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5 Ways To Speed Up Your Website

Written by Andrew Wassenaar on October 31st, 2016.      0 comments


You already know that having a beautiful looking website is important. You want to give potential customers a great first impression of your company right? Of course you do, but this should never come at the cost of having a slow website. With a slow website you run the risk of your user not even hanging around for the first page to load, let alone navigating through multiple pages to purchase something or make an enquiry. Research shows that page abandonment increases with every passing second. If your website takes more than 3 seconds to load, 40% of visitors will have already left (Kissmetrics).

Obviously the most important factor when it comes to website load times is the user’s internet connection. Unfortunately we can’t control this aspect, but there are a few things you can control on your website to make sure your website loads as fast as possible for everyone.
1. Responsive design
Designing a website for mobile first has multiple benefits, one of which is speed. We’ve talked before about the importance of having a website optimised for mobile. The simple fact of the matter is that the overwhelming majority of people are now using mobile devices to access the internet. This can cause issues with loading speeds, as WiFi internet is slower than a wired connection and 3g/4g data connections aren’t always the most stable. A website tailored for viewing on a desktop computer is only going to exacerbate speed issues. It’s for this reason that current website trends dictate a heavy focus on the mobile experience first and foremost.
2. Optimise images
One of the most common reasons for websites to load slowly is the size of images on the page. Of course, images are a very important component and shouldn’t just be removed. They help to tell a story and break up large blocks of text. They are also a fantastic tool to display your products and services. The trick is to use them effectively so they look tidy and professional while also loading quickly. The best way to do this is to make sure that all your images are well optimised. There a number of things you can do to achieve this: you can crop them, resize them, use thumbnails, etc. While it is important to make sure your images are of a decent quality, huge images are going to load slowly. Find an appropriate balance between file size and image resolution.
3. Reduce clicks
Each page on your website should have a specific goal that is able to be completed with as few clicks as possible. Don’t lead potential customers on a treasure hunt around your website to get what they want. Every time they click a link, more content is going to have to load, slowing the process down. There are exceptions of course, say if you want to link to an article on your blog with more information, or a high resolution image gallery. In general though, try to avoid this by keeping all the information on one page. If you are worried that there is too much information on the one page, break it up into easily understood sections with headlines to describe each. That way, those that need the information will be able to find it easily, but it won’t distract those who are just looking to complete a transaction as quickly as possible.
4. Limit objects on your page
All the various image and text components you have on  your page should be limited to absolutely what is necessary. For every object to download on your visitor's computer, a request has to be sent to the server, processed, and then sent back to the user. Too many objects on your page can increase the time it takes for the whole page to display. On the flip side, you don’t want just one big object with all your text and images in it either.That will force the visitor to stare at a blank screen while waiting for one large object to load. Those first crucial seconds of attention will have been wasted. That's why you still need to have separate blocks of information when you layout your page. That way the parts of your page which are smaller in size will load first (which is usually the text on your website) and your visitor will have something to be engaged with while waiting for the whole web page to load. Keep this in mind when deciding on content for your web page. 
5. Avoid auto-playing audio/video
I’m sure most of you are asking ‘Do you really have to keep saying this?’. The answer is yes. Zeald still get requests to add automatically playing music or video to websites, and we still have to explain why it just isn’t a good idea. Always give your website visitor the choice to load up a video or music file on your website. If your video loads automatically every time someone lands on your page, not only will it add to the load time of the page but it will also ruin the usability of your website. There is nothing more annoying than having to listen to the same music or video the 5th time I've landed on your page. Even YouTube gives users the choice to load up videos or music, even though the entire purpose of the site is to provide video entertainment.

Want to know how well your website is performing? Get a FREE website audit from the experts at Zeald.

6 Common Website Mistakes (and how to fix them)

Written by Andrew Wassenaar on October 18th, 2016.      0 comments

This blog was first posted in ‘The Meeting Room’, a blog dedicated to supporting small businesses.
Zeald contribute to The Meeting Room regularly as guest bloggers.
1. Having no website (or having an old one)

Almost 90% of Kiwis and Aussies use the internet daily, and over half of us research new products online before buying (Consumer Barometer with Google 2015). Yet, at Zeald, we know there are many businesses that still don’t have a website. 

Key to running a successful business is understanding your customer and what they want. A great way to start understanding your customer is to build and develop a website. Once people are visiting your site, you can gather information about them. You can see where they come from, what they do, and begin to understand why they leave. This information is critical to not only evolve your site but your business as a whole. 

Some organisations rely on word of mouth and/or print media to generate business. Others are at the other end of the spectrum, relying solely on a Facebook page or other social media. These approaches to marketing aren’t inherently wrong, but they could be more effective with a website as a central hub . 

For example, social media can be great for generating new leads and interacting with people, but it is constantly changing. As a user you have little or no control over design and what information you can or can’t display. When using social media for your business, make sure to direct people to your website, where you have the most control. 

Potentially worse than having no website at all, however, is having an out-dated one. Few things will turn people off a business faster than a website that looks like it was built in 1992 and hasn’t had an update since. You’re better off pulling that old site down until you get something up to date.
2. No responsive design

We no longer live in a world in which the desktop computer is the only portal to the internet. 

According to Consumer Barometer with Google, more than 75% of Kiwis and Aussies now use a smartphone, and over half use their smartphone at least as often as a computer. 

In the same study, Google found that on average each person uses three different devices to browse the internet; usually computer, a smartphone and a tablet - each with their own screen size and resolution. It’s important, then, that your website displays properly on each of these. That’s where responsive design comes in. 

Responsive design is a way of coding a website so it automatically changes the way it is displayed depending on what device is accessing it. Historically, websites were designed for viewing on a desktop computer and therefore looked distorted on other devices. A few years ago, the way around this was to create an entirely separate website specifically for mobile users. Now, through the use of complex code, a single website can adapt to any display. It’s a ‘one size fits all’ approach to website design, and is a necessity in this day and age. Google even ranks mobile-friendly websites higher in mobile search results.

If your business is still using a website designed solely for desktop computers, then that needs to change. Think about how you browse the internet. Are you going to try to navigate a website on your mobile device if it isn’t loading properly?

3. Ignoring metrics

Many small businesses we work with think that once their new website goes live that’s it. This couldn’t be further from the truth. To run a successful website, you need to be regularly monitoring the metrics, and making changes accordingly. If you don’t have access to your website metrics, don’t know how to find them, or have just ignored them, then this needs to be addressed.

Metrics are crucial to improving the performance of your website, as they can pinpoint exactly what website elements need attention.

Below are the top five metrics you should be looking at:
Traffic sources
Knowing where your traffic comes from is a sure-fire way to focus your advertising efforts accurately. If 90% of your visitors come from Google searches, then you probably want to step up your AdWords game to make sure you’re reaching as many people as possible. 

Bounce rate
Bounce rate, also known as abandonment rate, shows the number of visitors who leave (or ‘bounce’ away from) your website/webpage after only viewing one page. This is usually displayed in percentage form, as in, the percentage of visitors who ‘bounced’ off your website. The average bounce rate is about 41%-55% (statistic from Rocketfuel). There are exceptions, but generally speaking, anything less than that and you're doing quite well. Anything higher, you may need to look at what could be improved.
Exit pages
Similar to bounce rate, exit pages will show you where exactly the customer journey ends for your visitors. While bounce rate will only measure abandonment of a single page, exit pages will show you where a potential customer left your website, after clicking through a few pages.

Page views
This is the number of pages that a visitor clicks on during their time on your website. You can also track how long, on average, a visitor spends on specific pages. With this information you can build a better idea of the customer journey through your website and find areas to improve.
Visits/Unique visitors
This is the statistic every new website admin wants to know. How many people are actually visiting my website? How many for the first time? Both statistics are readily available through analytics.

4. No call to action
A call to action (CTA) is a phrase that is intended to motivate the reader to take action. On a webpage, a call to action would be something like ‘sign up’, ‘buy now’ or ‘click here’. Without a clear, compelling CTA, visitors to your website may not know what they can do there nor what your business can do for them.
5. Trying too hard
Let’s start off by saying, if your site automatically plays music...STOP IT RIGHT NOW. Nobody wants random music starting in their browser, especially when it plays again from the beginning if they click on anything. 

People generally start putting music on their website for one reason: they realised it was possible. The same thing happened when auto-playing video came around (please stop this too). The lesson here is that you don’t have to add something to your website just because you can. 

Adding all the latest features to your website just causes clutter and subsequently slows it down. This applies to images as well. The highest quality image isn’t always necessary, and can often be contributing to excessive load times. A successful website will load quickly and give visitors what they need: a solution to their problem. Keep it simple.
6. Using social media unnecessarily 
As mentioned above, social media is very useful for  connecting with your audience on a personal level. And just as it’s important to link to your website from these accounts, it’s also helpful to link to them from your website. Among other things, it extends the reach of your website.

But remember that you don’t have to cover all the platforms. As with mistake #5, just because all these different social media platforms exist, doesn’t mean you need accounts on all of them. Different platforms work for different businesses. By all means try them all out, but be sure to remove the account and any associated links if they don’t take off. Find out what works best for your business.

If you think that your website may be guilty of any of these digital deadly sins, but aren’t sure how to change your ways, the Google Certified experts at Zeald are always happy to sit down and talk it through.

How Zeald Works

Written by Andrew Wassenaar on October 3rd, 2016.      0 comments

Agile vs Waterfall
In any project, no matter the industry, there are a series of steps that have to be taken before arriving at a final outcome. These steps will all follow a certain methodology, whether that’s intentional or not. In the software industry, the most common two methodologies are agile and waterfall.
What is waterfall methodology?
Waterfall methodology is the traditional approach to software development and put simply, looks like this:

As you can see, waterfall methodology follows a linear path from concept to product. Everything is planned out at the start, giving a clear schedule for the design and build phases. Upon completion, testing is done of the final product as a whole. 
  • A good record of events is kept. Every time a major task is finished, it can be approved and noted down as ‘complete’.
  • Client expectations are usually fulfilled. The plan is presented to the client beforehand, so everyone knows exactly what is going to happen.
  • In case of employee turnover, there is minimal project impact. The linear methodology means new staff can pick up where old staff left off. Good recording of the project supports this also.
  • Poor overall quality. As the deadline looms, tasks left for later become rushed and quality suffers as a result. This also leaves less time for testing, meaning overall quality is compromised.
  • Poor visibility. Tasks may take longer than expected, but you won’t know until you get to them. Clients may not be able to see a product until it is finished.
  • Can’t handle change. Once one task is complete, staff will move on to the next piece. Changing a previous part of the project will result in major delays, as it will affect each subsequent piece.
  • Waterfall methodology is risky. Testing after the project is completed is asking for trouble. If a bug is found in a task that was completed early, it could have ramifications for each piece of the project down the line.
Appropriate for:
  • When both parties are in agreement and have a clear picture of what the final product should look like.
  • When clients are unable to make changes to the project as it is developed.
  • When clearly defined processes and products are the final goal, rather than getting the project finished quickly.
What is agile methodology?
Agile methodology is the modern approach to software development and put simply, looks like this:

With agile methodology, we divide the project into smaller chunks and test at the end of each  phase. There can be multiple phases in progress at the same time.
  • Overall quality is improved. Each task is tested whenever possible. This ensures everything works correctly.
  • Visibility is improved. Clients can see the product evolve as a whole, as each task develops.
  • Easier to adapt to change. Due to increased visibility, everyone involved can see potential mistakes, and request changes while the task is being worked on.
  • Easy to add features. If a new product is requested, work can begin on it straight away in conjunction with other aspects of the project. 
  • Fewer bugs. Constant testing means bugs are fixed as you go.
  • Usually runs to schedule. Because the products are tested so thoroughly with agile, the product could be launched at the end of any cycle. As a result, it’s more likely to reach its launch date.
  • Needs reliable staff. With a bad project manager, the project can become delayed or run over budget.
  • Final product may differ from original plan. Due to the agile methodology, the finished product may look different to the original plan. The upside is that this is usually made clear during development.
Appropriate for:
  • When speed of delivery is a priority.
  • When clients are able to make changes on the fly.
  • When you have many skilled staff that can all work independently and adapt to new situations.
  • When the industry is prone to rapid change.
Why does Zeald use agile ?
Zeald uses agile methodology as it has become standard for the industry. We believe the benefits outlined above are extremely valuable and outweigh the benefits of waterfall methodology. Building a website is not like building a house, you don’t have to wait for the foundations to be built before tackling the interior. An agile approach means we can start working on all digital aspects of your business at the same time. Our digital marketing experts can begin keyword research for search engine optimisation at the same time as our developers put together your online store and our designers create the website layout. 

Agile methodology helps us to give you greater clarity on the project as it develops. This means greater flexibility and maneuverability around a project that is constantly evolving, like a website for your business. If you think your online efforts could be assisted by Zeald's agile approach, please request a free website audit.

About Zeald

Zeald was formed in 2001 by three young guys from the small New Zealand town of Mangawhai Heads. Now, Zeald is the largest SME website design and digital transformation agency in New Zealand and has clients throughout both New Zealand and Australia. This is the Zeald story …

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