What Will Websites Look Like In The Future?
Is your website ready for 2018?
The approach of a new year always brings out the trend forecasts, and 2018 is looking like a year that will deliver some big and long-overdue changes to the way websites function.
That’s because more and more web traffic is mobile now, which means users have a whole new set of expectations for your site’s design and usability.
So if you’re taking stock of your site and wondering how to update it to win more visitors and customers in the year ahead, check out these suggestions based on 2018 trend forecasts.
1. Focus on mobile-friendly design
Mobile users already generate more than half the world’s web traffic, and that trend is here to stay, thanks to users in countries where mobile tech has leapfrogged over desktop availability and to a whole generation of young people worldwide who have always used their phones as their main web access tool. Developers and search engines are now taking a mobile first approach to site design, because it’s practical and good for business.
Soon, a mobile first approach will be critical to search rankings, too. Since October, Google has been very slowly rolling out its new mobile-first index, which will eventually rank and display sites based on the mobile-readiness of their “content, links, and schema.” The index was originally slated to debut in 2018, and it will take time to implement it fully.
In the meantime, it’s a good idea to start focusing on your mobile site in order to stay competitive in search results once Google has the program completely up and running. One way to start now is by using a plugin to add Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) functionality to your WordPress website. AMP creates faster-loading versions of your existing pages to satisfy the demands of mobile users, who won’t wait around for slow-loading sites.
2. Add better images and videos
Web users love videos – humanity takes in about a billion hours of video every day on YouTube alone—and images are a must for telling stories and selling products. However, web users also expect web page to load in an instant, which means your videos need a host that can load them fast, and your images need to be lightweight as well as high quality. If you’re still using PNG files as your go-to format for still images, it’s time to get to know SVGs: scalable vector graphics.
SVGs are now the preferred format for web graphics, because they scale without pixellating (no pixels!) and because they are coded into each page so they don’t slow down page loads. Coding SVGs manually takes some skill and knowledge, but there are SVG plugins for WordPress than can simplify the process.
Among the most popular free options is SVG Support by Benbhodi, which lets you upload your SVG files to your image library or, in advanced mode, embed your SVGs in your code. You can make your own SVGs in Adobe Illustrator, and if that tool isn’t in your budget, there are several open-source free alternatives you can use for SVG production and editing.
3. Use large and easy-to-scan fonts
Even the fastest-loading, most mobile-ready site will lose visitors if they can’t read what’s on your pages. And when you think about visitors trying to read your site on their phones, maybe in the sun, or without the reading glasses they left at home, you’ll see why bigger fonts are a better choice for your website going forward.
While you’re upsizing your headers and key information, check the main text to see how it looks on your phone. If the font is hard to read on that small screen, change it to something else that works better.
4. Build a progressive web app
If you want to create the most mobile-friendly user experience possible without developing your own app, consider a progressive web app (PWA). In very simple terms, PWAs are web sites that behave like apps. PWAs load fast and work on and offline, scroll smoothly, support push notifications, and can be pinned to a home screen. So if you want your visitors to scroll your archives—or your catalog—even when they’re offline, a PWA may be the way to go.
Google has a trove of information on PWA development, and Magento is building up its Magento PWA Studio toolkit for its e-commerce users.Not ready to develop your own PAQ? You can install a PWA plugin for your WordPress site.
5. Consider a chatbot for always-on customer support
Customer-support chatbots are perhaps the trendiest use of AI, and publications like Forbes and Business Insider expect them to gain ground among online retailers in 2018. Why?
When used right, chatbots can save customers time, keep shoppers on your site, and save you money on live-person phone and chat support. Chatbots use keywords to answer questions, so they’re ideal for tackling inquiries that are already in your FAQ, like questions about your shipping and return policies. That can free up you or your customer service reps to handle other issues. Just remember that bots can’t take the place of live CSRs (at least, not yet), so your customers will need a quick way to reach a human if the bot can’t answer their questions.
There are chatbot plugins for WordPress, and there are several Magento extensions that allow shop owners to add a Facebook Messenger chatbot, too.
Website Success in 2018
By updating your website now, you’ll be in a better position to get found in search results, keep visitors on your site, win customers, and keep them coming back. That’s a pretty good way for your website to ring in the new year.
Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelancer who enjoys writing about business development and marketing, e-commerce payments and fraud prevention, and travel.