[Source Pavan Trikutam https://unsplash.com/@ptrikutam]

Welcome to part 3 of 3 of our series Keys to Understanding Website Modernization for Small Businesses. In this series, I’ll be exploring several business factors, tactics, tools and strategies that will help you identify if your business would benefit from modernizing its current website investment. From finding the right people, to clarifying your internal systems and processes, to providing the features and services that your customers expect; I’m providing actionable items and steps that you can implement immediately with the purpose of helping you take control of your business website whether you’re a solo freelancer, a small business or you just own an older website that no longer serves its function.

Legacy Websites Miss Out on Modern Features that Improve Customer Confidence and Satisfaction

If you’re reading this, you probably have a website and are unsure when it will be worth modernizing it. With technology evolving so rapidly, perhaps it might be worth delaying until the next big trend comes along.

Or you might be frustrated because you thought your existing website was going to serve your business for many more years.

I get it. I manage a lot of websites, and keeping them all working at optimum efficiency takes a lot of work. Nonetheless, business practices continue to evolve to keep up with new technologies, and securing Internet traffic and business data is a major trend right now.

The longer you wait to modernize your business’ website, the more difficult and costly it becomes to adapt to the changing behaviours and expectations of your customers. Eventually, your competition will step in to provide the quality of service modern consumers expect from their online experience.

In this post, I discuss three features of modern websites that small- and medium-sized businesses are struggling to implement. There are many others, but I wanted to emphasize the importance of security and mobile-readiness for those readers that might not have the time to stay up-to-date with trends in IT and website architecture.

Once you have those two pieces taken care, you can more easily move forward with a solid foundation.

Where Google Moves the Internet Follows

It was a big deal when Google announced, “Browsing the web should be a private experience between the user and the website, and must not be subject to eavesdropping, man-in-the-middle attacks, or data modification. This is why we’ve been strongly promoting HTTPS everywhere.”

Very quickly, the entire industry began to move towards secured websites including; Website Hosting vendors, Content Distribution Network vendors, SaaS vendors, Website Browsers, and of course, Website Developers began building SSL-compliant websites as a standard practice.

One consequence of Google’s HTTPS Everywhere initiative is that your website visitors will see your domain name labeled as “Not Secure” on Google Chrome if there isn’t an SSL certificate installed on the website.

Websites built on the WordPress platform require additional configuring in order to deliver content through an SSL layer. At Uplyft, we use SiteGround* for our web hosting and they provide a number of options to implement an SSL certificate. If you’re in the market for a web hosting provider, check out SiteGround. They are slightly more expensive than other vendors, but they provide cutting edge features and excellent 24/7 customer support.

Check out this article by WinningWP for an in-depth comparison of the top website hosting companies.

At the same time, Google started giving a slight ranking boost to HTTPS URLs (http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.ch/2014/08/https-as-ranking-signal.html). The end result is that Google is both raising awareness about the importance of security and rewarding websites for adopting these new features by moving them closer to the top. 

These initiatives by Google are changing the habits, perceptions, and expectations of your customers.

The typical customer follows trends and builds behaviours and expectations around them. Those websites that adhere to best practices and current trends, deliver an experience that feels more natural, more comfortable. In turn, that builds a sense of security and confidence that improves customer satisfaction and engagement.

Consider Google’s reach in terms of educating its users about security and the importance of securing your website. Everyone who uses the Internet knows about Google and trusts what they have to say. New generations of Internet users will be taught the importance of ensuring that their online interactions are secured, and will become savvy enough to spot websites that are not secured.

Google’s Chrome browser clearly indicates whether a website is secured or not by placing the green lock icon beside the URL along with the label, “Secure”. The other major browsers have followed suit.

Mobile-ready Websites are Designed with User Experience in Mind

If your customers are Canadian and between the ages of 18 and 34, then more than 50% of the time they are accessing your website on a smartphone or mobile device (CIRA, CIRA Internet Factbook 2016). Websites that are designed to be mobile-ready make it easy for your customers to quickly and easily engage with your products or services on smartphones and tablets.

Adopting a mobile-first philosophy prioritizes the user experience on small devices, which means designing web pages that are leaner (i.e., take less time to download to your device) and more focused on emphasizing what matters to your customers.

For example, navigation optimized for fingers and not mouse pointers, graphics and images that scale properly on newer, high-resolution devices that have two viewing modes, shopping carts that are easy to add and modify, and many others.

I guarantee that a simple, well-branded, mobile-optimized landing page, will showcase your business better than a large, out-of-date, legacy website that functions terribly on mobile. If cost is holding you back from a complete overhaul of your online presence, consider a strategy where you reduce complexity and scope in the early stages and add new features as needed.

A lot can be achieved in a single, well-designed page.

For those businesses that want to launch an online store in 2017, there are additional layers of technologies and features that your website will have to provide in order to compete. One feature that is often forgotten or overlooked, is the ability for customers to submit reviews.

Consumers Use Testimonials and Reviews to Inform Their Choices

Experienced shoppers tend to search for reviews about a product or service before they commit to a purchase. In an ocean of information, people scan for signals that communicate confidence and reviews submitted by customers provide a strong signal about a business.

More and more, customers will come to expect fair and representative reviews about your products before they commit to purchasing them online.

Reviews are becoming a prominent and influential way to build credibility and reputation – if you take control of them.

By failing to provide a mechanism for your customers to directly contribute reviews on a specific product, they will do it elsewhere, and if it happens to be on Yelp or Facebook, then those reviews might rank just as high as your website in search results.

On a subconscious level, the mind is constantly looking to simplify and filter out noise. If your products are associated with negative feedback, potential customers will pass you by because it is easier to find a competitor than sift through a mixed bag of reviews.

Avoid the damage control involved with bad reviews, build the mechanism into your website where you can address each review in turn. If you can transform an unhappy customer into a happy customer (i.e., by directly reaching out to him/her in response to a bad review) you will create an advocate for your brand, which is Gold.

An out-of-date website presents an opportunity to reflect on your brand and communication, to survey customers (and find out what they need/want), create a fresh new experience that serves them better, and attracts new customers.

I’ve only touched on a few of the modern features that websites today are implementing. There are many others that are worth exploring. If you would like to discuss how you can modernize your website and online presence, schedule a strategy session with me.

*Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means I may garner a small commission at no cost to you if you choose to make a purchase. Commissions help me produce valuable content that I share with my customers and community.

What are your must-have features in a modern website?