February 27, 2021

Best Use of Web Design Services for Small Business Success

Mobile is now the dominant device used on the web. If your site doesn’t perform its best on mobile, half of your market is at risk. Learn how to fix it.

It’s All About Speed - Make Sure Your Service Can Deliver

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. 

Small Business Web Design Services Page Speed Google

Most SEO and performance tracking software today use 1 second as the breaking point. 

Small Business Web Design Services Page Speed Pingdom

Main Drag on Page Speed is Unnecessary Code

Even if you are not a web designer or web developer, terms like render blocking CSS or unused JavaScript are worth understanding, if even just at a high level when building a website. 

These terms are important because they are major causes of slow loading times as this snippet from Google Pagespeed Insight shows  

Small Business Web Design Services Page Speed Insights Example

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. 

Themes Will Slow You Down

If they or you built your site on WordPress or Wix, you are using a theme. Every theme carries a set of instructions. We call these cascading style sheets (CSS) in which there can be specific functions or operations called scripts that require JavaScript (js) to operate.

Cascading Style Sheets & JavaScript Issues

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.

Render Blocking Resources

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. 

AND, Resizing or Large File Size Images are Just as Deadly

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. 

Web Design Services for Small Business Themes are Easy But Costly

Themes Are Easy But Come at a Cost

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. 

Themes by the very nature have one major underlying flaw, they are slow. Not only do you have to deal with excess and unused CSS, you also have to deal with unused JavaScript queries and image load/resizing times.

Custom Build Site Will Yield Best Performance

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.

Any CMS Will Require “Fixing” 

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.

Small Business Web Design Services All Themes Need to be Fixed

Google Ranks Mobile First, So You Benefit from Fixing a CMS

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. 

Main Options

  1. Plug-ins: For most CMS systems, plug-in exist to help minimize excess CSS. However, they are not a true fix, but a band-aid. They can definitely help, but they will always be the slowest of all your options. Plus, most require a subscription to gain the most benefit.
  2. Theme Optimization: This requires a developer to strip out the unused code from your theme. This is not cheap, but it can get you close to if not equal to a custom-built site.

Web Design Service Needs to Provide an Intuitive Website

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.

Users Expect to Find What They Need Quickly

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.

Small Business Web Design Services Find Info Quickly

A separate report showed 60% users left because they could find what they needed.

Simple Navigation That is Clear and Easy to Follow

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.

Importance of Page Mapping

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:

  1. Helps to minimize confusion as each page has a straightforward answer or a means to reach that answer quickly.
  2. Helps show to the user and the bot what the page is about.
  3. SEO best practice

This is a key step in any design and development process.  

Measure & Monitor Your User Flow

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.

Optimizing

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. 

Small Business Web Design Services Need to be Responsive

No Web Design is Really Viable if it is Not Responsive

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 Responsive by Design

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.

Responsive CMS Themes Require Quality Control

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. 

Summary 

When looking for a web design for your small business, ensure the following three things are there from the start.

  1. Fast: The site needs to be fast. Shoot for load speed of 1 second as an average, 3 as the maximum limit.
  2. Intuitive: Layout must be intuitive. Users want to find information quickly or they leave.
  3. Responsive: A web design is only viable if it is responsive. When mobile is the primary device for search, this should be a simple decision.

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.

About the Author

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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