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Future-Proof: Building a Website That Lasts

By Samuel Bell

A website redesign is no small investment, and the last thing you want is to end up with a site that feels dated a short time after launch.

 

Clients often ask us how they can build a website that will feel fresh and relevant for years to come. From the technical side, there are a number of things we recommend to create a site with staying power.

Consider using HTTPS from the start.

The web is moving towards HTTPS and it’s important to get out in front of this movement. Plus, Google is now penalizing sites that don’t use HTTPS by giving them a slight rankings penalty. We encourage clients to either use HTPS from the start or to consider making the switch if they’re still using HTTP.

Use responsive design techniques.

Since Google also penalizes websites that don’t provide a good mobile experience, responsive design is more important than ever. In many cases, CSS flex can be used to make your website respond beautifully at any screen size.

Make website loading speed a top priority.

Website page speed is often an afterthought, but what people fail to realize is that no one will wait 10 seconds for a site to load, regardless of how beautiful it is. This is even more important as more and more users go mobile, since these devices have a lot less content-loading horsepower than desktops and often rely on a mobile connection versus high-speed broadband. A slow site makes for a poor user experience, and since Google is now penalizing slow-loading websites, it could also affect your search rankings.

Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test and Pingdom are two great (and free) tools for testing your website speed. 

Limit HTTP requests.

When a visitor navigates to your website, their device has to download every file that makes up your site, and each file that is downloaded requires the user’s device to make a separate HTTP request. These requests directly affect your website’s speed and loading, so it’s a great practice to try and limit the number of HTTP requests your site makes. Most of the loading time for a website is actually the end user’s device waiting for HTTP requests to complete.

Best practices for limited HTTP requests:

  • Use new HTTP/2 protocol
  • Combine external CSS and JavaScript files (this can be automated as part of your deploy process with tools like Gulp and Grunt)
  • Optimize your images before uploading them with tools like Tiny PNG

Set up proper caching of your site’s resources.

A common mistake many webmasters make is not setting up aggressive enough caching. This is a problem for two reasons: It adds unneeded HTTP requests, and it also forces the end user’s device to load resources multiple times, wasting bandwidth and slowing down their experience. This is a good resource for ensuring proper caching on your site.

Don’t let your site stagnate.

It’s extremely important to keep your website up to date, especially if you’re using a content management system like WordPress or Drupal. Keeping up with the latest version of your CMS will help keep you safe from security issues, and will ensure that you have the most recent functionality and bug fixes. 

Build your site to function with PHP 7.

PHP 7 is at least twice as fast as PHP 5.6, and will hopefully start to pick up widespread adoption over the next few years. Design your site with coding practices that are supported in PHP 7, and also choose a website host that will offer you the ability to upgrade your PHP version once you are ready to make the switch.

 

A beautiful, user-friendly site is a great investment, but without staying power, that investment can quickly lose value. For more information on building a website that lasts, subscribe to TOKY’s Branding Newsletter.