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5 must have features when you refresh your website

By jwhang
Apr. 5, 2013

So your website is currently 5 years old and really hasn't ever been updated. It likely still has the standard layout of the time, left and right sidebars with a long scrolling content region in the middle, solid color background and text throughout. If your site feels dated and doesn't get much traffic anymore, maybe it's time to consider a refresh.

The great thing about being in the technology industry is that your source material is constantly evolving. New platforms are introduced all the time and older ones are getting improved on. If you are considering a site update then there are few standard changes that should be addressed regardless of the site functionality.

1. Responsive Theming – If you were to build a site from scratch then a main consideration for the design/theming budget would be to implement a responsive theme. This would ensure that your site would render and perform favorably when accessed through a smartphone, tablet, small netbook and everything in between. According to web-trends as of 2012, the percentage of web traffic coming from mobile is increasing at an exponential rate and in some countries, surpassed desktop web traffic. This figure doesn’t look to be slowing down either as we see more and more manufacturers churning out tablets and devices all of different sizes that access the web. Your site has to be dynamic enough to cater to this wide range of screen sizes and that is why a responsive design is crucial in order to engage every user and provide the best experience no matter the platform.

2. Social Media Integration – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+ have become part of everyday life and culture. It's how we stay connected with one another these days; an evolution from face to face visits and handshakes to a world of “like”-ing and “Retweeting”. Almost every modern website you come across these days has some form of social media integration that allows users to post the site to their profile or share something on the site with their social network. It's turned into the most powerful marketing method to reach potential customers and what drives traffic to the website. The best part about it is its free. Any new site should leverage the networks of their users to help spread the word and generate site hits. All of the big social networks provide developer api plugins that let webmasters communicate with the networks servers.

3. New Caching Methods - For Drupal specifically, there are caching engines (Memcache,Varnish) that are now supported which increase performance and allow websites to support heavier traffic. If you expect your site to be successful, then it has to be able to serve content to multiple users without down time or reduced speed. It is important that your refresh take advantage of new caching methodologies to lessen your server load on high traffic spike times.

4. SEO and Analytics - Your current site might already be employing SEO (search engine optimization) techniques but it never hurts to update in the interest of more hits. Meta-tagging content is an art and at best a moving target because it is really based on trends and what people are “searching” for on the web at the given time. The keyword might get you the result this week, but next week it could totally change. There are companies out there that provide SEO as a service and that is all they do, which speaks to the depth in complexity of how to drive traffic to your site via web searching. Analytics has also become so sophisticated that these engines can now tell you the physical location of users on your site, which pages and which order those pages were viewed in, and even which device was used to access the site. This type of information is important for companies to be able to target a specific market, or know which pages need to be updated to become more engaging to users.

5. Live Chat - Ok so out of all of the things on the list, this might be just a “nice to have”. This functionality is enabling real-time interaction between a visitor to a site and a site administrator. There are 3rd party providers that you would subscribe to (ie Olark) which provides the infrastructure to have live support on your site. It’s a new trend these days which provides instant feedback and responses to questions that any visitor might have.

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