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Our team strives to challenge web industry standards with all completed projects, yet we never forget about the essential blueprint. We decided to step in and create a list of website features that every site should come with by default. It’ll help you to make an informed decision next time you need to build refresh your website.

1. Content management system (CMS)

Back in the old days, static pages were a thing. One could joke the changes required a mental preparation. To apply tweaks and improvements, you needed to access files directly on the server. It asked for coding skill and called for time-consuming labour. Sounds obnoxiously complicated? Well, it was. To our surprise, some organisations embrace the method even today which limits the ability to scale and swiftly improve their website. At NerdCow, our prime focus isn’t purely on selling a service. Instead, we point it at spreading our expert knowledge and awareness so every client can make better decisions on their own.

We want you in the driving seat. After all, the website represents your business which continually grows and changes. You need a tool to keep it fresh and up-to-date without our involvement. That’s where a CMS (Content Management System) comes into play.

They are very easy-to-use and extensible platforms. You can employ them as a backbone for any website build. Our favourite choice is WordPress, which is free and intuitive. Here is a list of perks that might convince you:

  • User management – if you’re a multi-level company, you’ll love this one. User management gives access to the website to several people with various roles and restrictions, e.g. administrator, content manager, SEO specialist etc.
  • Reusable templates – they let you create as many pages as needed without touching a single line of code. Additionally, if you throw so-called page builders into the mix, managing pages becomes a breeze.
  • A focus on the content – draw a line between website content and its design. CMS allows a marketing team to focus on producing more content to drive website traffic and convert customers without worrying about the looks.
  • Easy changes – thanks to its fantastic features, a good content management system makes changing your website simple. Whether it’s your e-mail, phone number or business address, the change takes effect across the site when saved.
  • Security – A CMS, like WordPress, comes with top-notch security updates to keep away an unwanted pair of hands from your business website. The publishers update platforms almost daily to keep up with the race against hackers and technology progress. For free!
  • Sustainability – Need a new feature? WordPress comes with over 40,000 free plugins ready to add new functionality to your website with a single click. They have their shortcomings, but it’s always an option if you need a quick change.

2. Responsive web design

Numbers don’t lie. Over 50% of online traffic comes from mobile devices: smartphones and tablets. You can judge the interface quality by a quick glance at analytics. In a scenario when it’s not up to the task, you can notice a high number of drop-offs. Many clients who struggle with boosting sales and converting traffic fail to meet this vital requirement.

You should always ask an agency or a developer if they deploy the mobile-first approach to the design. It prioritises smaller screens over desktops. It plays a massive role in user experience, and it directly influences the success of a project. Stop and think about it. Wouldn’t you agree that it’s easier to keep adding elements to the view as the screen enlarges rather than subtracting them as it shrinks?

With so many devices around, it’s nearly impossible to accommodate for every screen resolution. It’s recommended to avoid sticking to fixed breaking points to cover all devices including those yet-to-come devices.

3. Accessibility & semantic code

It’s where good designers and developers shine. But first, what do we mean by accessibility and semantic code?

Accessibility defines how accessible the content on the website is. It helps users with disabilities or those on underpowered devices to quickly navigate around. A neatly done site can accommodate people with visual impairment, cognitive disability and motor challenges. Plus, you can speedily use it on screen readers. Isn’t that convenient?

Your editors can help make your website accessible right now – discover how by following our accessibility guide for editors.

Semantic code encourages web developers to write code that describes the content rather than how that content should look. For example (excuse my techie jargon for a moment), you’d wrap the heading of an article in an H1 tag rather than a span tag. Obvious, but often disregarded.

They both aid each other on so many levels, so it’s important they are taken into account when creating an online system for public use. Lastly, they help search engines to understand your content better to rank your website higher in the search results.

4. Security certificate (SSL)

We keep hearing radio ad campaigns teaching people to come up with more secure passwords or to avoid clicking suspicious links, which lead to identity theft or worse. The bottom line is the number of people aware of the importance of data privacy increases daily. Your website can’t be stuck on the unsafe side of the fence either. You risk losing potential customers. In the long run, business sales and financial flow might get crippled if you ignore the issue. While website security is a whole other story, there’s one quick thing you should do to make your website more secure than ever.

Have you heard of Secure Sockets Layer or SSL? If you spot a green padlock next to the website’s URL, it means your connection to it is encrypted, and all information is protected from an unwanted pair of hands.

5. Ongoing maintenance

It’s understandable you might not be savvy in using a new website right after the launch. It’s a common mistake to abandon the client after the website gets published. For this reason, we ensure we’re only one message away. As we always say… we don’t work for the client. Instead, we work with the client using our collaborative process. Teamwork makes the entire experience joyful, successful and beneficial.

Plus, we are of the opinion that releasing a website is exactly where the real adventure begins. Once we put it to work, we can tweak it as we go. Our workshops provide theoretical answers to hypothetical questions, but the real truth can be observed in live traffic. Many people don’t realise it, but developing a website is a never-ending project. But darn, is it rewarding!

USEFUL WEBSITE & MARKETING TIPS DELIVERED ONCE A WEEK

Includes tools to maximise your website potential.

6. Analytics

The extensiveness of the research can only take you that far. Learning about the targeted audience, business goals and identifying requirements before the build is a critical phase. However, it’s for nought if the results don’t confirm the assumptions.

No one can argue with numbers. With an appropriate analytic tool pre-installed on your website, we can measure the traffic behaviour and verify if the site is fulfilling its purpose, e.g. selling products, getting leads in etc.

There are a few types of applications, which can provide you with priceless insight into your website’s performance:

  • Heatmaps – Where your visitors are clicking
  • Scrolling maps – How far your visitors are scrolling
  • Recordings – Learn about visitors’ preferences through session videos
  • Mouse tracking – Track mouse pointer movement
  • Surveys – Get instant feedback on what they liked or disliked about your website
  • A/B Testing – Test website variations to increase conversions

… and don’t forget about Google Analytics, obviously!

There are tons of other types of data you can track. We carefully analyse each client’s needs before we decide which tool to use. They all supply high-value information but they can quickly overwhelm you if you overdo it.

7. Cookie consent

Cookies are small files being saved on your computer by websites and web applications. They contain information about yourself such as recently visited pages, products added to the cart, or whether you’re logged in or not. Part of the data is personal, therefore, requires prior consent from the user. That’s when the web cookies law kicks in…

We all know the wave of demotivation hitting us while putting together the legal bits. Nonetheless, they are a big deal and should be accounted for while designing any online system. It’s not material for an afterthought. The new data protection law (GDPR) approaches the matter very seriously and so should you. It needs to be apparent to the user what personal data you store and why. Avoiding responsibility can expose your business to ample penalties.

Who if not the creator of a particular system has a better understanding of the data flow within it? A developer building the application for you should always keep the privacy aspect in mind to eventually be able to come up with a cookies policy page.

8. Social Media compatibility

We noticed the social media sharing functionality rarely finds its way to a technical specification of any project. We aren’t referring to share buttons nor links to social media profiles. What we have in mind is called the “open graph”:

The Open Graph protocol enables any web page to become a rich object in a social graph. For instance, this is used on Facebook to allow any web page to have the same functionality as any other object on Facebook.

In plain English, when you paste a link on any social media, open graph meta tags make sure the preview of the attached website looks good, i.e. there’s a well-cropped, and sized image and the title and the description are relevant instead of a generic or randomly picked information from the copy. On top of that, every social media platform has different format requirement which when ignored don’t yield attractive results. By integrating OG in the code, you can tell each social network how your website should look like when shared.

On the final note

Something we want to get off our chest before we go. We kept feeling like an SEO tool should be briefly mentioned on this list. However, we concluded that it relies on the client’s preferences and business ecosystem just a tad too much. One may employ an external agency to maintain the SEO aspect of a website. The company would introduce their favourite tool to deal with it. With so many helpers out there, it’s almost unreasonable to force an SEO tool on someone as he might be already familiar with one that you haven’t thought of.

Regardless, while we agree there are no two websites alike, every web agency must deliver the website features above. No half-measures, please!

Originally published Apr 26, 2018 1:26:00 PM, updated May 30 2022.

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