2017 Wish List for the Web

I'm not one for New Year's Resolutions. But I do use the end/beginning of a calendar year to review and acknowledge the last year and to look ahead at the one ahead. Instead of trends or predictions, I have a wish list for the web in 2017. It could be summarized in this way:

Move forward.

Let's face it, what was old was new for much for 2016. There are still a lot of poorly designed websites and even more that provide little value – and sometimes negative value. Let's make 2017 the year we make giant leaps when it comes to making the web better.

Here is my wish list of things to see more often by the end of 2017.

Content-first design

Most projects are design-driven, not content-driven. In other words, going from strategy to design to implementation to content creation. When your web project doesn’t start with content creation and then move to design and implementation, the content is nearly impossible to get right and even harder to be entered into the content management system (CMS) efficiently.

There are at least five things you can do before you start the actual design process. You could actually define your entire content inventory without knowing what the website will look like or what CMS you will use. In fact, the site will be better for it. Think about it. During your last redesign, were you trying to cram content into a too-small space or having to make words up to fill a too-big space? Struggling to enter copy and images into a CMS that did not have the right fields?

If you are strategic and realistic with your content planning, the design will support what you create and the CMS can be selected and built to support your exact content and workflow. And there will be enough time and resources allocated to create the content. What's not to like about that?

No more carousels

Not the kind with animals that bob up and down and go round and round while an organ plays old-timey music. More of those, please!

I'm talking about the things on your home page that are used to satisfy internal stakeholders' need to have their thing on the home page. In various studies, 1% or fewer visitors click on it – and most of those clicks are on the first image. While it makes some people feel good, these things are useless. They do not help anyone achieve their business objectives. They take up valuable space when you could be helping your site visitors go right where they want to go to do the thing they came to your site to do. They are lose-lose features.

In case you're not convinced – or don't think you can convince others – here's a website to help.

Strategic investments in websites

Websites are expensive. They often cost as much as a house (depending on where you live and your website, maybe more). Yet we treat them like tear-downs and rebuild them every 3-5 years on average. Change your mindset to think of websites as properties. When you do, they become more of a strategic investment rather than an expense. And good things start happening.

  • Your website supports business goals (increased revenue on anyone's list?)
  • You spend less money on things that don't matter
  • Staff priorities align

Think about what you could do with your budget if your website paid for itself! It takes a little extra effort at first, but gets easier with time.

More structured content

Structured content sounds fancy, and I suppose it is. But it doesn't need to be scary. In fact, it should be something just about everyone uses when creating websites. Here's a basic definition:

Structured content is content that is planned, developed, and connected outside of an interface so it’s ready for any interface. It is broken down into 'atoms' and treats content as data.

There are many reasons to use structured content, including:

  1. Making your content modular, and therefore, reusable
  2. Enabling multi-channel publishing
  3. Scalability - grow with fewer growing pains
  4. Creating consistency by beinga able to create once and publishing everywhere

The list goes on, but how many reasons do you need? Like most of the things on this list, there is a mindset shift, but it is worth it. Any initial investment will pay for itself in a short amount of time.

Better RFPs

Our website no longer serves the organization well. The site is difficult to navigate, there are too many pages, there should be a better use of images, and the site lacks a clear focus.

If your website redesign RFP includes this language, followed by a list of functional requirements, the next website isn't going to be any better.

If all the other wishes on this list come true, RFPs are bound to be better. An RFP should focus on a problem to be solved, not a list of requirements. Take the time to do your research before writing the RFP: What is your problem? What is your budget? Who are the best partners? What has worked well or poorly in the past? Include all these things and more. You'll get better solutions, find long-term partners, and save a lot of money by choosing the best path on the first try.

What is on your 2017 wish list? Leave a comment below and share your dreams.