Very often, we don't notice the changes that happen progressively throughout the course of our lives......because they're not instant, they're gradual. The same applies to our websites.
We've just replaced the WebSpain site, and despite it being less than two years old, it was starting to date considerably compared to others in our field. That prompted me to visit the Wayback Machine which periodically takes snapshots of sites over the years.......to see just how sad some of the earlier versions of WebSpain actually were compared to today.
What I found made for scary viewing......as an example, this monstrosity is from 2010!
I cringe looking at it. It's a bit like bringing out your old photos from the 70's when you had big hair and even bigger flares! It feels like I've put a photo of my dirty underpants online.
But the reality is that the type of presentation you see there was par for the course in 2010. That was all we had to work with back then because the technology that is available today didn't exist. Mobile websites? No such thing!
We normally replace our site every 18 months so there's been about 4 or 5 updates since then.......but comparing the 2010 presentation to today is a real eye opener! Things have changed a lot in 8 years.
I want to emphasise that it's not a case of we've got better at what we do.....it's a case of the technology and applications available to us to work with are now on a totally different level to back then. And like real life, it didn't happen overnight......it was a progression over those years, but at a much faster rate. The mobile era was the game changer, but even that technology at this present time is much more advanced than it was 5 years ago.
Now ask yourself this question if you are a client from recent years:
Would you have even contacted us to find out more information if our website still looked like that?
Highly unlikely......because we would have looked like amateurs or a defunct business. It's the kiss of death at point of discovery!
The fact is, if you can't immediately present yourself as a professional then you will not be taken seriously. Besides looking unprofessional, old sites will also be riddled with security issues and running on slow, outdated, and vulnerable PHP versions on servers.
PHP have announced that later this year, versions 5.6 and 7.0 on the server will be discontinued and unsupported. So if you're still running an older site then this could present problems.
The red dot denotes expiry of those versions......contact us if you want to know whether you're affected! This new WebSpain site runs on PHP 7.2, which as you can see is supported till the end of 2020.
So to summarise, running outdated and obsolete sites can not only adversely affect your business in terms of client pereception, it also puts you and your users at risk of hacking and phishing attacks. Stay current!
Make sure you present yourself as a live, thriving business.....not as somebody who's trapped in time! And definitely don't wait until you plummet to the depths of obsolescence and embarrassment of the WebSpain 2010 site. Because everyone will be laughing at your site in the same way as most of you are now laughing at my old one!
We've always tried to stay ahead of the game on all the potential changes and advancements within the web industry. Our goal is to inform our clients of anything that they need to know, in order to ensure that they are secure, and in a better position than their competitors. The protection of clients' interests is always at the core of what we do.
But that can only happen if these news articles are actually read, and appropriate action is taken. They are of benefit to everybody.....and after all, do you really want competing businesses leaving you behind?
Are they worth reading? Well let's look at a few things that actually came to pass!
Mobile Compatible Websites: If you go back to 2012 we were the first Brit web designers in Spain to have a mobile compatible site, and the first to provide mobile compatible sites to our clients as standard at no extra charge. Now everybody does.
We said at that time that mobile compatibility would eventually be Google's priority! And sure enough in April 2015 Mobilegeddon occurred.....where any non-mobile sites were dropped in the listings. We then speculated that Google were likely to adopt a policy of Mobile First where they would be looking for a mobile site first and foremost. And sure enough, that happened in January 2017.
HTTPS/SSL Websites: In August 2014 we published the article SSL for SEO where we discussed Google's new emphasis on HTTPS/SSL encryption on all sites to protect visitors from identity theft and phishing attacks! And that Google were likely to prioritise these sites in listings due to them providing a safe and secure environment for users.
At that time around 15% of sites in the top ten had this in place. By this time last year the figure had risen to 30%. Currently, latest studies from MOZ show that this has now passed 50%. Projections are that this is going to continue to rise to around 65% by the end of this year. Does your site have the green padlock in the address bar to reassure users and Google that you are actually a professional?
Security: Over the years we've continually emphasised that security is the most important aspect of what we do. We will not run obsolete software on the servers, and we will not permit outdated website applications, or sites from other designers, to be put on our servers. We've strongly recommended that every client's site is always up to date and that they put a commercial security firewall in place....because I can guarantee that every day somebody is trying to break into it.
And now Google has come out and said exactly the same thing: "It’s best to take a preventative approach and secure your site rather than dealing with the aftermath". Do you have a security firewall on your site?
SEO: Look back on here over many years and you'll find numerous articles telling people the REAL truth! We've always built websites properly following all Google recommendations and guidelines......and emphasised to clients that they must generate quality content to get good results.
Unfortunately, others just spewed out a torrent of disinformation to assist their "hard sell" business plans......and many people got their sites blacklisted by Google as a result of these "initiatives". Not to mention how much they paid for these services in the first place.
I'm sure people actually thought I knew nothing about the subject (despite the fact that this site has dominated Google for 10 years).......but then Google came to my rescue! Because they finally published their Search Quality Guidelines which validated EVERYTHING that I'd been saying for years. So when somebody tries to sell you an SEO Magic Bullet.......just refer to that article. Because it blows that myth out of the water.
So that makes FOUR major web developments affecting you and your business within the last five years where we were ahead of the game. And we kept you ahead of the game too! Get informed! Don't let your competitors get ahead of you in areas like this.......because if they're better informed than you, then they're more likely to do better business than you. There is no substitute for Knowledge! It's not about Web Design.......it's all about Business!
2017 is approaching, so what does the future hold for your business online? Nobody can accurately predict everything, but a clear pattern is forming!
1. Mobile Websites: It's no secret that mobile computing has now taken over! If you haven't got a mobile compatible site by now you may as well pack up and go home. Simply because there's a world of business opportunities out there......and you won't be seeing any of it! You are outside looking in!
Walk down the street, go into any bar.....and what do you see? People on smartphones! And they won't be looking at sites that are not mobile compatible. In fact, they may not even be given a choice if they want to see a desktop based site, as Google will be basing rankings on the mobile version as per their recent Mobile First announcement. No mobile version? No ranking!
2. Desktop Websites: These will now have less importance, so do not design a site based purely on what you see on a traditional computer. In fact, some analysts are speculating that we could be entering an era where the clock is now ticking on this technology. Personally, I don't ever forsee a time where traditional sites will become redundant.....but there's no doubt that their importance and relevance are going to keep diminishing as each year passes.
3. Voice Search: Semantic search and user intent based on natural language patterns rather than basic keywords is going to become the norm. Voice-based queries are generally much longer, and phrased in a more natural way, so ensure that your site delivers information in a conversational (but professional) manner. Communicate by giving answers, not sales pitches!
4. Site Loading Times: As more and more usage switches to mobile, don't overload your pages with a large number of resource-heavy material like videos, high resolution images etc. Obviously don't dumb the pages down and make them appear bland to your users, but maintain a balance between form and function.
5. Fast delivery of relevant information: People want info.......and they want it immediately! So ensure that what people initially read on mobile is going to grab their attention. Don't waffle on about things that are irrelevant to their needs or interests.....just get the message across!
So that's the way things seem to be heading! Good practices like quality content, user experience, intuitive navigation, Social Media marketing, and SSL security are still the foundation on which your site is built. But Mobile Rules!
What do I think? Personally, I think the whole world has gone mad! We have now reached a scenario where the majority of people are living their lives vicariously through mobile phones!
I'll take real life any day! The storyline at my age may be a bit monotonous but the visual experiences more than make up for it!
See you in 2017!
Google have announced major changes to the way they index websites! It's now Mobile First!
What this means is that instead of Google using the content of the desktop version for evaluating a website, they will now be visiting the mobile site first. Effectively, the desktop version has been demoted.
We've been into the mobile era for some years now, and if you still don't have a mobile compatible site in place, then you've got a problem. Google have stated that they will still crawl the desktop version, but how high you're going to rank with just that one option remains to be seen.
If you've got a mobile compatible site then you're still not necessarily in the clear. Because if your mobile site was just a barebones "stripped down" version containing limited content.....then that's what will be evaluated and your rankings will drop accordingly. In fact, Google have even said to remove sites like this until they are on a par with the desktop version.
That's a worrying scenario for those people who've paid for a mobile site, because now they're going to find that what they've got is not what Google wants! They'll probably need a new mobile site, which may well entail having to replace the desktop version as well.
However, if you're a WebSpain client you'll know that there's never any need to worry! This will not affect you!
Simply because we've only ever built mobile sites that contain the full content of the desktop version. No difference whatsoever, and it's been that way since we started building mobile compatible sites four years ago. And unlike others, we never charged extra for mobile compatibility, they came that way as standard!
To summarise, businesses without mobile compatible sites have got a problem, and businesses with stripped-down mobile sites have got a problem!
WebSpain clients can just relax, you don't have a problem........because we were ahead of the curve on this years ago!
As we get older, we tend to look back and think that life was better in the past! It was certainly simpler then that's for sure.
But time moves on for all of us and the only option that we have is to go with the flow! There's no pause button to lock our life into one moment in time!
And never is this more true than with technology.....it just keeps advancing. I know that some people tend to resent change in these areas.....but ask yourself, would you like to go back to the pre-mobile era of basic flip-up phones? Ten years ago we could never have dreamed that we'd be walking around with the internet, and in many cases our business, right in the palm of our hands. These sort of advancements require change, as older technologies and applications are gradually replaced by more efficient versions. You're getting the benefits of these developments every day....in everything you do.
The same principle applies to the software applications that power websites and servers. They all get better, quicker, more efficient, and more secure. And I want to touch on just one aspect of that.....PHP. PHP is a widely used scripting language for web applications that powers most of the sites that you visit every day. Including your own!
Those of you on older sites are aware of the upgrade to PHP 5.6 this month which could render some of these obsolete sites as unuseable. We are able to relocate these sites to alternative hosts that are still running older PHP versions, so the sites will still be able to run. But all you're doing is hitting the pause button and trying to lock yourself into a moment in time that's now gone. And it's not just the time that's gone......it's the security and efficiency as well. Security always has to be the predominant factor in the equation.
As we've touched on PHP, let's examine how it's improved over the years by looking at the graph below. This only relates to speed, but you'll get an idea of the groundbreaking improvements that have been made.
We originally started on the PHP 4 series, and then started moving incrementally through the PHP 5 versions.
By 2008 we were on PHP 5.2.....and due to the advancements it made, the time had dropped to 4.2 seconds.
In 2012 we upgraded onto PHP 5.3, and the time went down to 2.9 seconds.
In 2014 we moved to PHP 5.4....which dropped the time down to 2.18 seconds.
Last year it was time for PHP 5.5 which resulted in yet another drop to 2.03 seconds.
June 2016 and it's time for PHP 5.6, as PHP 5.5 is end of line. And we're now below the two second mark at 1.92 seconds.
Compare the times from 2006 (over 12 seconds) to 2016 (under 2 seconds)......that's an incredible difference in speed. And also in efficiency, because it uses less server CPU and memory doing it, while being totally up to date on security.
The next PHP upgrade after this will be PHP 7.......and that will be at the start of 2019. Current tests seem to suggest that it will cut the PHP 5.6 time by 50%, and come in at under a second to run that task. Now that is amazing, and it just shows how far we've come!
So why would anybody want to run on old, outdated, and insecure versions of PHP? Every version of PHP below 5.6 is now a serious security risk, and every website running on obsolete software is also a serious security risk. Put the two together and you've got the perfect storm!
If you have a current and viable business, with your website being an integral part of it.......can you seriously afford to take the risk of Living in The Past?
It seems that the Next Big Thing is on the way.....and it's called AMP! Which stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages!
In Google's words “The Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project is an open source initiative that embodies the vision that publishers can create mobile optimized content once and have it load instantly everywhere.” Read more HERE!
So what they want is a mobile experience with virtually an instant page load! This is achieved by adhering to a limited set of technical functionality that is defined and governed by the open source AMP specifications. AMP files will then take advantage of various technical and architectural approaches that prioritize speed to provide a faster experience for users. So this is an additional aspect solely relating to mobile devices that potentially could be included with the current web frameworks that we use.
Will AMP affect you? Yes....it'll affect all of us! Because it appears that Google will be putting a heavy emphasis on AMP pages when delivering search results on mobile devices. It doesn't mean that your current mobile compatible site is now obsolete, that's not the case. It just means that if there's an additional AMP version available then you're likely to see a better result on the search listings to reflect your use of the new technology. And obviously your users will get a much better experience while using the site compared to the current mobile format.
This initiative is still in it's infancy, and we're watching closely for further developments and clarification of standards before fully committing to this aspect. As far as we can ascertain at the moment, it's likely to involve the building of AMP pages alongside the existing site structure. But whether this will be backwards compatible to current mobile sites is unclear. If it is, then hopefully we would be able to offer the option of an AMP upgrade to current clients.
This isn't anything you need to think about at the moment, as development of the project is still ongoing. What we're doing here (as always) is keeping you ahead of the curve on forthcoming technical initiatives which will affect you and your business. And I think you know by now.....technology doesn't stand still. So neither can we!
The IT industry has always evolved at a fast pace, and never more so than in recent years with the massive expansion of mobile computing as a part of everyday life.
I can remember over 20 years ago when the internet was predominantly text documents and grainy images delivered via a 9.9k analogue modem. Back in those days I'd speak to businesses about getting websites and they had absolutely no idea of what the internet was. Many dismissed it as a passing craze, but by the late 90's people had realised how important it really was. Which then brought about the dotcom boom!
After that point the technology obviously became more sophisticated, but every week I'd read about "the next big thing" that was going to change everything. In most cases they came and went, never even causing a ripple on the surface. So I began to get cynical.....to the point that any potential initiative was viewed as the latest internet fad. Without realising it, I became resistant to change. That's a bad move in this industry, and I'll give you an example of when I made the wrong call. It was a howler!
In 2006 as FaceBook started gaining momentum, and a year or two later when Twitter came along......I dismissed them both.
In my defence I had lived through the rise and fall of Yahoo Geocities and MySpace, so I had solid reasons to be sceptical.
My non-involvement and total dismissal of these initiatives continued until 2011. Then it hit me that these types of Social Media were not going to disappear as their predecessors had done.....in fact they had turned into massive platforms for business initiatives!
I looked carefully, saw a big game going on......and we weren't in it. All our competitors were highly active with huge followings.....but we didn't even exist.
For the next two years we focussed on clawing back the deficit caused by those wasted years where I'd got cynical, complacent, and resistant to change. I learned from that though.....now I embrace every new initiative at the outset. Because if you don't, you could end up outside looking in.
Consequently, when the mobile computing boom came along (which was the biggest ever gamechanger), we jumped on it straight away. In fact at one point in early 2013 we were the only designer in Google's top ten to be mobile compatible, as I wasn't going to make another gaff like the Social Media fiasco.
I think that as we get older we become less accepting of change, and I'm sure there was an element of this involved when I made the wrong call on Social Media. I fell into the trap of thinking that if something has always worked well on the current business model that's being employed.....then why change?
But in business terms that's a dangerous way of thinking, because invariably the business scenario around us is changing and evolving all the time. It's a case of the game keeps changing, and unless you move with those changes then ultimately you could find that you're no longer part of the game.
As I've said in previous articles, Social Media is very important, but mobile compatibility is critical!
This is not something in the future.....it's right here, right now! The future is now upon us.....and it's called Mobile Computing! Are you a part of it?
Remember this date: 21st April 2015. Because this is the day where Google search results are going to change forever! They could change for the better for you....or they could change for the worse!
This is the day that Google have now announced will be the launch of their new search engine evaluation algorithm! And it's the one that we've been warning everybody about for 6 months......where Google start dropping non-mobile compatible sites from their listings. For the official announcement just check Google's Webmaster Central Blog.
The announcement is fairly self explanatory on Webmaster Central. It's a huge revision of their system, and there's going to be a lot of sites adversely affected. However, if you have a mobile responsive site then you don't need to do anything, because you have exactly what Google expects to see.
But if you have an older site that isn't mobile responsive, then it seems that your rankings are going to drop quite dramatically. This will bring about a knock-on effect of less visitors, less leads, and less sales. The only way to avoid this scenario is to get a mobile compatible site in place by this date. And then of course you'll get the benefit of the ranking increase.
Why is this happening? As we've stated before, Google wants to provide it's users with the best possible results. And if your site will not display properly on a mobile device, then Google recommending sites of this type is totally at odds with it's stated objective.
Why is mobile viewing so important? Would it surprise you to know that in 2014, internet searches made on mobile devices were actually higher than those on desktop PCs! This had never happened before, and estimates suggest that this pattern is going to keep increasing dramatically year on year. Some have even suggested that it's going to lead to the demise of the desktop PC, except within office locations. Which ironically is the environment that they were originally designed for, prior to the home computer boom in the mid 90's.
So whether we like it or not, this is the age of mobile computing. And if you're not reaching that market with your products or services, it's not a good longterm scenario for any business. The countdown is on, and 21st April is getting closer! If the rankings of a non mobile friendly website start to fall, its probably down to one thing – Google’s latest algorithm update!
Earlier last year we published an article on mobile compatibility reporting that Google had announced they were implementing a system whereby mobile compatible sites would, in principle, be favoured in terms of search engine ranking.
In fact, we actually speculated on how far this would go? Because the direction it was taking seemed to imply that it was only a matter of time before they went from favouring mobile sites, to penalising non-mobile sites that didn't fit it's criteria. Well that time has arrived!
Let me give you the background on this! As part of the comprehensive service we provide to our clients, we register their site with Google WebMaster Central and submit XML sitemaps and page links. This is done for every new site without exception, in fact we've always done it......it's nothing new!
But what is new is that Google is now flagging up a warning message in Webmaster Central for every website that is not mobile compatible. And this is the message that I got this morning......
"Google systems have tested 104 pages from your site and found that 100% of them have critical mobile usability errors. The errors on these 104 pages severely affect how mobile users are able to experience your website. These pages will not be seen as mobile-friendly by Google Search, and will therefore be displayed and ranked appropriately for smartphone users".
So what does this mean to you?
If you have a mobile compatible site then it's great news! Simply because you will be meeting more of Google's suggested criteria on both desktop and mobile. So you've got everything covered.
If you don't have a mobile compatible site then the news isn't so good. Because Google appear to be intending to demote sites based on not having mobile compatibility. To what extent.....nobody knows!
But what does seem fairly certain is that the search results delivered on desktop systems will vary greatly from those delivered on mobile devices.
So even if your positioning on the desktop search isn't impacted to a major extent, you could find that on mobile searches you're nowhere to be seen. Only time will tell how it will affect your site. But bear in mind that desktop usage is declining rapidly, while the mobile sector is the major driving force in internet usage. It's estimated that 40% of users are now favouring these devices, so it could mean that you're not going to be found by this group.
It's been clear for some time that if your site is not delivering it's message to this specific market then you're going to be disadvantaged in comparison with your competitors who may have mobile sites!
But with the latest warning in Webmaster Central, Google now appears to have upped the ante from disadvantaged to invisible!
As with all these Google updates, they are geared towards delivering a better internet experience to it's users. Many of their initiatives have been of great benefit because we finally saw the end of the era where people could cheat their way to the top. It's an even playing field now, so all you need to focus on is delivering quality, unique content and present it in the right way to both the desktop and mobile audience.
Remember that Google virtually control the online experience in many more areas than just online Search.
If you've got an Android smartphone then you're using their Android Operating System. If you have a ChromeBook you're using their Chrome Operating System....and these are now outselling both IPads and Windows laptops, despite Microsoft desperately slashing their prices to try and compete. You may be using GMail and their Chrome browser as well.....I certainly do because these products are excellent compared to previous solutions.
Are Google make or break for your business? Absolutely not! But they do have a major influence, and if they look on you favourably then it certainly helps!
The Internet has changed a lot in the 20+ years I've been online.......many things have come and gone!
But one thing you can be sure of is that mobile internet usage has come......and it's never going!
For mobile compatible websites in Spain, WebSpain have the solution!
Mobile compatibility is critical today, as up to 40% of your site visitors are likely to be using smartphones and tablets. In fact, it is estimated that by the end of 2014 there will be 1.75 billion smartphone users in the world. Google wants to deliver the best results to it's users when they do a search, so they have announced what is essentially a name and shame program for websites with aging technology. These would include websites that are not mobile responsive, and sites that use Flash in their content.
This system is implemented by giving warnings to users that the site they are intending to visit is not suitable for mobile devices. The average user when seeing this warning is just going to go elsewhere.....so Google are making things very difficult for businesses that are still running on old software. If your current site is not mobile responsive and/or uses Flash, you're at a big disadvantage.....because potentially you're going to be losing a lot of traffic. Which means that business opportunities are going to be lost, and your bottom line is going to be affected!
So what is mobile responsive? Basically, a mobile responsive website automatically changes to fit the device you’re using by adapting the view to the size of screen that you have. Typically, there are four general screen sizes that responsive design has been aimed at: the widescreen desktop monitor, the smaller desktop and laptop, the tablet, and the mobile phone. So whatever size screen you're using you get perfect results without having to zoom in and out or scroll from left to right. It makes things easy for the user, and if you make things easy for your potential clients while your competitors don't, then you're in a strong position to drive your business forward.
All of our websites since early 2013 have been built using mobile responsive technology, because we could see the way that things were going to go. Now that Google has implemented this warning system, it's not a situation you can ignore if your business is important to you.
However, there's no need to miss opportunities and lose potential business! Because you could have a modern, mobile compatible site for a lot less than you might think! And the peace of mind that comes from working with WebSpain is priceless!