At Icreon, web development forms a cornerstone of our business technology practice. We use technologies like Java, PHP, .NET & Python to build scalable, enterprise-grade software that stands up to rigorous use across a variety of verticals.
Connecting disparate sources of information.
Organizing, collating & normalizing it for your databases.
Creating the application engine that transforms the data.
Deploying it on a scalable, secure, and reliable infrastructure.
Making it accessible across browsers, client apps and mobile devices.
Websites are often the lifeblood of an organization. Marketing a brand online, setting up an eCommerce operation, and publishing news via blogs are critical strategies for businesses today. The various functions and capabilities of a website are often tied to the perception of a brand.
Reaching the right customers through optimized website content, and immersing visitors with effective web design techniques allow for many businesses to differentiate themselves. But when a website lags behind in terms of trending technologies and approaches to web development, the increasingly tech-savvy consumer will negatively judge a brand by their website.
In the same way that retailers and restaurant chains strategically assess and carefully implement updates to physical locations, brands should hold their websites to the same scrutiny and attention to detail. If you're wondering whether or not your own website is meeting the expectations of today's digital consumer, the following list will help you assess a website and decide if it's time for a redesign or complete rebuild.
Mobile devices are the new standard when it comes to computing. We are officially in the Post-PC era when it comes to the device of choice for consumers. In fact, 25% of all website traffic in the world came from a smartphone or tablet (which means brands must optimize their websites for mobile users).
Not only do websites need to be optimized for mobile device screen sizes, but they must also attend to touchscreens and finger-tips rather than a mouse click. Buttons, content, and other user interface features must adapt to smartphones and tablets. If not, consumers will encounter a clunky mobile version of a site and cancel their purchase.
Responsive web design (RWD) is an approach to web design that adapts page elements for specific devices. Responsive web design can allow for one website that optimizes itself for tablets, smartphones, and PCs accordingly. Leading to open access for potential customers regardless of the device they use to surf the web.
Load times are more important than ever when it comes to reaching consumers online. Given that many consumers are spending hours a day with light-weight speedy mobile apps, that expectation regarding responsiveness and quality will carry over to websites whether brands like it or not.
To counteract this problem, brands must consult with expert web development teams to discover what aspects of a website are holding it back from optimal performance. Is it poor code? Are images and video files bulking down the site? There are countless factors that come into play. Brands should also reach out to their web hosting provider to assess bandwidth usage and potential solutions.
Studies have shown that visitors will judge a website within 6 seconds of seeing the homepage. This reality drives home the importance of compelling and immersive web design. Web design evolves at a tremendous rate, meaning that talented design companies who position themselves at the crest of innovation are necessary to stand out in today's increasingly digital landscape.
A recent Nielsen study found that the average American spends around 60 hours every week on a digital device. This adds up to a consumer base that is increasingly perceptive when it comes to critiquing digital experiences (specifically when it comes to the redesign of a website or mobile app). Mobile apps have also added to the pace of progress in web design.
Catering to touchscreens has resulted in the proliferation of flat design on many websites. Often times when the technical features of a competitor’s website are equal to your own, design elements can serve as a final factor in communicating the spirit of a brand.
Humans, for the most part, are visual learners. Many studies have shown that visual messaging can supplement written content and increase engagement with a page. Specifically for eCommerce website operations presenting products to consumers, images and high quality visuals are the gateway to finalizing transactions.
Web Portals are a scalable way to managing your customers and employees through automation. However, when done incorrectly, they often add more headache, more overhead, and more complexity to your existing CSR and operations team. Developing a web portal is a long and iterative process. To help you better understand where you should focus your web portal development efforst, we’ve put together a list of areas that will lead to successful portal:
Today, users and employees expect to be able to manage their accounts from anywhere on the planet. Laptops, desktops, smartphones, and tablets empower them to handle their own customer service issues, billing support, new feature updates & transaction history autonomously while at home, on the go, on their way to work, or while relaxing. Cross platform accessibility should be the main focus.
High web traffic & a large customer base should be no reason that a user doesn’t have a first class experience. Developing a solid, scalable architecture that keeps users constantly engaged and never waiting for your infrastructure to catch up is a function of careful capacity planning, test simulations & and a great degree of software engineering optimization.
Web Portals are only as effective as the ability to find the tasks that they’re capable of completing. Faceted search tools designed to help your users find the tools they need to complete customer service requests, billing completions & upgrades are reliable ways to ensure that your customers rely on you less and rely on the web portal more. Help users find the relevant information they need in order to do their jobs well.
It doesn’t matter if your web portal has 10,000 features if users don’t enjoy using the portal itself. A portal should think through your customer demographics, from age to gender to technical ability to ensure that the design takes into account the aesthetics of an entire experience, and that users are thoroughly delighted about being able to interact with you digitally.
Today’s web portals integrate with dozens of third party software systems, in-house applications & other partners. It’s imperative to create highly-extensible Service-Oriented platforms that allow your web portal to easily plug-in and export to other software in your technology ecosystem.
Providing an online web portal is not enough. It must be developed and managed well to be useful to your customer base and company. In order to motivate your users to use your online web portal, you need to create an environment that is going to make a difference in their success with your products or services, as well as measurably enhance the behind-the-scenes operations of your organization.
Here are three common aspects of effective web portals to consider when creating your own:
Exponentially expand your company’s ability to answer customer questions in your customer portal by allowing customers to ask questions of other customers.
Your organization will never have all of the answers in its web portal. However, you can provide an always-on safety net for your customers by opening up your customer portal into a full online community.
Including peer-to-peer community features also helps your business efficiently grow your support knowledgebase since all of the historical questions asked and answered are archived for future customers that need support.
The ability to ask and answer questions from other customers humanizes their consumer experience and allows them to feel like a contributing member of your community. By giving your customers the opportunity to forge connections with each other within the “walls” of your online portal, your company can also increase customer retention by help customers build valuable relationships within your ecosystem.
You have users using different modules within the portal. You also have users at different stages of their use of the system (think Junior Editor vs VP). Some are just starting out and others are seasoned experts. Since not all users are the same, not all users need the same information and resources.
Recognizing this distinction and segmenting your information to make it more relevant and accessible will help people find answers faster and make the value of your online portal more clear to your user base.
You might need to segment by geographic location, product line, or role in the company. For instance, a CIO may need access different information than an end user. Providing different levels of the platform to the relevant user-base will allow for much more seamless workflows.
To ensure your users use your online web portal, run as much of your company communication as possible through the portal. Companies with effective online portals make this web property the center of the customer communication strategy.
Balance the use of multi-channel communication (public blogs, email, public social networks, etc.) with your need to turn using your customer portal into a habit for your customers. People won’t use the portal to access information if they can get the information elsewhere. If fewer people use and add their answers to your knowledgebase, the value of the knowledgebase diminishes quickly.
Whether the information is product information or company updates, your portal is a great space to connect with your customers and share the latest news.
Having an effective web-based customer or client portal not only helps to decrease support costs, it gives your customers much-needed access to information and other customers.
Since self-service is a popular option in the “I can Google that” era, an online customer portal helps your company control (and have insight into) the flow of information and the access your customers have to solutions. But, it can’t be all about cutting costs. In order to motivate your customers to utilize your portal, you need to make it a worthwhile platform for both them and your organization.
Prevalence of social media and cloud technology combined with the proliferation of smart mobile devices have profoundly altered consumer expectations regarding web experiences.
Well beyond the point of trending buzzwords, mobile, cloud and social are becoming legitimate revenue drivers. Businesses across the globe are infusing digital marketing, enterprise applications and customer support strategies with these three technologies. To assist you in optimizing the incorporation of these trends, our web development team has assembled a breakdown of how social, mobile and cloud technology is changing web development.
Cloud computing has advanced into a powerful business tool for both global enterprises and small businesses alike. According to Gartner, cloud is changing the way web applications are designed, tested and deployed, resulting in a significant shift in application development priorities. It has and will continue to be an effective new technology for building applications that reach new markets as well as empower workers to streamline operations.
Cloud is being used for a multitude of web development efforts, and businesses are using the cloud to host web applications available for customers and employees. Data can be stored on the cloud using a web application, avoiding any unnecessary load on hardware. Employees can open a web application on any device (tablet, PC, or smartphone). There are also options to store information from reports and emails offline within a browser using HTML5.
A recent Forrester survey confirms that 55% of firms are considering private cloud as a top infrastructure priority and that 31% plan to adopt public cloud in the form of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) in the coming year.
Mobile usage has now surpassed desktop usage. The goal for many companies should be to design mobile websites that are uncomplicated, simple to use and easy to navigate. The User Experience (UX) goals are especially important when it comes to smartphone users accessing a site from anywhere and any context.
The more complex a mobile site, the more likely consumers will be to disregard it and move on to simpler more navigable sites. Remember that 88% of U.S. consumers use mobile as a second screen while shopping. It is essential that mobile websites aren’t overloaded with useless functionality. Ideally a brand’s mobile app will augment the in-store shopping experience or help immerse a physical shopper in the in-store experience.
The goal for many companies should be to design mobile sites that are simple to use and navigate on multiple platforms. For instance, with HTML5 developers can create HTML5 web applications that are accessible from a desktop, smartphone or tablet. This stands in contrast to developing native apps that only work on a single device (built on iOS, Android, or Windows 8).
A social strategy is essential for all organizations. With over a billion users, online social networks are the new go-to places for advice on what to buy, where to buy and even where to work. While most industries use social media for connecting with customers, many have now invested in using social media for sales and marketing.
The lure of ads, feeds and contests in social media channels are making Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn an ideal place for marketing. When it comes to Facebook and Twitter, B2C companies are ideal. While LinkedIn, being a professional social networking site, is ideal for B2B. These sites are a daily destination for millions of consumers who spend an average of 37 minutes per day on these channels.
This results in millions of eyeballs for every ad or sponsored update. Incorporating social media into a web strategy is crucial. Content Management Systems (CMS) are necessary for fluid updating and creation of content. With an easier way to publish intriguing content on a website, the more likely a brand is to drive referrals from social media by sharing that content.
By driving referrals from social networks with interesting content created by a CMS on a brands website, businesses can embrace social and drive lead generation, referral traffic, and revenue. Businesses in the future need to integrate their social media efforts with their web development strategies and commit the necessary time and resources needed for ROI.
When it comes to web development in 2016, the majority trends will be driven by opportunity in social, mobile, and cloud technologies. Integration and confluence of these technologies will form the bedrock of future solutions and approaches to websites and web applications. These supplementary web technologies will provide businesses with multiple options for connecting with target markets and engaging with customers online.
One of the most commonly-undertaken projects in enterprise technology is the website overhaul. Over a matter of just a few years, a business can quickly outgrow the scope of its current online experience, meaning that the website itself fails to get the job done.
But just as common as this change can be, it also comes with one major pitfall: Because website overhauls are typically driven by one or two desperately-needed upgrades, organizations get tunnel vision and fail to tackle the task as a multi-faceted project.
Some focus on the visual aspect and neglect to optimize paths to conversion. Others jettison Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in favor of UX details. To make sure you get the most out of overhauling your website, here are issues that businesses don’t pay enough attention to.
Regardless of what your technological needs are, the first thing to focus on—and a factor which many businesses overlook—is the expertise of your web development team.
Too often, decision makers have a list of features they want to implement, but fail to understand the talent it takes to deliver the functionality of those features. It’s important to understand the programming expertise that your web project will require, so you can deliver the website functionality you desire.
If your company relies on organic traffic as a major part of your marketing strategy, you should optimize your website to perform well in search engines.
Search engines, like users, need to easily navigate your website if they’re to gain an understanding of what the web pages are about. By properly structuring your navigation, internally linking to appropriate pages, and writing copy that makes sense for each page, search engines like Google can easily discover, index and suggest your pages to prospective customers.
If your company already performs well in search engines, changing URLs and the structure of your website could have a massive impact on your rankings. A strategic plan should be in place to ensure a migration to a new website doesn't negatively impact rankings.
If you lack the ability to track your visitors’ habits, you lose to ability to personalize their experiences. Your website analytics should be able to segment the different channels of traffic, track different actions such as whitepaper downloads and email sign ups, and whichever other statistics will provide you with the insight you need to personalize the user experience. This is especially crucial for websites focused on