Today, virtually every marketing agency under the sun offers web design services to their small business clients. However, in an industry that can seemingly transform itself between sunrise and sunset on the same day, it can be hard for agencies to be sure they’re providing the most cutting-edge web design tools and technologies to help their clients capture more customers online.
Here are four transformative web design tools your agency might not be using, but definitely should consider.
Let’s do a quick thought experiment — when was the last time you heard someone say, “I really love it when a salesperson speaks to me in broad platitudes that kind of vaguely reference my unique needs as their customer!” Obviously, such a phrase has never been uttered out loud by any sane customer, anywhere.
Everyone prefers a more personalized customer experience, and this universal desire has mutated into a default expectation on the web. Website personalization addresses this demand by providing your small business clients with the ability to change the look and content of their websites to better meet the need of individual customers. Using a system of triggers and actions, websites can be personalized for customers based on the time of day they visit the site, number of previous visits, geo-location and more.
Website personalization used to be the sole purview of industry leaders like Amazon and Netflix; in recent years, a variety of innovative breakthroughs have made it available to SMBs and the agencies that serve them. If you fall into either of those, investing in website personalization technology is a sure bet.
Progressive Web Apps (PWAs)
When iPhones were first introduced, small businesses and the agencies that serve them essentially had two ways of engaging with customers on the revolutionary device. They could build a native app, or rely on their website to be discovered by potential customers via the mobile browser.
In the beginning, there were pros and cons to both approaches. Websites were primarily designed for desktop computers and users needed to pinch and zoom to find the information or call-to-action they required. However, the cost of maintaining a website was relatively low and could be optimized for search on Google. Apps provided a better user experience, but were expensive and required users to download them from an app store.
As time went on, websites caught up to apps in usability while maintaining their traditional search and price advantages. Today, websites can apply progressive web app (PWA) technology that enables them to act more like apps than ever. PWAs allow websites to:
- Pre-cache content for lightning-fast page changes, creating a seamless offline experience
- Offer an app-like home screen install capability via the Web App Manifest, allowing websites to be launched like apps
- Send push notifications
- Utilize GPS-enabled website features
- Allow web access to a camera for uploading photos
For marketing agencies looking to differentiate their service and provide their clients with the most up-to-date tools, PWAs are a must.
Today’s web is a giant mess of content presented in different forms — HTML, Flash, videos, streaming audio, interactive games — which makes it very difficult for external services like Google to read websites properly and understand what is on a webpage.
Structured data is a practice in which you provide specific information in a single standard format across many different websites for the bots/crawlers of search engines to understand. You can think of this like the APA citation you had to follow in school — it’s simply a standardized way of listing details.
Google uses structured data from a website to enrich the knowledge graph it maintains about a business or person. This helps Google understand relevant and important information about a business and allows them to add structured data to the right side of a search result.
Providing search engines access to detailed, structured information helps them provide better results and helps your clients’ websites move up in rankings.
Auto-Renewing SSL Certificates
Google began it’s ‘HTTPS Everywhere’ initiative in 2014, and has slowly used a carrot-and-stick approach to encourage web designers and developers to encrypt sites across the web. The search giant has done this by using SSL encryption as a positive ranking factor, and in July 2018, Google announced that its Chrome browser would clearly warn users whenever they visit an unencrypted website.
In years past, you had to pay for SSL certificates and regularly renew them whenever they expired. This meant extra costs for your clients and more work for you. However, thanks to an initiative by the Internet Security Research Group (ISRG) called Let’s Encrypt, some web design platforms and online presence solutions providers offer SSL for free and auto-renew whenever they’re expired. Hours of development work can be cut down to just a couple clicks.
Itai Sadan is the CEO of Duda, a Palo Alto-based web design platform that provides web professionals and enterprise partners with innovative and efficient tools for creating SMB websites.