 500 sites, mostly through my own web services businesses. I’ve seen a thing or two, watched some fads come and go (remember blinking text?), and know what works and doesn’t work for a large variety of clients.

I know, you’re asking – What’s in it for me? Well, I just wanted to share a few insights to hopefully help you with your own web site. No matter if its personal or business, most people have a web site or two. And if you’re anything like me, you prefer a fast, secure and well-designed web site.

According to surveys done by Akamai and Gomez.com, nearly half of all web users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less, and they tend to abandon a site that isn’t loaded within 3 seconds.

For every second you shave off of your sites load time, you’ll tend to boost customer confidence and trust in your site. You’ll also retain more visitors, who will likely return to, and also tell others about, your site.

So, keep reading for my 3 Simple Hacks to improve your web site’s overall usability, starting with how to decrease your load time.

01. Speed Up Your Web Site

Start by running a speed test on your web site at https://tools.pingdom.com/

Is your web site host slowing you down? Do some research and find out how your host rates where speed is concerned. I use WP Engine. You can find more info on them athttps://wpdevshed.com/wordpress-hosting/

Does your web site host serve files through a CDN (Content Delivery Network)? If not, they should. You will realize a significant boost in content delivery with the right network. More info at http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/C/CDN.html

WordPress plugins may help, but could hurt if you don’t know what you’re doing. Be sure to keep them at a minimum and always uninstall any plugins not being used.

Speaking of plugins, keep them updated to their most recent version. Same goes with WordPress – keeping it up to date not only helps with speed, but maintains the security of your site as well.

Proper file and image compression is a key factor in web site delivery speed. Make sure that your images are compressed properly and remember that high resolution images are a no-no!

Ask your web designer/developer for help in speeding up your site. If they can’t (or won’t) help, then hire a professional (like me!) to help.

Below is an actual test of my web site – https://zerofourws.com Note the load time.

02. Install a SSL Certificate

It’s not as scary as it sounds. The “s” at the end of the “http” part of a URL means the website is secure. HTTPS (Hypertext Transport Protocol Security), or secure, sites allow secure connections from a web server to a browser, facilitated by a SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificate.

Whew! Now that we have that out of the way, what does it really mean for you? In 2014, Google announced that it would favor https:// encrypted web sites. In 2015, they confirmed that they would also use https:// as a tie breaker for equally weighted competing web sites.

It stands to reason that better rankings can lead to more traffic, because the more people that see your site in a search, the more visitors you’ll get, the more clients you’ll get, etc… It also instills a sense of trust in your visitors when they see that your site is secure – especially if you are selling products and/or collecting information on your site.

There are some web site hosts that provide free SSL certificates (like WP Engine), or you can buy them from several trusted sources, such as GoDaddy.com or Symantec.

Not to scare you, but Chrome recently announced that they will start labeling regular http:// web sites as “not secure” in their browser. It’s technically not a bad thing, but the visitors impression of seeing that on your web site won’t be the best.

Ask your web developer for help in installing a SSL Certificate on your site. If they can’t (or won’t) help, then hire a professional (like me!) to take care of it.

03. Make Sure Your Site is Mobile Responsive

First, let’s define that. There are actually 3 options to display a web site on a mobile (or tablet) device.

1. Mobile-Friendly
2. Mobile-Optimized
3. Responsive Design

Mobile-friendly is the bare minimum web design strategy you should have for your mobile visitors. It is typical a scaled down version of the regular site. It’s “good enough” for Google and may work for you if the majority of your site visitors are browsing on a desktop computer.

Mobile-optimization targets mobile users as these websites are designed for mobile device screens. That means a mobile-optimized website will reformat itself (technically speaking – its a different version of the site) for mobile users. It’s typically chunkier, with easy to ready text and graphics. The primary goal of a mobile-optimized website is to make the website as quick and easy-to-use as possible for the mobile viewer.

Responsive Design web sites “respond” to the screen size of each particular device being used. That means that the design reformats and restructures itself on the fly for any device—regardless of screen size. Responsive design offers more flexibility and greater continuity of how content is delivered on all devices for all users. It’s the only way to ensure that your web site will look as intended and have the same usability on almost any device.

If you’re not sure if your site is mobile responsive, take a look at the screen shots of my web site below. That’s the desktop version on the left, and the mobile version on the right. See how they are very similar? That’s Responsive Design!

Conclusion

While there are many other things you can do for your site’s speed and usability, including hosting with a reliable provider, keep in mind that your best bet is to always view your site from the eyes of your ideal client, customer or reader. What would they say about your existing site? Maybe a short survey to ask them is in order?

At the end of the day, it really comes down to budget. Can you justify paying a professional to build a custom site for you, or are you happy spending less, knowing that your site may not be effective? The answer to that may hinge on wether or not your site is just for informational purposes, or you’re actually using it to sell products or services.

Thank you for reading this far and as always, if you have any questions, give me a call or send me a note through my contact form.

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