When it comes to creating a website that can compete on mobile, speed is everything. If you look at the studies over time, bounce rates on mobile have been rising as expectations have been increasing. When Google ran this study in 2017, 4.5 seconds was sufficient.
A similar study, one year later, showed that rate had dropped to three.
Most SEO and performance tracking software today use 1 second as the breaking point.
These terms are important because they are major causes of slow loading times as this snippet from Google Pagespeed Insight shows
The root cause of most speed issues is the content management system (CMS) that you choose for your website. All content management systems use themes.
As the name suggests, each style sheet cascades one on top of the other. These sheets tell the browser how to layout or style the page. Every theme has customization options, drop-down menus, animations, and such. These are layered on piece by piece.
When a page is rendered, the browser has to sort through all this code to see what to use or not use. The unused features can stop the page from becoming active.
This is what they mean when they say render-blocking resources or unused CSS or unused JS. Unused js is usually more time-consuming, as it requires fetching pieces of information often in different places.
Since images are loaded separately, large or high-res images can take a long time to load. Many people just load the largest size and let the theme resize it to fit. This creates not only a load time problem, but it can also slow down page load while the theme resizes it.
Most small businesses have websites designed using themes because they are easier to build and to maintain. Updating is also quick and simple.
Small business web design companies love themes, because even someone who does not know how to code or has only a passing understanding of HTML and CSS can develop a website. Good web design and development requires more knowledge than how to adapt a theme.
If your developer helps you set up your tracking codes and other third party integrations, then you can minimize any issues those create.
The beauty of a custom website design is there is no trade-off between speed and quality. You use only the code you need. No excess CSS. No excess JS. Any good developer will help you with your images, so there are minimal delays, if any.
The con is that it typically costs more money. However, when you factor in the lost revenue from bounces and poor conversion that a slower site creates, the investment pays for itself.
It does not matter that much which theme you choose. All will need some modification to be to pull you out of the 20-40s on Google Page Speed Insights.
This means you may be in for some nasty surprises with digital marketing, search engine optimization, and your overall online presence if this is not fixed.
Small business web development agencies may have a good reason for using a theme. If they do, then they should have a plan on how to fix the inherent speed issues.
Google has been very clear. Mobile performance is a key ranking factor. So your performance doesn’t suffer, we suggest either plug-ins and theme optimization.
The key challenge with any design is that it is so easy to get lost in the visual and aesthetics that we lose track of why people come to a site. It is important that you use a small business web design service that knows the difference between the two.
A website is a communication tool. If we lose sight of this purpose, the performance in terms of dwell time, bounce, or conversion will suffer.
In fact, when users were asked what they valued most in a website, they chose “finding information quickly” by a 7 to 1 margin.
A separate report showed 60% users left because they could find what they needed.
To have a navigation that is easy to follow requires that you understand how your user is likely to search for information. It is very important to remember that your user may search for information in quite a different way than you. This is almost certainly true if you are an expert in the field and they are not.
To keep the communication focused, we should design each page to answer a set of questions around a core theme. Since we know the core theme, we can link these pages to keywords or key phrases.
The key reasons it is worth the effort to map pages to keywords are:
This is a key step in any design and development process.
People can be difficult to predict. Even with the best planning, sometimes the flow isn’t quite right. User flow on Google Analytics can really help. You can see how users are browsing the site. You can also see which pages or posts get likes or shares on social media.
If you find users are acting differently versus how you intended. It’s important to take note and make changes. Web design is never “a set it and forget it” activity. We believe that a good service would provide long-term project management with monthly monitoring and testing included.
Users expect the same level of user experience (UX) regardless of device. This is simply the bare minimum of performance. Therefore, be certain your service offers a design that is 100% responsive.
Custom builds are generally designed for mobile first. They are first designed to work on mobile, then scaled for desktop, not the other way around.
There are several very good themes across CMS providers that can provide a seamless UX experience. However, they require some quality control.
These are not generally built mobile first. Therefore, the first issue is image sizing. If you let the theme do it, it can cost you on performance. Therefore, you will want to be mindful of these pitfalls if you go this route.
When looking for a web design for your small business, ensure the following three things are there from the start.
ProStrategix is a web design agency with offices in New York City. We also provide online marketing and pay per click advertising support to our clients.
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Brian Cairns, CEO of Prostrategix Consulting. Over 25 years of business experience as a corporate executive, entrepreneur, and small business owner. For more information, please visit my LinkenIn profile
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