Website design and development is a rapidly changing industry with new methods and ideas occurring every day. In 2007 it was enough to simply know how to code and some basic design to build a good, well-functioning website that did well in search engine rankings.
If you use those same methods today, however, your site will likely not rank in Google at all, and most websites would be completely unsuccessful.
The design and development of a website today is based on the same backbone as 10 years prior, however new vital skills have been developed, learned and incorporated into modern web design/development, below I will detail two of these which were normally overlooked (or had barely any need to exist) a decade ago.
1: Mobile Phone / Tablet Compatibility
Prior to 2007, mobile phones ran extremely basic websites based primarily on text and very small images, the GUI (Graphic User Interface) of these devices required little attention from web developers, who were able to simply put text-based versions of the website online for people using the top blackberries and Nokia phones of the day.
This was the order of the day, with around 95% of the world wide web firmly in the hands of PC and Laptop users, web designers and developers looked almost entirely towards that area of development, until one day a guy called Steve Jobs came around with a great idea that would change the foundations of the internet and web development forever, the first iPhone in 2007.
Those who were smart got in early, however many people still focused towards giving mobile users a separate folder to view a mobile variant of their website in, though in the background some very smart developers had already found a way to get around this, it’s called responsive website development, and meant that regardless of the device you are using, the website would literally shrink and adapt itself to the size of screen the viewer was using.
There was a bit of a battle between the developers as to which method was best, however, the deciding fight ended when Google announced that the method of creating a separate folder for mobile would no longer be favored, and instead responsive web development for mobile / tablets would be the new order.
Provisions, however, were kept for the ability to render the viewer either a mobile version or PC version of a website on the server side, provided that the URL remains the same on all platforms. This method really saved most websites, as developers could quickly adapt to this new mobile requirement quite easily without needing to build an entirely new responsive website. The method requires both versions to be ‘content-identical’ in terms of images, text, hyperlinks, and functionality of each page.
Today, however, Mobile and Tablet compatibility along with Responsive web design are a must for all new websites, and Google will significantly penalize a non-mobile compatible website in Google searches on mobile searches, therefore eliminating up-to 70% of your potential visitors and clients.
2: Search Engine Optimisation (Onsite + Offsite White Hat Methods)
When it comes to SEO, 10 years ago it was enough to add a lot of keywords on each web page to signal what the page was about, and therefore rank for those terms in search engines, that method, however, died out completely around 2009 and since then legitimate white hat methods have been recommended directly by Google on an ongoing basis.
Proper white-hat on-site SEO is critical and involves much more than just adding some stuff for SEO onto each page after a website is developed. The real benefit is in programming the website from day 1 so the code itself presents in it’s simplest form possible and contains the relevant information for Google and other search engines. This allows the search engines to quickly identify what your website is all about and begin to rank you for those topics.
Some initial off-site white hat SEO is also critical in establishing a new website’s presence online and assisting in proper rankings for the topics on your website, as is ongoing digital marketing using white-hat methods to retain page 1 rankings.
The next ‘iPhone’ moment for web design/web development?
As you can see from the above, these are two critical areas which have developed from low relevance to essential requirements in the last 10 years. Prior to this, very simple methods were able to obtain great results in search engines and satisfy users, as, before 2007, almost 100% of web users did so via a personal computer or laptop.
Today the split varies but hovers somewhere around the 55 / 45 mark (mobile/tablet). PC users, however, have dropped significantly and Laptop users are just keeping the non-mobile numbers going, Soon however due to changes in technology and advancement of responsive web design techniques.
There may be further complications already arising today that web designers and developers need to factor in quickly. It is already becoming common for high-end websites to cater for 4K monitors and TV’s, and a new area of web development for Virtual Reality headsets is also being tried and tested by some developers who see this as a potential future rival to flat screen viewing.
Where will web design/development be in 10 years time? That is the question all current developers should be asking themselves very quickly.
Article by Online Invent, a web design & development company from Melbourne, Australia.