Web Design Trends that Oneonta Businesses Should Adopt ASAP
We’ve built thousands of websites over the last three decades, helping businesses throughout upstate New York and beyond improve their web presence and look like rockstars in front of their online audience. We’ve been seeing some trends that we think businesses around town would truly benefit from, and some minor grievances that occasionally crop up on local websites that we think should be addressed.
We’re not going to put anybody on blast for this, after all, it’s tough running a business while trying to maintain an active, up-to-date website. A lot more work goes into managing a website than most business owners realize; from keeping it secure to keeping the content updated.
If you are struggling with any of that, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for a free consultation—we’re eager to help local businesses.
Responsive, Mobile-Friendly Websites
This is incredibly important. Around 2011 and 2012, a new design trend was becoming the standard for websites called Responsive Design. The idea came from the fact that more and more people were using different types of devices to browse the Internet, from smartphones to tablets, little tiny laptops and giant wide-screen monitors on desktops.
Responsive design utilizes special coding techniques that allow the website to elegantly expand and collapse based on the size of the screen that views it. That means when you look at a website on a mobile device, it’s easy to read and navigate without pinching, zooming, and squinting, but the desktop experience is still comfortable too.
Unfortunately, the process to take an old, non-responsive site and make it mobile-friendly requires a redesign, but if your website design is that old, it’s worth an overhaul to help your site meet modern-day standards and best practices.
Websites that aren’t responsive will struggle to rank on the search engines, as Google prioritizes mobile-friendly websites first,and it’s estimated that 90% of all websites are now responsive.
Most business owners should be familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This act prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. It’s why public buildings have wheelchair ramps, and elevators have braille. This is important because, as a business, you want to provide a comfortable experience for your customers and clients.
The Department of Justice feels this way too, and last year they updated their information on ADA for websites. Their guidelines are still fairly vague, which makes it a little awkward and confusing to enforce, but there are long-standing accessibility standards already in place that we feel that most businesses should try to follow.
Most of them are pretty self-explanatory—don’t have flashing images or text on your website that could cause seizures in some viewers, make sure your text color is high contrast compared to the background that it’s on, and avoid making your website hard to navigate. These are things that any visitor can appreciate, even if they don’t suffer from visual impairments or other disabilities.
ADA can even cover things like making sure the text on your website is easy to understand, be clear in your messaging, and avoid jargon that a customer might not understand.
That being said, ADA is about 80 percent in the design of the site itself, and how the site is coded. It’s usually a good idea to consider ADA compliance when building and designing a new site, as it’s easier to do it then, as compared to going back and fixing problems with bandages.
Restaurant Menus Need Some Love
Let’s take a moment and get a little more specific. We’re not calling any particular business out here, but we see this pretty often with local restaurants and feel it’s worth bringing up.
Put your menu on your website.
Yes, there are lots of other places you can put your menu, including Facebook, Instagram, Google Business, Everything Oneonta, Menu Guide, etc. Go ahead and put your menus there too if you want, but all roads should lead back to your website. Remember, if your menu changes, you need to update it across all the locations you put it, or else your customers won’t know.
Here’s why your menu should be on your website—not as a PDF or a scanned image, but as text:
- It will look good on any device and be easy to read.
- It will be indexable by Google so travelers and tourists can find you for the food you serve.
- You can use QR codes in your restaurant to guide patrons to your menu to save money on paper menus.
We can’t stress this enough—you don’t want your menu to be a PDF or an image. That might save you 20 minutes of time uploading it to your website, but it makes it frustratingly difficult for non-technical users to figure out. This makes it harder for your staff because they will need to provide technical support just to help people get through the drinks menu.
If your website isn’t easy to update and add content to, you should definitely talk to us. We specifically build websites that our clients can edit themselves without additional tools or the need to understand how to code.
Be Clear About What You Do
All businesses would benefit from an outside perspective on their website presence, especially the content on the site. The job you perform every day might seem simple to you, but it’s a foreign world to new customers. Take the time to explain the benefits of using your service, and not the vague ones that every single business can use, like “fair pricing” or “satisfaction guaranteed” and “friendly support.” Those are all important concepts, but it doesn’t tell your customer about why they should pick you.
For instance, if you offer insurance, offer a little on-page education by explaining the different types of insurance you offer, how onboarding works, explain some of the jargon, and tell your potential clients some things they should be thinking about before they sign contracts.
If you offer landscaping services, help set an expectation for your clients on how often they should expect to need your services, how to maintain your work after they’ve signed off on it, or preemptively give them questions and answers that might make the sales process go smoother.
These can apply to virtually any type of business, and it makes a big deal, especially in a competitive environment.
Show Off Your Work
Testimonials, case studies, and examples of your work are huge. How you do this, and what you show off, is up to you, but you should definitely have some proof of the quality of work that you do, or some client reviews on your website.
You should also funnel clients and customers to leave reviews on Google and Facebook. The more positive reviews you collect across the board, the better.
Social Media is Where It’s At, But Don’t Let Your Website Fall to the Wayside
This is especially important for business to consumer organizations. It’s easy to fall back on Facebook these days as your primary way to communicate with customers. That’s where the majority of your customers spend their time online, and it’s a great way to continuously remind your audience about your business.
Social media is an incredible tool, but at the end of the day, it’s not your platform. You don’t really control it. Things can change quickly and suddenly leave you in a difficult position if you aren’t prepared for it.
For example, plenty of businesses have relied on Twitter over the years. While Twitter never really became the dominant platform in our area, there are a lot of places in the world where it was. Over the last year, radical changes at Twitter, AKA X, (including a name change and fluctuating pricing models) have made it an entirely different platform for a lot of people and businesses. Businesses that primarily used Twitter might find themselves struggling to get the same outcome on X. Facebook makes changes all the time, and while it’s been pretty stable over the years, keep in mind that you are playing in someone else’s playground and they call all the shots.
We’re big fans of using social media to market and grow and communicate, we think nearly all organizations can viably use these platforms, but if you don’t have a website to back it up, to funnel traffic, to rank on the search engines, then you are relying on a shared space that could make a minor, seemingly inconsequential adjustment to their services that drastically affects your bottom line.
eCommerce Can Be a Game Changer, But It Takes Effort
As a veteran web designer, one of the more common nonchalant additions I hear about a website project is “Oh, and I just want to sell a few products from the site.”
Websites can often be great salespeople, if you are willing to put in the effort.
In 2023, it’s actually easier than ever to set up ecommerce systems to list products and have people securely pay for them, but it does take some consideration and has some costs associated with it.
First of all, selling products, making transactions, and taking credit card payments is not something that the average website is designed to do. Once it involves payment information, your website needs to follow a bunch of strict compliance standards that take time, expertise, and money to set up. The good news? There are plenty of third-party solutions out there that take the pain out of this, and usually it’s just a matter of understanding exactly what your long-term goals are, and figuring out the best solution to fit your needs.
For example, if you want to sell a bunch of products, and sometimes have options for those products like size, color, or other parameters, we usually recommend a solution like Shopify. There are monthly fees for Shopify, and they take a small cut of each transaction (similar to PayPal and most other credit card processors), but if you want something simple to start, it’s usually a good way to go, and we can embed it into your website. If you want something more custom, then we might recommend a component built directly into your website that ties in with your payment processor or uses PayPal.
If you just want a single one-off form that takes payment information, we’ll suggest other solutions.
For local businesses, it’s really all about finding a balance between cost and complexity, while making it easy for the user, all while ensuring that all of the sensitive information you collect is secure. None of this stuff can be an afterthought.
If you are looking to sell products and services on your website, let’s sit down and discuss your goals and come up with a solution that works for you and your customers.
Work Together With Your Neighbors!
One of the best things about our community is the small town synergy that so many local businesses take part in. Networking with other local businesses can do a lot to bolster business, spread awareness on local issues, and allow two organizations to cross-pollinate between customers.
For example, we held an event with the local Otsego County Chamber that’s sponsored by Sidney Federal Credit Union, to help educate business owners and their employees on how to protect yourself from cyberattacks and build a compliance strategy that abides by state and federal regulations. A lot of the material and the presentation is something we ran through pretty often with clients and prospects, but thanks to the Chamber and SFCU, we’re able to bring this education to a larger audience in the community.
Think of ways your business could synergize with other local organizations—from sponsoring events to offering promotions together, to simply interacting with each other in the public eye on social media.
So what’s all this have to do with your website and web presence?
When two entities talk about each other online on social media and on their websites, it can help drive traffic between these two entities. That’s why your vendors often have a stipulation that they want their logo and a link back on your website. These links are valuable as they build reputation with Google. A site that is highly favored by Google can pass down a lot of that “favor” by linking to another website.
Showcasing the partnerships and relationships your business has with the local community can help establish a strong foothold, and encourage your neighbors to reciprocate.
Need Help With Your Website?
We’re Oneonta’s leading web design firm. We provide web design services, website development, content writing, marketing, and virtually anything else website-related for local organizations. To get started, set up a free consultation or give us a call at 607.433.2200 and be sure to mention this blog post!