4 Website Resolutions to Make in 2021

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We’ve entered into a new year and January is a great time for setting new resolutions! As we think about our businesses and what our business goals are we should also be thinking about our websites and making sure that we are updating them to the most current standards.

If you haven’t audited your website recently you should think about doing so soon. Here are some website “musts” to incorporate into your site.

Accessibility

According to Interactive Accessibly, 57 million Americans have a disability. This means we should be optimizing our sites to help accommodate those with impairments. A survey was taken by Interactive Accessibly showed

  • 19.9 million (8.2%) have difficulty lifting or grasping. This could impact a person’s ability to use a mouse or keyboard.
  • 15.2 million (6.3%) have a cognitive, mental or emotional impairment.
  • 8.1 million (3.3%) have a vision impairment. A person might rely on a screen magnifier or a screen reader or they might have a form of color blindness.
  • 7.6 million (3.1%) have a hearing impairment. They might rely on transcripts and/or captions for audio and video media.

Here are a few quick questions to ask if you’re wondering whether your accessibility is up to snuff:

  • Is your site’s tabbed navigation and skip links enabled?
  • Are your form elements labeled properly and form errors clearly identified?
  • Do your images have alt tags?
  • How descriptive is the anchor text used in links throughout your site?
  • What is your color contrast ratio?
  • Is the font size at least 16px?
  • Have you enabled closed captions or transcripts for all videos on your site?

For additional details on how to improve this aspect of your website, see our previous post on website accessibility and WCAG compliance where we share 11 actionable tips to make your site better for all users.

Mobility

Mobile traffic accounts for slightly more than half of all website traffic, so make sure that your site is mobile friendly is important! There are a few ways to do this but we typically recommend developing a site with a responsive layout. This simply means that your site responds to the size of your screen by adjusting image sizes, content areas and even possibly reordering content on the page or hiding certain content for users on mobile devices. You can run a Mobile-Friendy Test to determine if a site is responsive. You can also just grab the corner of your browser and drag it into a smaller/larger state to see if the content reflows based on the browser width. However, the very best way to ensure your site is readable and functional across devices and browsers is through cross-browser testing.  Cross-browser testing allows you to view how a site looks and functions across a variety of common browser and operating system combinations. A site that works perfectly in Chrome on your laptop might be a nightmare to navigate via Safari on your iPhone.

Since there are so many devices and browsers out there, you should prioritize cross-browser testing and optimization based on the most common and updated devices, as well as the most common combos your existing site visitors are using. You can find this data in Google Analytics under Audience > Technology > Browser & OS. Once you know how people are accessing your site, you can optimize your content to meet your audience’s needs.

Performance

If you haven’t heard, Google introduced a new set of metrics in May 2020 that helps site owners better understand and improve user experience (UX). These metrics, called the Core Web Vitals, will play a significant role in the new ranking factors Google is experimenting with in advance of a major algorithm update planned for May of this year. This update will focus on aspects related to UX and performance, like loading, interactivity and visual stability.

You can test your site’s current performance at PageSpeed Insights. Depending on the nature of the website, we generally recommend aiming for a performance score of 75% or higher.

Security

One of the easiest ways for a hacker to breach your site is by taking advantage of vulnerabilities in outdated code. Running old versions of WordPress, including outdated themes and plugins can be a serious security risk. You can use a free tool like Sucuri SiteCheck to quickly scan your site and identify any possible security issues. If you need to install updates on your site, we strongly recommend that you first make a backup of your site, then install updates one at a time in a staging or test environment to ensure the update is compatible with other site software and features. If the code you’re updating is quite a few versions behind, the update is all but guaranteed to break something on your site! (Good thing you made that backup, right?)

We also recommend taking time to evaluate all of the plugins, scripts and other apps installed on the site (whether they’re active or not) and determine whether they’re necessary. If your theme or plugins are no longer being maintained or haven’t been tested with the last three major WordPress updates, it’s time to let them go or find replacements.

Another security check we recommend is to make sure your host is running the latest version of PHP on your server. PHP is an open-source programming language widely used in web development. Most reputable themes and plugins are currently running on PHP 7.4.14 or higher. If your host server is still running on PHP version 7.3 or older, ask your hosting provider to update.

Last (but not least!), if you don’t have a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate installed, GET ONE! An SSL certificate adds the “S” in the HTTPS protocol, which ensures data is encrypted and can be securely transferred between the user and the host.  An SSL is inexpensive (or free!) to acquire and easy to install so there is no excuse not to have one!

Accessibility, mobility, performance and security are all important factors in monitoring site health but aren’t an exhaustive list of the things you should consider when auditing a website.  If you’re not meeting these aspects then an updated website should definitely be a resolution you set for 2021!

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