8 Things Your Website Absolutely Needs Right Now

Wouldn't you assume your new car comes with an attached steering wheel? Of course, you would. For one, it's a legal requirement, but also otherwise the vehicle is declared useless. When we consider products, we take some of their traits for granted. When was the last time you questioned a supplier if their wristwatch arrives with a strap or if a kettle includes the heating element? Naturally, each manufacturer stands out by implementing innovative gimmicks, but at the end of the day, the product gist remains untouched. Websites aren't any different. Or are they?

website-features-blog
Article by Tomasz Lisiecki
I help companies and startups to get their ideas across the finish line. I believe websites aren't there just for looks. A good website brings new leads, generates sales and creates a brand awareness.

We strive to challenge web industry standards with all completed projects, yet we never forget about the essential blueprint. There are too many agencies and freelancers who win new clients over with affordable prices and quick turnaround. While the offer might sound attractive, there’s always the second side to the coin. They fulfil both promises by rushing to the finish line turning a blind eye to the basics. For example, you could end up with a website with no security measures, performance tracking or poor customer service. Slips like those directly impact your ROI, which isn’t something you want to deal with after spending a chunk of your budget on a website that doesn’t bring anything to the table.

Before-mentioned policy not only goes against general improvement of the state of the web but also abuses clients trust who think they get excellent value for money, which is far from the truth. We promise you that a cleverly planned and utilised website becomes an irreplaceable asset for any business. 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 hire a web company for the next web project.

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 Nerd Cow, 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.

Content focus

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.

Global 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 measures keeping 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!

Expansion

Need a new feature? WordPress comes with over 40,000 free plugins ready to add new functionality to your website with a single click.

Apparently, CMS isn’t necessary for running a website, but it’s a tremendous help that makes that job much more relaxed.

Resposnive 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.

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?

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 H1 tag rather than 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.

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. SSL certificates aren’t free. They can cost anything up to hundreds of British pounds per year and require technical knowledge to apply them. However, we make sure all websites built or hosted by us get the certificate by default without an additional charge. We believe in a healthy and secure worldwide network.

Customer support

It’s understandable you might not be savvy in using his new website right after the launch. It’s a no-brainer! We equip him with a brand new tool that he is yet to master. That doesn’t mean he should be left alone on this journey. It’s a common mistake to abandon the client after the website gets published. For this reason, we ensure we’re only an e-mail or a phone call away from you. As we always say… we don’t work for the client. Instead, we work with the client. It’s teamwork which 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. The research provides theoretical answers to hypothetical questions, but the real truth can be observed in the live traffic. Many people don’t realise it, but a website is forever on-going work, but darn, isn’t it rewarding!

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 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.

Cookies policy

Cookies are small files being saved on your computer by websites and web application. They contain information about yourself such as recently visited pages, products added to the cart or if you’re logged in or not. Part of the data is personal, therefore, requires prior consent from the user. That’s when the 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 the 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. The less is more in this case!

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 “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 client’s preferences and business ecosystem just a tad too much. One may employ an external agency to maintain their SEO aspect of a website in which case; 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!

What else should be a default? Let us know in the comments below.

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