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WordPress has effectively changed the way most bloggers and business owners operate on the Internet, allowing for a cheap and simple solution to gain online presence with ease. From blogs to local mom-and-pop shops to large corporations, the universally popular content management system can, and does, handle it all. There are many reasons users have found their WordPress websites to be superior to traditional sites, but there are a few key standard features and enhancing tools that are sure to make your WordPress web design stand out from the competition.
Uncomplicated Setup and Maintenance
WordPress was created for even the least tech savvy person to be able to figure out installation on their own or with minimal guidance. However, since it is a free platform to use, you may choose to step away from the task of building a website altogether and decide to spend your budget wisely on a WordPress web design expert that can take care of all the extra details when it comes to your desired customizations and security setup. WordPress gives you the freedom to construct whatever kind of website you need (portfolio, government, non-profit, community forum, etc.) and manage content from there with new posts, pages and media in whichever one of the 70 languages WordPress is offered in.
WordPress encourages its users to be interactive with their community, customers and followers through its built-in comments tool. Website owners can make their content more engaging by offering a place for commentary, feedback and discussions to develop, which can be easily moderated.
Search Engine Friendly
WordPress is Google-approved, which any Internet user should realize is a significant feat to accomplish. Though search engine optimization is largely taken care of for you as soon as your WordPress website is built, there are several things you can do to make it even better. Some of these actions include cleaning up codes, customizing permalinks and creating keyword rich content.
Security is one of the biggest issues of having any kind of important data up on the Internet. Many users have an understandable fear of hackers or malware attacking all their hard work and valuable files, but WordPress has allowed its users to harden their sites against uninvited guests and other potentially damaging circumstances with a few easy adjustments. Nothing on the Internet will ever be 100 percent safe, but using WordPress increases your chances of dodging disaster.
This may be one of the most favored features of WordPress web design. Themes add a special touch of uniqueness to websites that really want to be recognized as appealing. Themes can be as simple or complex as you like and can convey the heart of what a blog or business is all about.
Plugins can improve your WordPress website design in many areas. If you can think of a specific feature you need, more than likely there’s a plugin for it. You can add plugins for social networking, SEO purposes, security, backup, calendars, and the list goes on.
WordPress was originally used as a blogger platform and eventually evolved into so much more. Using the content management system for a business or organization doesn’t take away from the benefits of having a blog. Blogging will allow your company to build a relationship with existing and potential customers, answer their questions and constantly add fresh content to your website.
There are many more features offered that can be beneficial to your WordPress web design as well. The final outcome of your website should ultimately be up to you, and that’s exactly what WordPress allows for.
Author: Tiffany Olson
Search engine rankings are influenced by a number of elements, from optimized headers and images to content quality and back links. But one factor that is often overlooked by website owners is page load speed. Since 2010, Google has been using the speed at which your content pages load as a rankings factor. Page load speed also affects other metrics like bounce rate and conversions. If your page takes too long to load, who is going to stick around to read an article or make a purchase? Most people will bounce before they even get to check out your content.
If your pages are taking longer than average to load (six to seven seconds in the U.S.), there are many different elements to consider, as a host of sources could be at fault. Here are the top seven reasons why your content pages could be loading slowly:
1. Unoptimized Images
Unoptimized images are typically the number one cause of slow page load time. By “unoptimized” images, I’m not referring to image and alt tags, but image size and unnecessary metadata. In many cases, images can be scaled down without a noticeable impact to your website visitors’ experience. This process, referred to as lossless compression, strips images of needless information and displays the same quality image, but much faster. The unnecessary information may have been helpful to those behind the scenes (like designers and web developers), but does not affect the end users’ experience. Lossless optimization usually reduces file size by 5 to 20 percent, but in some cases could reduce file sizes by up to 90 percent.
Additionally, when optimizing images for file size, you must also consider the type of image file you are using. Regularly PNG photos are used on the web when using a JPEG file makes much more sense. When you’re not showcasing a logo or icon (something that does not need a transparent background, or a narrow range of color), it is best to use JPEG files as they are usually much smaller.
Most website owners use a bevy of plugins and/or widgets for a variety of reasons. You may have a plugin for blog comments, social media sharing, and spam filtering, which are all very useful, but sometimes can do more harm than good. There are generally a number of plugins that achieve the same goal, but some get the job done without affecting other elements of your websiteand those are the plugins you want. The best way to find out which plugins are optimal for your website is by experimenting. Research the best plugins for your purposes and test each one. If you think one (or a few) of your plugins are causing your content pages to load slowly, try deactivating one at a time and testing site speed along the way. Once you find the culprit, delete it for good and find a better replacement that doesn’t negatively affect your website speed.
When website traffic is booming, the allure of placing ads on your site increases. Making money from website ads is all well and good, as long as the ads don’t affect user experience or website speed. Unfortunately, they often do. Ads that do not fully load contribute to high bounce rate and can look like spamnot something you want your website visitors to encounter. Though profits from ads may make for extra cash, it typically isn’t enough to warrant widespread use. If you’re determined or need to include ads on your site, try removing a few and see if your site speed changes.
Despite the growing number of reasons not to use Flash (like it not being compatibleSlow Page Load Speed from Ads with some mobile devices), it is still present on websites today. Though Flash may look great on your website, it is very likely to be contributing to your slow page load speed. Flash is just bulky software in general, and most Flash files can be rather large, particularly for media files. Of course, the bigger the file size, the slower your pages will load. As there are more reasons against the use of Flash than there are redeeming qualities, cutting back or eliminating it all together may improve more than just content page speed. Look for HTML5 alternatives for common functionality.
5. External Media
An additional offender of slow page load speed is superfluous use of external media like slideshows, videos and more. Though this additional content may be beneficial for your website visitors, it can’t help if your visitors never get to see it! When you embed external media on your content pages, you are relying on someone else’s site to serve that media. Therefore, if that site is running slowly, your site could end up running slowly as well. In some cases, external media may be essential a website’s success, but if it is not, consider displaying the content in an alternate way that doesn’t leave you relying on others.
6. Bulky Code
Cumbersome code is another common culprit to assess if your content pages are loading slowly. Frequently CSS coders include whitespace in order to make pages more comprehensible, but it oftentimes isn’t necessary. Much of the whitespace inserted by developers can be removed while still retaining website readability. Consider eliminating line breaks and unnecessary spacing as this will compress your code, reduce the size of files and improve website speed overall. Look at options like Minify to shrink code to its leanest.
7. Web Host
If you have looked into all of the factors listed above and your content pages are still slow to load, it’’s time to check out your website host. With shared servers there are fast days and there are slow days, so your slower-than-average page load time may not be directly your fault. However, switching hosts can be complicated and can cause website downtime, making it a last resort. But, if you have exhausted all other options, switching web hosts may solve your page speed problem.
Overall, page load and site speed can be affected by an array of factors. From unoptimized images, plugins and ads to Flash, external media and unwieldy code, it can be difficult to decipher what exactly is causing your site slowdown. Whatever the cause, it must be remedied as soon as possible, as slower load time increases site abandonment. With 40 percent of visitors abandoning pages that take more than three seconds to load, one second can make or break your traffic.
Author: David Gould
In last week’s webinar The Truth About Responsive Design <--- available on-demand now, we had a surplus of insightful questions we didn’t get a chance to answer live, so we’re answering them here!
Q: On the subject of site speed/performance, you spoke about how responsive might NOT positively affect things. How often does the adverse affect take place – slow things down? In theory, more code needs to run, correct?
A: The earliest responsive sites were notoriously slow loading because focus was on making the design work across breakpoints, and performance was an afterthought.
Optimizing for performance using image compression, reducing your number of scripts or using a content delivery network is critical for responsive sites, but an equally tuned adaptive site, because it can eliminate any code that doesn’t need to be there, is always going to be lighter and faster (redirects to mobile-specific domains can eat up some of the time advantage).
However, the degree that a responsive site is plagued by performance lag depends entirely on adherence to best practices, and the priority that performance takes when making design decisions. As mentioned in the webinar, responsive design may not be right for you if you’re not prepared to make the sacrifices (in content, features, etc) required to ensure a fast mobile experience.
Q: What about RESS? Do you not consider that responsive design?
A: Yes, RESS is certainly responsive design, though an advanced approach.
For those unfamiliar, RESS (Responsive design with server-side components) is a proposed concept of Luke Wroblewski’s which aims to bring some of the advantages of server-side adaptive into responsive design. It’s primarily responsive design in that it uses one set of templates residing on one set of URLs, but it uses device detection to deliver an optimized source order, for example (e.g. placing a menu at the bottom of the page for mobile rather than the top), or smaller images designed for the small screen, not simply just scaled down from desktop.
Being that this is an advanced approach and given our time constraint, we chose to cover the high-level differences of responsive vs. adaptive in our webinar. But this is definitely an approach that can potentially improve performance for responsive sites and offer the design and optimization team more control over their mobile UIs.
Q: What would be the advantage of Adaptive Design over Responsive Design?
A: The three biggest advantages are:
1) Lighter code which translates into faster page load, which is important for keeping and converting visitors.
2) Speed to market – it’s faster to build a mobile site without having to consider how the template works at multiple breakpoints. The time savings may, however, be eaten up longer-term with site maintenance, especially during new code releases on your main site – your mobile site must be updated in a similar manner, which may push back release dates or cause an inconsistent experience between domains.
3) You have a higher degree of control over content and UI when you build specifically for a device type. RESS as discussed above can improve your control whilst using responsive design, leveraging server-side delivery for pieces of your content or experience when necessary.
Q: What are the merits of choosing a framework (like Bootstrap or Foundation) vs writing your own custom code to make your site responsive?
A: Any time you can leverage frameworks built by others to skip a learning curve and hit the ground running, you’re going to save time and money (depending on the cost of the solution). What you want to consider when choosing between frameworks or deciding whether you want to work with a framework is how will it fit with what you’re already doing and what programming languages and technologies your team is currently working with.
Q: Has anyone encountered difficulties integrating social media feeds to a design, given the new (large) fixed format specs given by Facebook and Twitter?
A: This is a tough question for me to answer as I’m not a developer, but yes, your layout can “break” at certain breakpoints. I did some research and found this thread which offers a number of workaround options (for Facebook), your mileage may vary.
Q: A few discussion points – responsive design & conversion rates: We feel it most certainly SHOULD increase conversion rates. That’s a primary objective of responsive design, to remove barriers to conversion, no matter what the metric. Second, ‘starting small’ with a Home or LP is kind of risky, presenting an inconsistent UX across pages, which could bomb for users lead to customer dissatisfaction.
A: I’ll address these separately:
1. Increasing conversion rates?
A lot of the cases you’ll find out there about conversion rate improvement measure conversion rates sequentially against a non-optimized site, rather than a true A/B test that can compare 50% of traffic sent to a responsive site vs to an adaptive. If the offers, design and user experience is identical between responsive and adaptive, the main non-UX variable that impacts conversion is page load speed – and sadly, responsive is at a disadvantage here.
So responsive design isn’t a solution to conversion problems (design, merchandising and performance tuning is). Rather, it’s a solution to the business’ need to satisfy mobile users across devices, and from a business’ perspective, doing so in a more scalable, efficient and consistent way across devices. Moving from no mobile optimization to an adaptive or responsive site will definitely increase conversion.
2. Starting small
When redesigning a site for responsive, the larger the number of templates, the more work you need to do converting them over. You may choose to launch with a smaller set of responsive templates, like home, category, product and checkout process, leaving other areas like community, about pages, or blog for future phases. Some sites like Microsoft have rolled out a responsive home page and progressed from there to other areas of the site, which is an approach far less common but possible.
A responsive landing page tied to a specific campaign can be connected to product or content pages that are responsive (think microsite / guided process). This way you can keep the experience consistent, and you can test it against similar, non-responsive campaigns.
Q: Is there a particular ecommerce industry/vertical that has adopted responsive design faster than others? Fashion?
A: I recently surveyed the Internet Retailer 500 and found only 2% currently have a responsive retail site (as of May, 2013). Keep in mind, 38% had NO mobile optimized site. It’s a small number among the largest sites, and no one industry stands out. However, the larger the site, the more complex, lengthy and the responsive design process is. I’m observing more smaller ecommerce sites picking up on the trend faster. In fact, the smallest sites that use pre-built responsive templates have the quickest and cheapest route to responsive. And of small to mid-market, I see a lean towards fashion (apparel and accessories) being early adopters.
Q: Shopping apps have become very popular and have launched a new trend for “Showrooming.” Google recently stopped their support for their Google Shopping app. In light of this, where do you see the future of shopping apps going (Red Laser, PriceGrabber, Amazon Price Check, etc) versus using their websites if we assume all major sites will have responsive design in the future?
A: Because responsive design is a browser solution, it doesn’t replace the utility of or benefits of apps. HTML5 is more of a threat to apps as having an HTML5 site that is app-like to serve all devices rather than develop for each native platform is an attractive and lower cost solution for many businesses. Some sites choose to support both native apps and HTML5 to cover all the bases, as some users simply prefer to use the web than download an app for every site and brand they like.
Responsive design and HTML5 are different technologies, and you can build a responsive site with or without using HTML5. With regards to showrooming, having a responsive site is beneficial in a few ways:
1) Shoppers using marketplace shopping apps search for products, click links and want to be redirected to usable pages, not to mobile home pages or unoptimized sites.
2) Advertisers are paying for referrals from these sites in many cases, so it pays to make the most out of these visitors, and to ensure they are directed to mobile friendly pages.
3) Showrooming behavior benefits online sellers, as customers turn online to find the best price or missing size. Mobile search ranking can be affected by your bounce rate and also your technical implementation of redirects (for adaptive sites), for example. Responsive design can help your mobile SEO, and conversion from showrooming behavior.
If apps decline, I predict it will be because either users show a stronger preference for the Web, or device fragmentation becomes so complex that coding for each platform becomes unprofitable.
Q: As responsive design grows, what is the future of third party partners who provide mobile website optimization for ecommerce retailers? It sounds like they will need to reinvent themselves!
A: There will continue to be a market for 3rd-party solutions for sites sites that determine responsive is not right for them, whether it’s cost, speed to market or some other reason, but that market is certainly shrinking. Many of these solution providers are making their move to providing responsive solutions to avoid being disrupted.