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Invisible, but effective: Eight unexpected upgrades for your website

Getting to know “everything” there is to know about websites is an endless journey, as parameters are constantly evolving. But regardless of your role, there are things that should stay top-of-mind. Some less visible, but crucial elements can make all the difference for the overall functionality of a website. These are some often overlooked features that you should consider:

Image: Tranmautritam

1. Hidden SEO features

Robots.txt and sitemaps tell the crawlers of search engines how your website is structured, which parts are updated often and which parts they should ignore.

Structured Data for SEO and semantics help to clarify the contents of your page to the crawlers. This can result in increased attention in the search results in the form of rich snippets and “position zero”.

(Permanent) redirects: Moved some webpages to another location in a big restructuring move? Be careful with that, and at least make sure to use permanent redirects (301) – to make sure the visitors and crawlers get on your new pages. Only use temporary redirects (302) for … you guessed it: temporary cases.

2. Accessibility

Your website and apps are being used by many different people in many different situations. Account for alternative user input, colorblindness etc.

3. Browser icons and favicons

Most professional websites define an icon for the browser tab. These days, many browsers configure your website icon differently. Using the correct icons and properties for all devices can consolidate your branding. As an example, you can choose the color of the address bar in Android Chrome or of the Mac Safari icon.

4. Javascript fallback solution

A decent fallback is not only interesting for users who have javascript disabled, but also as a safety measure in case your javascripts breaks. I’ve often been glad that my critical navigation elements were merely enhanced with javascript rather than solely depending on it – which means that the visitor could still use the majority of the website, even without javascript or in case it fails.

5. Analytics

Defining what you want to track and how this should happen has to be taken into account from the beginning of a project and not as an afterthought, as it often happens. And of course, it must be monitored regularly afterwards, to keep your website quality high. Think for instance of investigating your visits on the 404-page, which gives you a warning of obsolete links.

6. Styleguide

Web applications tend to grow and evolve over time. Having a styleguide for your project is the best way to explain all design elements and components to stakeholders and to make sure there’s a clear vision behind the evolution. Make sure you have the styleguide available digitally, with every team member aligned, and every occurrence of its elements and components covered. There’s a variety of tools that help setting up digital styleguides. Picking the right approach all comes down to your specific governance and team.

7. Error logs and monitoring

When experiencing technical problems, the log files can contain valuable information about the root cause of the error. For the maintenance team, having immediate access to these files, will shorten the time to find and fix errors.

Having an enterprise website with lots of integrations, monitoring is definitely not a waste of budget. Well configured monitoring can give you an early warning about imminent failures and decrease the response time of the maintenance team.

8. Performance Optimization

The time to load your page affects the success of your website. There are huge differences in devices and network quality which can render slow websites utterly useless. When it comes to performance, there are 2 key players:

The IT-team often uses compression on their code to make the files smaller. When combined with pack and unpack tools like Gzip, the webpages and their files remain as small as they can get. Images are a special case: Often uploaded by users or content editors, they deserve special attention, to minimize them automatically or manually.

Caching on the server will prevent that the same action has to be done repeatedly. For large websites, this is an absolute must. It prevents that each page has to download unchanged pieces each time it’s being addressed.

Bottom line

Above tips will already help you on your way – and when it’s time to go in further, remember: There’s no shame in not being a jack of all trades. On the contrary: Choosing the right partner can make all the difference. Whether you need a sustainable digital strategy, an infrastructure that fits, or whether you need to boost your digital performance … we’re here for you!