In the first few months of 2023, generative AI has burst on to the scene and begun to change our relationship with technology forever. Already, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that people in a wide range of jobs will have to adapt quickly or risk being replaced. In this article, we explore the impact AI is having on the web design and development industry, as well as how businesses, and people, should approach working with this innovative technology.
AI tools are nothing new. We’ve all been using them for years, from chatbots to predictive text to voice-controlled assistants like Siri and Alexa. But the recent mainstream adoption of AI tools such as Chat GPT, and the rapid advancement of the technology itself, has caused huge disruption across a number of industries.
Many assumed that people like marketers, software developers, and UX and UI designers would be some of the last ones at risk of having their jobs taken by AI, due to their need for creative skill and use of human emotion. Ironically, these roles have been some of the first to come “under threat” over the past few months.
AI’s speed and efficiency is already forcing us to ask questions about the future of the web design and development industry. With that in mind, one question in particular has dominated discussion online so far this year:
Are our jobs in danger of being taken by AI?
By now, you’re almost certainly aware that AI offers incredible value by accelerating workflows and augmenting skills. Some of the most beneficial use cases lie in:
- Brainstorming and ideation
- Assistance in research and information-gathering
- Writing copy
- Writing code
- Image and video creation
- Data analysis
- Automating manual processes.
AI can also devise entire business and marketing strategies, solve complex problems, and even create its own AI-powered applications from scratch. Perhaps most importantly, it can do all these tasks in a matter of seconds, when most of them would take a human several hours, days or even months.
The Latest News and Tools (at the Time of Writing)
Over the past few months, there are more and more AI-powered tools being released on an almost daily basis.
The number of AI tools that have been released recently is staggering, and the capabilities of some of them is truly mind-blowing. Just last month, in March 2023:
- GPT-4 was released as an upgrade to Chat GPT. GPT-4 can understand images, process 25,000 words in one go, earn a top 10% score on complex exams, and even demonstrate some advanced reasoning capabilities.
- Adobe released Firefly, which is a programme with a range of new generative AI features. It can create outstanding new content using simple language, with almost-unlimited creative options like turning 3D compositions into photorealistic images and automating advanced video editing processes.
- GitHub launched CoPilotX, which can supposedly boost coding speed by up to 55%. CoPilotX has similar features to Chat GPT, but will be used by software engineers and developers to boost productivity and time-to-market.
- And, just last week, Stability AI released its Stable Diffusion XL model, offering photorealism through an intricate editing interface. It’s reportedly built with around 2.3 billion parameters.
It’s both exciting and terrifying to think these highly intelligent tools are just the tip of the AI iceberg. When you consider how common it’s now become to use AI to develop even more advanced AI, it seems that the rate of evolution will only continue to increase exponentially from here.
How is AI Transforming Design and Development?
While these AI tools are extremely impressive, it’s not as straightforward as simply plugging them in and sitting back while they literally do your work for you. It’s possible we may get there one day, but right now we believe we’re a long way off.
These tools are highly sophisticated and intuitive, and their adoption is probably going to change the way we all work forever. However, this should be seen as technology that will augment and enhance people’s ability to do their jobs, or create new jobs entirely, rather than “steal” them away from us.
The current use cases for AI are mostly just ways for you to do your work, much faster and more effectively. This could either be done by automating processes to save time, or by supplementing your existing skill-set with new capabilities with the help of AI. For example, if you wanted to convert your code from one language into multiple languages, you would be able to do this with the help of Chat GPT.
When it comes to user experience (UX) design, one crucial thing AI will always be missing is human empathy, emotion, and understanding. A company looking to create a high-performance website that supports their strategic business goals and engages their target audience will fail if they don’t take into account human understanding and collaboration between them and their web development agency.
Outlining the What and the How is important, but the Why is arguably what drives great UX and UI.
“Design is not just a visual experience, it’s an emotional one. It should make people feel something.”Nathan Shedroff, Author and Professor of Design Strategy
UX design is a nuanced, collaborative process, focusing on the specific requirements of the business and the specific needs of the target audience. You can save a lot of time using AI to produce a high volume of early conceptual designs or accelerate your copywriting process. But without the human element, none of these things will be authentic or anywhere near the required standard.
Potential Concerns and Risks with AI
Of course, we’ve not even mentioned the rising concerns and risks associated with AI yet. Just last month, over 1,000 technology leaders and influencers signed a petition to halt the development of generative AI until more governance can be introduced to ensure its safety.
There are still some serious grey areas regarding the use of this technology in business as well, from regulations and legal implications to the copyright of creative work like logos and images. These are providing opportunities for a wide range of new forms of cyber crime, phishing, and “deep-fake” imitations which could spiral out of control if left unchecked.
There are also plenty of moral issues surrounding AI that we must consider. For example, what implications will there be for our society if global businesses do begin replacing humans with AI on a large scale?
A key concern is that Generative AI is also having a significant impact on the environment, which is a conversation most people seem to be avoiding for the time being. With the global fight to reduce carbon emissions intensifying, and more businesses placing sustainability at the core of their values, there needs to be some action taken to balance those priorities with the efficiency and speed enabled by AI.
The SoBold Perspective
From our perspective, as a leading design and development agency, we believe that people will always want and need to work with other people. Personable relationships, real-life experience, and critical thinking are all essential parts of our work. In many cases, that’s also what many of our clients value most about our services.
Granted, we’re always looking for innovative new ways to push the boundaries, and AI is an incredible tool that will help us do that. But it won’t replace crucial human characteristics like empathy, emotion, and subjective opinions.
It will, however, help us spend less time on low-value tasks, and more time to focus on building stronger relationships and gaining a deeper understanding of our clients’ needs. That will only result in improving the work we deliver, which is something we’re always striving to achieve.
The Verdict on AI (for Now)
This year will probably be looked back on as a turning point in history when AI was introduced to the world. But this technology won’t replace too many jobs just yet. Instead, it will enhance our ability to work smarter, faster, and more efficiently.
For now, the only people at risk of losing their jobs to AI are those who fail – or refuse – to adapt to this new way of working and embrace the change. Similarly, if you’re using AI because you’re being lazy or complacent, that will also cause problems. You should never use work produced by a generative AI tool without checking its quality and accuracy, and you’ll always need to add a human touch before considering it finished.
On the other hand, if you’re forward-thinking and agile, embracing AI will make you exponentially better at your job. Here at SoBold, we’re personally most excited by how AI has the potential to help us vastly improve the service we deliver for our clients.
Of course, this technology is evolving so fast that it’s difficult to predict where we’ll stand a year from now. We’ll be discussing this, and lots of other important trends, in our new monthly newsletter.
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- A bespoke client-facing website that represents your brand and provides direct access to your products or services
- An internal web portal, either for training employees or for networking and sharing of information
- A bespoke intelligence platform with powerful data and analytics capabilities
- A new content management system (CMS) that can provide greater flexibility and scalability for a portfolio of multiple sites
- A unique tool to transform inefficient manual processes into a simple digital platform
- A bespoke website that integrates directly with a wide range of other back-end tools and technology, such as your CRM system.
- Experience working with businesses in the healthcare sector
- A strong portfolio of successful bespoke development projects
- The expertise to guide you and help you make the best decisions for your project
- Certifications and accreditations
- Compliance with healthcare sector regulations
- Security and data protection built into the core of your project
- Secure hosting supported by back-up, disaster recovery, and risk mitigation plans
- Ongoing support services to maintain, update, and optimise your site
- Additional advisory services to help you gain as much value from your technology as possible.
- Boosting engagement with customers, with an outstanding UX and personalised services
- Increasing customer retention and loyalty
- Enabling real-time interactions with data and greater analytics capabilities
- Higher adoption rates of internal systems and improved business performance
- Reducing costs by streamlining inefficient processes and removing outdated technology
- Strengthening your corporate network with enterprise-grade security
- Achieving competitive advantages in a highly competitive market.
- Simple, intuitive navigation
- Clear, logical page and content structure
- Large text that’s easy to read
- Clear input boxes
- Helpful error messages
- Simple password requirements
- Large buttons and clickable icons
- Easy undo, edit, and cancel capabilities
- Reliable refresh and back buttons
- Refresh functions that retain any input information
- Tapping or clicking buttons, rather than hovering over
- The ability to pause and scroll through auto-rotating carousels
- Videos with the option of closed-captioning
- Auto-fill for information input in forms.
- Optimise your site to ensure its pages load quickly
- Make all your site’s content is easy to perceive and consume
- Be consistent
- Give your site a simple, logical structure and navigation
- Use responsive design to maintain usability across different devices and screen sizes
- Use proper headings and sub-headings to organise your pages well
- Make sure clickable buttons and links stand out
- Use distinctive colours and contrast on your pages alongside white space
- Avoid making any of the text, buttons, or other touch-points too small
- Provide clear, useful error messages.
- More efficient and effective digital processes and services (both internally and externally)
- Greater adoption and usage rates
- Quicker, stronger ROI
- Improved user or customer retention and loyalty
- Commercial business growth.
- What’s the purpose of your project?
- What objectives do you want to achieve?
- What exactly are you looking to build?
- How much budget do you have to spend?
- What existing technology do you need to integrate with?
- What features and functionality do you need?
- What skills and expertise do you have in-house?
- Stick with your existing platform and update or build on to it
- Buy a custom, purpose-built, ‘out the box’ platform or piece of software
- Work with an agency to adopt a new platform and/or build something bespoke.
- Bespoke development
- Customisable design, features, and functionality
- Migration from legacy systems to a new platform
- Seamless scalability
- A secure infrastructure
- Performance in peak traffic volumes
- Integration with back-end systems like Salesforce, HubSpot, PowerBi, and more
- Ease-of-use in both the front and back-end
- Quick and easy editing capabilities
- Multi-site development for multiple languages across different countries
- Responsive or ‘headless’ design for web and mobile, enabling omni-channel customer experience.
- Bespoke development capabilities
- Easy integration with existing systems and legacy technology
- Scalability and performance in peak traffic
- Enterprise-grade security
- Quick and easy editing capabilities
- Drupal is a highly secure platform, which is a crucial quality for a CMS to have.
- It’s very intuitive for users who have coding experience or advanced content management skills.
- It has a great community of users surrounding it, which contributes a lot of value and is able to provide support.
- It also has hundreds of unique thematic options to choose from when designing your site.
- Drupal can be hard to work with for non-technical users, as it lacks simplicity and provides limited customisation.
- It can take a long time to get up and running, which means your costs will be quite high if you work with an agency partner.
- It’s also worth noting that the version of Drupal most businesses use now (Drupal 7) will be reaching end-of-life soon.
- Sitecore is purpose-built for large businesses, guaranteeing an enterprise-grade experience.
- Sitecore is a robust CMS with a high level of in-built security.
- It actually provides a fully-managed ‘digital experience platform’ that comes with more capabilities than the average CMS.
- It also offers great personalisation and excellent pre-built features.
- Sitecore is an expensive option, even if you have a large budget to work with.
- It requires you to procure licenses to begin using it, and also restricts certain capabilities unless you progress to higher tiers of licenses.
- It typically runs with hierarchical, complex workflows that might be frustrating for small or agile teams.
- Umbraco’s scalability makes it very suitable for large businesses.
- It’s free to use and open-source, with an active community of users supporting it.
- It allows you to manage a high volume of pages easily and efficiently.
- It’s another platform that comes with a high level of in-built security.
- It can be difficult to work with for the average user. As with Drupal, Umbraco is mostly suitable for more technical users who have coding skills or some development experience.
- This complexity again increases the likelihood of higher costs with your agency partner (if you go that route).
- It’s common for sites built with Umbraco to be reported as slow, for both back-end editing and the front-end user experience.
- WordPress is extremely scalable and dynamic. It can easily grow and evolve as your business grows, continuing to meet your changing needs.
- It’s renowned for its ease-of-use. Because of this, it enables you to deliver your projects quickly and efficiently.
- It’s highly customisable, making it ideal for bespoke development. With the right knowledge and skills, you can build almost anything with WordPress.
- It also typically comes with a very low total cost of ownership (TCO). You won’t need to add on new features or capabilities, nor pay for costly extra work to handle platform upgrades or updates.
- If you apply too many plug-ins, WordPress sites can slow down and experience dips in performance, but a good agency partner should encourage you to minimise the use of these.
- Some still see WordPress as an unprofessional platform used mostly for small blogs, but that old myth couldn’t be further from the truth today.
- WordPress is a secure platform, but plug-ins can create vulnerabilities if they’re not tested well or taken from untrusted sources. Again, a good agency partner should guide you with this to reduce the risk and prevent any issues.
10 March, 2023
How Healthcare Businesses Should Approach Bespoke Web Development to Set Themselves Up for Success
Many businesses in the healthcare sector require some form of bespoke web development in order to remain competitive today. But entering into a bespoke development project can be a daunting challenge, with plenty of risks attached to it.
This article will answer your pressing questions about bespoke web development, and provide you with a step-by-step guide to set yourself up for success when approaching your own project.
In recent years, modern healthcare has been driven forward by great advances in technology. Organisations in the healthcare sector have leveraged cutting-edge digital technology to transform the way healthcare services are delivered for the better.
But with that positive change comes a shift in expectations to improve technology across the board.
Whether you’re a practitioner or a healthcare solution provider, you now must deliver your services to your end-users through the latest digital channels if you want to keep up with the rest of the industry.
If you’re unable to meet modern expectations for an effortless consumer-grade user experience (UX), your clients and partners will be left unsatisfied and may look elsewhere for a more convenient alternative. This can also apply to your internal systems and processes, as your employees also want intuitive digital tools in order to do their work efficiently and effectively.
To achieve this, you need a sophisticated website that serves your users in a way that’s specifically tailored to their needs and preferences, while also supporting your strategic business objectives. Given the complexity of the healthcare sector, that will likely require you to develop a website with bespoke features and functionality.
Of course, any website you develop also needs to be secure and compliant, and flexible enough to adapt as your business grows or healthcare technology trends continue to evolve.
Going Beyond the Basics with Bespoke Development
While a more straightforward, simple website may be sufficient for small and medium-sized businesses, such a limited approach will prevent companies in the healthcare sector from retaining clients and staying competitive.
If you’re struggling to deliver exactly what your clients or other users are looking for, particularly in an industry as technical as healthcare, you may need to build a bespoke website. This could include anything from:
With a bespoke development project, the possibilities – and opportunities for innovation and growth – are virtually endless. You can discuss your current business challenges among your team, and then create something purpose-built to solve those specific challenges.
Of course, coming up with an idea for an exciting new site is the easy part. For many businesses, it’s an additional challenge to know where to go next. To make that easier for you, we’ve provided a simple, proven process here to help you plan and launch a bespoke web development project that will set you up for success.
A Process for Approaching Your Bespoke Development Project
Start with the “why” and think about what you’re trying to achieve
As touched on above, it’s important to have a specific reason for building a bespoke site. Whether it’s to achieve a strategic business goal, like customer growth, or overcome a prominent challenge, like inefficient processes, you need a clear purpose.
Determine exactly what you’re trying to achieve with your website and why it’s being developed. A big part of this will also relate to delivering on a specific need or solving a specific problem for your users as well.
Thinking of how it will help your users in a valuable way will make it easier to understand what sort of features and functionality you’ll require.
List all your requirements and use them to create a project brief
Once you’ve completed that first step, you’ll already see a list taking shape, with requirements for design, usability, capabilities, and so on.
Note down all those things your website needs to do and use that to create a project brief. This is a simple written document containing all the ideas you think are relevant to your site, including both functional and non-functional requirements.
The purpose of this is to make your request as clear as possible for the design and development agencies you speak to.
The more specific and detailed your brief is, the better, and that includes things like your initial ideas for cost and timelines. This will help ensure your agency will deliver what you’re asking for on time, within your budget, and matching your specifications. Without a clear, specific brief, you could wind up disappointed and maybe even over-spending.
Evaluate the options for a technology platform to build on
Most websites on the Internet are built using a content management system (CMS). This is almost certainly the type of platform you’ll want to use to create, edit, and publish all the content on your website and manage things behind the scenes.
Every business is unique, and every bespoke development project is different, so you need to use the work you’ve done in the previous two steps to help you select the right CMS.
By this point, when you’re evaluating platforms, you should already know your objectives, your requirements, your users’ needs, your budget, your existing technology stack, and so on.
Take all these factors and use them to determine which CMS is the best suited to deliver exactly what you want.
Something that’s important to note is that integrating a new website with other systems can be complex, particularly if you’re building your site on a new platform rather than an existing one.
When planning a bespoke development project, you’ll need to consider how easily your new platform will integrate with your other systems.
We recently produced a helpful series of articles comparing some of the leading CMSs for enterprise website development. You can read those here:
Find the right agency partner to design and develop your site with you
As mentioned earlier, you’ll likely need to find a design and development agency to partner with in order to create a bespoke website.
Building, managing, and supporting a high-performance website in the current technology landscape is extremely difficult, especially in a strictly-regulated industry like healthcare.
Not only should you look for a partner with a proven track record of delivering bespoke websites, you should also try to find one with healthcare sector-specific experience as well.
Which agency you choose will have a significant impact on whether your development project is successful, but also on whether or not your new website is successful in the long-term as well. It’s a decision that mustn’t be taken lightly.
Some of the qualities and capabilities that are important to look for when assessing your options for an agency partner include:
What Does a Bespoke Website Require to be Successful?
Once you’ve found a CMS and an agency you’re comfortable with, the next step will be to design and develop your bespoke website.
This will involve working to the requirements you noted in your project brief, but there are also some essential qualities and characteristics of a successful website in the current digital business landscape:
Ensure your agency can provide enterprise-grade, secure hosting, ideally with managed services, from a trustworthy provider. Not only is your hosting environment responsible for the security of your site and protection of your data, but it can also influence the speed and performance of your site.
If you’re in a position to build a bespoke website, you’re likely going to be dealing with a high volume of data and a large audience of users, so it’s important that you have a hosting service that can manage that without any disruption to your services.
Whatever services or products you provide to companies in the healthcare sector, a great UX is the foundation of any successful website. People working in almost all industries now expect the same convenient consumer-grade experience they receive from the technology they use in their personal lives. Your website needs to be as quick and easy-to-use for your visitors as apps like LinkedIn and Amazon.
This also applies if the sites you’re looking to build are internal-facing for employees. Workforces now also demand a seamless experience with company systems, and providing this will create gains in efficiency as well as competitive advantages.
A great UX usually leads to a strong ROI.
Performance and Functionality
Your website connects you directly to your clients. Flip that to your client’s perspective, your website is a direct reflection of the quality and professionalism of your services.
If your website is slow, or doesn’t give your users what they need in terms of performance or functionality, they won’t hesitate to look elsewhere.
Businesses today run on data. The data of your clients, partners, and your own critical data will be at risk if any technology attached to your network is not secure.
As mentioned earlier, you need to make sure your site is hosted in a secure environment with robust data protection measures in place. But security isn’t just about hosting. Security also comes down to a wide range of best practices, like regularly testing your site and updating your platform.
When your clients and partners are working with highly sensitive medical data, all your technology must also be highly secure and compliant with industry regulations.
Again, these are all critical things that your agency partner should be experienced enough to handle for you.
Personalised user experiences are becoming increasingly important for businesses to deliver to their clients and employees these days. One of the key advantages to a bespoke website is that you’re able to provide each of your users with personalised content and services, tailored to their needs, at each stage of their user journey.
Scalability and Agility
More often than not, a bespoke website is a key point of differentiation and an enabler of business growth. When you begin to achieve that growth, your requirements will evolve and your website will need to be agile enough to adapt easily without disrupting business continuity.
When planning and building your new site, ensure it’s developed with long-term growth and seamless scalability in mind.
The Benefits and Advantages of Bespoke Development
If you’re able to follow this process and incorporate some of these qualities into your new bespoke website, you’ll have something completely unique to your business. This should set you on the right path to accelerated business growth. But a bespoke website, once built and deployed, can begin to deliver a range of additional benefits and advantages too. These include:
The Healthcare Sector Runs on High-Performance Websites
As technology continues to evolve and drive more disruption, it’s becoming increasingly important to keep up with the resulting trends. A bespoke web development project allows you to reach beyond the limitations of a basic website and give your users exactly what they need from your services.
It also enables you to create a high-performance website that’s entirely unique to your business, differentiating you from your competition.
In the current healthcare sector, it’s easy to appreciate why this is quickly becoming a necessity, rather than a “nice-to-have” for many leading businesses.
Discover how global healthcare group, Clanwilliam, used bespoke design and development to take their brand to a new level and transform the capabilities of their marketing.
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2 March, 2023
Harnessing Your New Website’s Full Potential by Taking a Block-Based Approach With WordPress
Did you know you can use a block-based approach with your WordPress website to gain more value from the platform, with significant advantages in flexibility, scalability, and ease-of-use?
In this article, we’ll explain what blocks are, how they work, and how you can use them to build enterprise-grade websites quickly and efficiently, without compromising on quality.
WordPress is the most popular content management system (CMS) in the world right now, and it has been for a while. Unfortunately, though, some people still have the wrong impression that it is a CMS that can only be used to build more simple websites that do not have any real complex functionality or integrations, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
In fact, WordPress is far more intuitive and robust than most realise. The fact that around 45% of all websites online today are built on the platform goes a long way to prove that. WordPress also provides more scalable, agile capabilities that are perfectly suited to building enterprise-grade websites if leveraged in the right way.
There are intelligent – but still very straightforward – ways to use WordPress that can unlock more value from the CMS. If done with the right guidance, this can make WordPress a far better option than the more traditional, rigid approach of building websites.
This is an opportunity most large businesses are currently missing out on. In this article, we’ll show you how using blocks is a more flexible approach that can provide you with a wealth of benefits.
Understanding How Using Blocks In Your Website Backend works
In 2018, WordPress released a new block-based design and editing user interface (UI), known as Gutenberg. Instead of the typical page creation and editing functionality of a CMS, where you’d input text and images into a rich text editor, you can now build your site by creating and using a set of components. Components are blocks of code which have pre-defined style and input types.
Each component is named, to denote what it is from the perspective of the front-end of your site on the web page.
Note: Some agencies only provide a list of block names, but here at SoBold we also provide screenshots of each block so you can see it first. This makes the process much easier and saves you a great deal of time.
Each part of each web page is made up of these components, as pictured below.
However, taking a bespoke approach, you can design and construct unique blocks that are entirely your own. Blocks or components can be built for you by your agency so they’re bespoke to you, your style guidelines, your design preferences, and so on. And, when building your site, you can go into your pre-built components and edit things, like changing background colours, adding images, adding text, and so on.
This can be set up for you by your agency, so you have everything you need to create, edit, and publish new pages with your pre-built blocks. Anytime you need to create a new page, you just have to pick the appropriate components and place them in the correct position to quickly and easily build the page.
The Business Benefits of Using a Component-Based Approach
Scalability is one of the greatest benefits of using these blocks, especially if you are wanting to continue to build out your sitemap and build out the content.
This scalability is where WordPress really shines, enabling simple, rapid, virtually limitless scaling of your website with a high level of accuracy. This is a cost-effective way of growing without having to compromise on the quality of your design.
Blocks provide you with a great deal of flexibility in building, editing, and structuring of pages as well. The ability to customise all your components, along with the intuitive drag and drop functionality, allows you to effortlessly adapt and expand on your website.
Building components, and repurposing them repeatedly across your website, is a highly efficient way of growing your site. It also makes it very difficult to make mistakes or take a wrong turn.
This efficiency of reusing blocks across your website will free up time for you to develop innovative new features, or focus on improving the service and experience you provide your clients.
If you have non-technical members of your team who would benefit from using WordPress, blocks will almost certainly improve the usability of the CMS for those people.
An easier design and editing function helps more members of your team create web pages within clear, pre-set brand guidelines. That’s another aspect that frees up more time and resources to focus on higher value tasks.
If you’re working with a design and development agency, this also makes it much easier for them to be able to train you and enable you to use the platform to manage your site.
All this efficiency and ease-of-use will enable you to achieve a faster time-to-market for new web pages, extensions of your site, or even entirely new websites.
That can, in turn, create competitive advantages for your business, particularly if your competitors are working with CMSs that are slower and harder to use.
Whether it’s you or your agency handling this, you can create and publish new web pages quicker than you could with any other approach.
Lower Costs and TCO
As a result of all of the above, you can reduce costs on development and design, and achieve a much better total cost of ownership (TCO) with the WordPress platform.
Something that takes an inexperienced agency days to complete with the classic design approach can be done in hours using bespoke blocks. This drastically reduces development costs and gives you a lower TCO in the long-term.
The Importance of Finding a Capable Agency Partner
As mentioned earlier, bespoke blocks provide you with a proven way to unlock more potential with WordPress and gain greater value from the platform. However, in order to do that, it’s important to find the right agency partner. You’ll need an agency with enterprise-grade expertise and a certain level of skill to guide and support you through this process.
Taking this approach to building WordPress websites is nothing new, but the real value here comes in creating blocks that are completely unique and specific to you, then enabling your team to use those to scale your site.
Many WordPress agencies may lean on the generic block editor. But to get this right, you should push beyond that to find a partner who can educate you on the opportunities of using a bespoke design system to build a high-performance website that’s effortless to manage and edit.
A great partner will also facilitate this for you in a way that ensures you have control, removing the risk of any users making mistakes with the flexibility of this system. You won’t need to worry about the integrity or quality of your site being spoiled because all your components will be built specifically to prevent that.
You’ll gain tremendous value from receiving an intuitive, quality website that you can easily grow at will, but one that’s also managed and supported by an experienced partner. Sticking to these blocks helps you stay within brand guidelines, adhere to best practices, and keep your site consistent.
You then have the choice to manage, edit, and expand your site yourself, or rely on your partner to do it for you quicker, easier, and more efficiently than they would with a traditional CMS.
Making the Most of Your WordPress Platform
Modern businesses today require a powerful, sophisticated CMS that can deliver great websites at scale with enterprise-grade performance. WordPress is a platform that’s built to provide all those qualities and more. Embracing this block-based approach is the most effective and efficient way to achieve that.
With a skilled agency partner to help you maximise the value your business gains from the platform, you’ll quickly realise just how well WordPress can deliver agile, intuitive websites.
If you’re in the process of evaluating platforms to deliver a bespoke web development project, check our comprehensive guide to assessing and selecting the right CMS here
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9 February, 2023
Usability Explained – How Better User Experience Can Help You Grow Your Business in 2023
Usability is crucial to the success of any website, but it’s something that most businesses are still struggling to get right. This article explores what’s required to design a website with good usability, highlights common mistakes you should aim to avoid, and provides advice to help you improve the usability of your own site.
Digital Business Success Depends on Good Usability
Almost every business today has a website. At this stage, it’s safe to assume your business falls into that category. In addition, you may have gone beyond an ordinary website and carried out a bespoke development project to create something entirely unique for your business.
In today’s digital business landscape, having a great website is a necessity. And while developing a business website is no easy task in itself, it’s a challenge you’ve almost certainly already worked through. However, a challenge that you may still struggle with – like many other businesses we’ve spoken to recently – is mastering the usability of your site.
Providing a user experience (UX) in line with the standards of today, that meets the demands and expectations of your target audience, is a complex problem that may be holding your business back from achieving certain goals.
Of course, a complex problem is best solved by breaking it down into simple steps. So, let’s start by looking at the issue of usability, and why it’s so important to businesses today.
What is Usability?
According to ISO-9241, usability is defined as “the extent to which a system, product, or service can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction in a specified context of use.”
In this case, the product in question will usually be a website. And, while user-centric design is an approach to creating a website that’s easy-to-use, usability is the measurement of how well that design has worked.
Essentially, usability is about making the experience of using your website as convenient, simple, and reliable as possible for all your visitors. This is equally important for all kinds of users, whether they’re prospects you’re hoping to convert to customers, or employees accessing an internal process or system.
In a real-life example, if your business had built an internal site for your employees to access corporate resources and training material, usability would be determined by how easy – or difficult – it is to perform basic tasks. This includes actions like logging in, navigating the site across various pages, consuming the site’s content, inputting information into the system, and resolving errors quickly and efficiently.
We each have experiences with usability hundreds of times every day, as we access websites and apps like LinkedIn, Amazon, Gmail, and so on. But there lies the key
Good usability on a website is something you don’t even notice. Bad usability on a website is something you notice, and will remember the next time you have the option of returning to that site or looking for a better experience elsewhere.
Usability can often be the difference between users adopting or rejecting technology. It could be the difference between your website’s visitors bouncing off the home page or converting to become customers.
Common Mistakes with User Experience (UX)
One of the most common, and damaging, mistakes businesses make is assuming they know how their users will think, behave, and interact with their website.
It’s always a risk to assume your users will respond well to decisions you make because you feel they’ll make things easier for you, from the development or management side of things. You should also try to avoid assuming users will understand certain things just because you do.
Often, the opposite is the case.
For example, certain structure and functionality of website menus may be something you assume your users are comfortable with, but are actually difficult for some people to use. You may assume that your users are happy using a website that has pages that infinitely scroll, when in reality that causes a negative experience for them.
A common mistake we see lots of businesses make is deciding what kind of design and functionality they want, without considering who the target audience is and what they need from their experience.
Remember your users are the ones who will determine the success or failure of your investment in this site, so their perspective is the one that should be taken when making important decisions during the design and development.
By making those assumptions, not only will you provide your users with a more inconvenient or frustrating experience, but you may also drive them to find alternative means of completing their task at hand. If that task is purchasing a product or service, poor usability could begin to have a negative impact on your business.
What Do Users Want in 2023?
People expect a seamless experience when using technology, meaning they want websites to be simple, quick, and convenient.
This involves a lot of components, not just in your design and navigation, but also by finding the right balance with things like passwords, pop-up messages, audio and visual content, push notifications, and more.
Typically, a positive user experience will come from:
Users become frustrated when things are presented to them outside of their control or choosing. For example, some of the most maligned features of websites include push notifications, chat window pop-ups, pop-ups requesting feedback, prompts to install apps, requests for access to their camera or microphone, security questions, and so on.
It’s also likely to create a negative experience by presenting things in a way that doesn’t align with the logic of most of your target audience. For instance, if a website has an unclear structure and navigation, many users will be more likely to leave the site rather than persist in trying to use it.
A Word on Accessibility
Usability is sometimes confused with accessibility. While they are related, they are actually different concepts. Accessibility refers to the practice of making technology accessible and easy-to-use for everyone, equally, with a significant focus on those with disabilities and other difficulties.
Web accessibility is covered under the Equality Act of 2010 in the UK. Many organisations now have a legal – as well as a moral – obligation to ensure their websites are accessible, by following a set of principles and standards known as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). If you’re working with an agency, they should already have accessibility best practices included in their approach to design. Be sure to check this anytime you’re evaluating agency partners for a project.
While accessibility and usability are different, all websites should be designed and developed to be accessible to everyone. This will include some of the same conventions mentioned above, as well as ensuring you cater for people with impaired vision and hearing, cognitive difficulties, those that need to use assistive technology, and so on.
Keep an eye out for our upcoming article taking a deep dive into web accessibility.
Tips and Advice for Improved Usability
1 – Keep it Simple
When it comes to UX, the simpler the better. If something is complicated in its design or functionality, it will likely be complicated to use as well. Always try to keep things as simple as possible to give your site the best chance to achieve great usability.
2 – Get the Fundamentals Right
Similar to the issue of making assumptions about your target audience, it’s important to understand that certain aspects of usability are more objective than they are subjective.
Yes, some people may prefer to hover over a drop-down menu rather than click it, but there are some fundamental principles every website needs in order to provide a satisfying UX. Get these right, and your site’s usability will be in good shape:
3 – Learn from Experience
Draw on your own experience in your personal use of the web to put yourself in the shoes of your users. If you encounter a feature or process that gives you a bad UX online, make sure you don’t have similar features or processes within your own site.
4 – Test With Real Users
Test your site with real end-users who are part of your target audience. The best way to give your website great usability is by asking people to test it out, gather their feedback, and put those learnings into practice. This is known as usability testing, and is a phase of the design and development process that should be planned into your timeline at the beginning of any project.
5 – Know When to Ask for Help
To ensure your site is built with usability as a priority, you’ll require the support of a good agency partner. Work with a web development agency who can provide guidance from their experience delivering dozens, if not hundreds, of similar projects successfully in the past. A good agency should also help you with crucial processes like usability testing and user acceptance testing (UAT).
6 – Use the Right CMS
Your selection of content management system (CMS) or platform is another decision that can have a significant influence on the UX your visitors will be given.
Some CMSs have a reputation for being clunky, difficult to use, and slow. Others, such as WordPress, are specifically designed to make websites as easy-to-use as possible for visitors. For example, WordPress is built with plenty of functionality that promotes accessibility for those with difficulties using technology.
For more insight into this issue, we recently produced a series of articles comparing the pros and cons of the leading CMSs available today. You can read that here:
The Benefits and Opportunities of Better Usability
Working hard on your usability to create a great UX is something all businesses should be prioritising in 2023 and beyond.
As technology continues to become more convenient and pervasive, people’s tolerance for slow, unintuitive websites and frustrating functionality is rapidly shrinking.
If you do create a site that provides your users with what they’re looking for and meets their expectations, your business will begin to benefit from a number of outcomes:
2023 Trends and Future Predictions
While users’ preferences for speed and convenience haven’t really changed much over the years, their frustrations with poor UX and their demand for greater usability have increased.
With technology now present in so much of our daily lives, people’s pateince for bad experiences is getting smaller and smaller. When it comes to web design, the best way to manage this is to stick to what’s proven to work and give your users what they want.
The most important usability trend in 2023 may be to focus entirely on those fundamentals we mentioned earlier. Keeping things clear and simple is likely to be the most effective approach to UX design for the majority of businesses right now.
Always Ensure Your End-User is Your Priority
You’d be surprised how many websites fail because they don’t provide their users with a straightforward experience that aligns with their expectations. When you’re investing a significant amount of time, effort, and money into building a site for your business, you can’t afford to overlook the importance of usability.
Whether your target users are prospective customers, existing customers, or your internal workforce, tailoring the UX to that specific audience is absolutely crucial. If you do, not only will your users have a better experience, but your business will also benefit from advantages that will begin to drive increases in business growth.
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31 October, 2022
Understanding and Evaluating Enterprise Options for Bespoke Web Development
Evaluating and selecting the best option for a bespoke web development project is an important decision, with a lot riding on it. But with so many technology providers, platforms, and agency partners out there today, that decision can be overwhelming.
In this article, we’ll guide you through this evaluation process, explore the options available, and help you choose the right technology platform for your own web development project.
We all know that a large business or enterprise relies on technology to function. With dozens of sites across different countries, hundreds of employees, and thousands of customers, technology is the heartbeat of your organisation.
You need sophisticated technology to facilitate mission-critical digital assets like your website, mobile applications, staff portals, communications channels, and various other systems. Many businesses also leverage technology to facilitate processes or capabilities that are entirely unique to the organisation, like internal training platforms or bespoke tools for certain departments.
With that in mind, it’s important to find a platform that can meet your specific requirements and enable you to accomplish your strategic objectives.
Modern enterprise systems need to be dynamic, scalable, and intuitive, and achieving that involves some complexity behind the scenes. For that reason, it’s often necessary to take the route of a bespoke development project to ensure your business gains exactly what it needs in terms of both functionality and capability.
A content management system (CMS) is the most common technology platform for businesses to deliver these projects, with almost two thirds (63%) of all sites on the Internet powered by a CMS today. This is a type of software used to build websites and similar systems, allowing you to easily create, edit, and publish digital content across a range of online channels and devices. But determining the best CMS, let alone choosing the right one for your own bespoke development project, can be a daunting challenge.
So, let’s explore the situations in which it’s wise to adopt a CMS to deliver a development project. We’ll then walk you through the next steps, giving you the confidence to make the best decisions for your business along the way.
Enterprise Challenges with Technology
There are plenty of situations in which a marketing team might be struggling to identify the right technology platform for a project like this.
Perhaps you need to find a way to deliver something very niche, like building a new website or internal system from scratch. Maybe your project requires you to build a website on a new platform, and that platform needs to integrate with your internal systems like Salesforce, HubSpot, PowerBi, and other back-end applications.
Or, you may be trying to solve a challenge, like finding a suitable way to replace your current legacy systems. If, for example, your current website is built on a CMS like Drupal, and it’s no longer capable of meeting your requirements, you’ll need to find a new platform and migrate everything over.
A CMS is an ideal solution in each of these scenarios, and many others. Of course, with such a vast technology landscape to navigate, finding the right CMS is no easy task. It’s even difficult to know where to begin for most enterprise marketers.
So, let’s take a look at how you can approach this evaluation process in a cost-effective, efficient way.
How to Approach an Enterprise Web Development Project
Firstly, as an aside, it’s important to regularly review and reassess whether your CMS is fit for purpose, even if you don’t have an immediate requirement for something new.
Modern technology is advancing so rapidly. With that, your users’ expectations – both employees and customers – are evolving as well. You need to keep up with the pace of change and ensure your technology can still meet the current demands it faces from those users.
Back to the task at hand, though. Before you begin looking into different CMS, you should try to define exactly what it is you need from them.
Whether you’re building a bespoke website or migrating an existing site to a new platform, make sure you know exactly what you want to achieve by doing so.
Start by asking questions like:
Make sure you have a very specific brief and clear set of requirements to take to whichever solution providers and agencies you’ll be speaking to. If you don’t, you’ll struggle to fully understand whether the platforms you’re evaluating can actually deliver what you need.
Once you’ve got that, you can decide which approach is the best for your project. This could be:
It’s worth noting that most web development projects for large businesses will have complex requirements that are almost impossible to achieve without strategic guidance and ongoing support from an experienced partner. An agency partner will work closely with you to understand your strategic objectives and requirements, then provide you with platform-specific skills, tools, and expertise to achieve those. We’ll look at this in more detail later in the article.
Defining Your Requirements
As mentioned above, it’s important to have a specific set of objectives for your project and know what requirements are necessary to achieve those. These will also ensure the partner or agency you work with understands your brief and is able to deliver the exact finished product you’re looking for.
When scoping this out, there are some common capabilities and qualities most enterprise-grade platforms should have in order to meet expectations. Here are some things you should ensure your new platform – and the agency you work with, if you decide to go that route – can provide for your business:
Your Options for Enterprise CMS
Drupal is popular among enterprises because it’s a highly secure platform. It’s also great if your team contains technical resources with good coding ability, as it’s very intuitive for people that have more advanced content management skills.
On the other hand, Drupal can be very difficult to get up and running, and is lacking in terms of simplicity. Because of this, your agency costs will also likely be higher than with other CMSs if you take that route.
Even if you do have that technical skill in your team, however, the platform itself is somewhat limited with customisation. It’s also worth noting that the version of Drupal most businesses currently use (Drupal 7) is soon reaching end-of-life. This has caused many Drupal users to migrate their existing sites to new, more intuitive platforms, such as WordPress.
Sitecore is a robust CMS that provides more capabilities than the average platform. It’s popular because it actually offers a fully-managed ‘digital experience platform’ that delivers most of the qualities mentioned in the previous section.
Sitecore comes with a good level of personalisation and is well suited for bespoke development projects. However, it’s an expensive system, requiring the procurement of licenses to begin using it. It also restricts certain capabilities unless you progress to higher tiers (and costs) of your licenses.
From a practical perspective, Sitecore operates on quite hierarchical, complex workflows, which may not suit more agile or smaller teams.
The scalability of Umbraco is great for large organisations, as it allows you to manage a high volume of pages and build out your website to meet the changing needs of your business.
Similar to Drupal, Umbraco is mostly suitable for users with more advanced content management skills and some development experience. This makes it difficult to use for the average marketing team, which increases the likelihood of higher costs, either through more expensive agency projects or even the need to hire someone in-house.
WordPress is the platform that powers almost 45% of the world’s websites. It’s so popular because it’s affordable, flexible, dynamic, and very easy to use.
There is a common misconception that WordPress isn’t robust or scalable enough for large businesses. However, this continues to be proven as a myth, as some of the biggest brands in the world are now using WordPress for their CMS, from Nike to Bloomberg.
We’ll provide a detailed breakdown of the benefits and advantages WordPress offers in the next section.
Which is the Best Option?
It’s important to remember every web development project will be different, and each of these platforms are good options in their own way. That’s why you should make your decision based on the solution that best aligns with your objectives, requirements, budget, and other factors.
One common point related to all these platforms that’s worth noting is that each of them are exponentially easier to use, and will deliver far greater return on investment (ROI), if you have the support of an experienced specialist partner to guide you. An agency with platform-specific skills and expertise will ensure your business gains the maximum value from the platform you select, and help you leverage it strategically to harness its full potential.
Business Benefits and Opportunities with WordPress
Using WordPress is an excellent option for any business. For large organisations in particular, there are a number of qualities that make it particularly beneficial.
Scalability and Agility
The WordPress platform is highly scalable. This means that the size and complexity of your website, and the amount of traffic passing through it, won’t be a concern. WordPress can also grow with your business and easily adapt to continue meeting your changing needs. Scalability is one of WordPress’s most prominent advantages for enterprises.
Low TCO and Strong ROI
Of all the options listed above, WordPress comes with the lowest total cost of ownership (TCO). Unlike most platforms, you won’t need to bolt on new features or capabilities with WordPress, nor will you have to worry about costly extra work to manage platform upgrades or updates. Additionally, because WordPress is so flexible and rich with dynamic features and capabilities, it’s proven to deliver strong ROI.
Flexibility and Customisation
WordPress is ideal for a bespoke development project because it’s highly customisable. You can use its flexibility to build bespoke features and functionality into your website or create an entirely unique system.
Because of its great usability and simplicity, WordPress allows for a very fast time-to-market, meaning you can deliver your project quickly and efficiently. However, it should be noted that most businesses will need the support of a skilled agency to be able to achieve that.
WordPress is very easy to integrate with other systems, such as HubSpot, Salesforce, and others. This means your business will experience minimal disruption due to integration, whether migrating to WordPress or starting a new development project from scratch.
In the back-end, WordPress is renowned for its usability. As a CMS, it’s extremely easy to use, meaning you can get up-to-speed quickly and share responsibilities across more members of your team.
The performance, speed, and ease-of-use with WordPress are all enterprise-grade when building websites on the platform. This means user adoption and retention will be high, ensuring the success of your project and driving greater ROI.
When working with WordPress, you’ll also gain advantages that will deliver added value to your business, especially if you have the support of a specialist partner who can help you unlock the full power of the technology.
The project doesn’t stop with the initial implementation of WordPress, either. As your requirements change, or your project evolves, WordPress is the best platform to adapt with you and deliver value to your business in the long-term.
Why WordPress is the Future of the Enterprise
WordPress is the most popular and widely used CMSs in the world today. And that popularity has been consistently spreading into the enterprise market over the past decade or so.
This is no coincidence, either. It’s unsurprising to see how quickly WordPress is growing in popularity, as more and more businesses realise the vast potential of the platform and the benefits it can deliver.
When taking into account its unprecedented scalability, flexibility, and usability, not to mention its low TCO, WordPress is one of the leading options for bespoke web development projects for large organisations.
When it comes to evaluating the options for your own project, remember to carefully consider how each platform aligns with your requirements and objectives. Once you’ve identified the CMS that is most suitable to deliver what you’re looking for, consider the value that could be added to your project by working with an agency partner who specialises in that technology.
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30 November, 2022
Comparing the Leading Content Management Systems (CMS) for Large Businesses
A content management system (CMS) is a type of software-based technology, used to build and manage websites and other digital products. A CMS allows you to easily create, edit, and publish digital content across a range of online channels, such as the web and mobile. This is the most common technology platform used by businesses to build assets such as websites, with almost two thirds (63%) of all sites on the Internet now delivered via a CMS.
With that in mind, it’s clear why most businesses today are heavily reliant on this technology. Whether you’re developing something new from scratch or switching from an old platform to a new one, selecting your CMS is an extremely important decision with a lot riding on it. But with such a vast landscape of digital solutions to navigate, and so many different options available, finding the right CMS can be overwhelming.
To help you through the process of finding the right CMS, this article compares four of the most common options for large businesses. We’ve also listed their pros and cons, and provided some additional considerations that will be useful for you to think about along the way.
First, the Criteria
A CMS can be used to build various digital products and assets, from websites and mobile apps to bespoke systems like staff portals and internal training platforms. Particularly in large businesses, it’s common to need to create some bespoke features, functionality, or digital processes as well. Whatever it is you need, you should aim to find a platform that’s capable of delivering on your specific requirements.
Here are some points to include in your criteria when researching the options for your CMS:
Now we’ve covered what a CMS should be able to do when you start implementing it within your business, let’s look at the different platforms available to you.
Option 1 – Drupal
Option 2 – Sitecore
Option 3 – Umbraco
Option 4 – WordPress
Interested in learning more? Check out our related article here, where we explore the benefits of WordPress for large businesses in greater detail.
A Brief Word on Agency Partners
As touched on earlier, you’ll also need to consider whether you want to take the approach of working with an agency partner or not. For large businesses, most development projects tend to involve complex requirements that are almost impossible to manage without the support of an experienced agency.
An agency partner can provide you with strategic guidance, platform-specific skills and tools, and expertise to help you gain as much value from the technology as possible. While it’s perfectly valid to decide to implement a new CMS without an agency working alongside you, doing so will probably make things a lot more challenging, a lot more expensive, or possibly both.
All the platforms mentioned here have their benefits. But they’ll each be significantly easier to use, and will deliver far greater return on investment (ROI), if you have an experienced partner involved.
How to Choose the Best Option for Your Business
Keep in mind that every business is unique and every web development project is different. These platforms are all good options in their own way, but a solution that works well for the majority of organisations might not be the right choice for you.
Whether you’re building a bespoke website or migrating an existing site to a new platform, you have to be thorough in your assessment and make the right choice for your specific business.
To really understand the pros and cons of these options, you first have to be clear about exactly what you need and what you’re aiming to achieve. You’ll then need to determine which solution best aligns with your requirements, budget, and strategic objectives.
If you’re in the process of assessing solutions to help you deliver a bespoke development project, read our comprehensive guide to evaluating and selecting the right platform here.