These last few weeks have been challenging. It looks like the global COVID-19 pandemic is going to continue for months. This is going to allow for significant time to review and assess how businesses and verticals are currently operating, how they’ll operate under this ‘new normal’, and how industries will change when we are hopefully able to put this seminal moment in history behind us:
- Some industries are booming now, but may see business drop off after the crisis (eg, paper goods manufacturers, delivery services, online food ordering).
- Some will just delay service for now, but will eventually pick back up (eg, home repair, car repair, restaurants).
- Some will rebound, but might not see the same demand that they had pre-crisis (eg, expensive splurges or on entertainment and vacations).
- Some may see permanent drop off (eg, people become more accustomed to shopping online over local, peoples budgets change and discretionary income tightens, people learn to cook, create, build at home).
- Some will most likely see an increase in business as people try new things during crisis (eg, Instacart, Amazon etc.)
In short, the landscape will change–we just don’t know exactly how yet. Eventually, most of us will return to some sense of normalcy. In fact, we recently shared some ways that teams can easily shift to a distributed method and thrive as an organization while still respecting "social distancing".
But what should you do in the interim? This may be an opportunity for you and your team to focus on the internal initiatives that have been sitting on the back burner. Regardless of your situation, there are assessments of your current business practices and other internal projects that you can do now to help you get ahead of the curve when life does normalize. DesignHammer has prioritized a few business initiatives that we will be working on internally over the next few months which we are happy to share with our readers below.
1. Analyze Your Current MarCom Strategy
Oftentimes we get so caught up in day-to-day life that we don’t take time to analyze where our business is in relation to the competition. If we don’t have a highly dedicated and focused marketing arm those projects are often sacrificed for more timely work. Now is the time to stop and take a look at your current marketing and communications efforts. Do you know how these critical elements of keeping your business at top of mind (or literally top of page)? The pandemic is already forcing companies to rethink their marketing strategy and direct their investments towards tactics that drive online sales.
- Web Analytics. Are you using a program like Google Analytics to stay informed about what your website visitors are looking at, where they are navigating to, and how long they are engaging with your brand? Are you strategically tagging content with a service like Google Tag Manager to increase and track conversions? Gathering this information helps you understand if people are engaging your brand as you expect them to or if you need to tweak your methods to drive people to the places that are important to you.
- Social Media. How are you currently using it? Are people interacting with you? Which platforms best drive traffic and conversions, and which channels result in higher engagement levels on your site?
- Your Blog. Are people reading your blog posts? If so, which posts, and why do they read them? Is your content rich in information? Are your posts relevant to your industry or product offering? How do they rank in internet searches and are they driving people to your product? Maybe now is the time to invest in a refocused strategy, update some keywords from past blog posts, and really drive thought leadership and traffic while much of your target audience and customers are (literally) a captive audience right now.
- Email Marketing. Are you reaching out to your customer base enough, and is it effective? How successful is your click-through rate and overall content strategy to help drive visits and conversions?
2. Use The Latest Search Engine Optimization Tactics
Is your corporate website effectively reaching your intended audience amongst all the chatter? Why not increase focus on SEO efforts to maintain your standing and brand position in the wake of this unprecedented epidemic?
New SEO initiatives may include:
- Rewriting old blog posts and updating content.
- Updating keywords to appear in featured snippets.
- Hiring a knowledgeable digital agency to implement best practices. We put together an SEO Best Practices Guide to help you get started.
3. Ensure GDPR & CCPA Compliance
Many companies have selectively or unknowingly ignored the opportunity to update their websites to comply with the latest online privacy legislation(s). The General Data Protection Regulation 2016/679 (GDPR) went into effect in May of 2018 to regulate data protection and ensure better privacy for citizens of the EU. Basically it restricts the personal data that a company can collect about a user via cookie tracking on their website.
The GDPR was enacted in the European Union and the European Economic Area but is applicable to all websites with the potential to be viewed by an EU citizen from any device with an EU-registered IP address, even if they are physically located outside of Europe at the time of viewing. All organizations should be wary of this legislation, as it grants European citizens the right to sue any website for not including a privacy cookie collection banner or offering the chance to consent to their information being tracked.
As of Jan 1st, 2020 the CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act) has followed suit with similar legislation, although it is not necessarily applicable to every corporate website.
To update existing client websites for GDPR and CCPA compliance we use a third-party solution from iubenda, who provides a number of security and legal compliance tools such as:
- Customizable cookie-tracking solutions
- Terms and conditions
iubenda consists of an international team of lawyers, developers, and compliance experts (including U.S. legal experts). It is headquartered in Milano, Italy which has been hit especially hard by COVID-19. So we feel it necessary now more than ever to show our support for a partner that has been so helpful in our journey to keep client websites secure.
As a Bronze member of iubenda’s Certified Partners Program, DesignHammer can provide cost effective, custom solutions for your business website to ensure your compliance with the new privacy laws in no time!
4. Take Time to Think Through Usability and Accessibility
Often grouped together because they are both parts of the same discipline, but very different in actual function; usability and accessibility are critical components of your website.
Website Usability basically assumes that different people will experience and interact with your website in different ways. The official ISO 9241-11 definition of usability is: “the extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specific goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a specified context of use.” For example, slow-loading websites with unnecessary complexity that are difficult to navigate will result in poor user experience (UX), and can consequently result in lost revenue. We have written extensively about usability on our blog and have even published an introduction to usability testing for those interested in learning how we ensure effective UX in our redesign projects.
Website Accessibility has long been around, but has become a hot topic recently as most older websites have been designed without thinking through the implications for those with visual impairments. Accessibility works to reduce barriers that prevent interaction with, or access to, websites for people with physical and cognitive disabilities. The annual discretionary spending of people with disabilities is over $200 billion in the US and nearly $7 trillion globally. “If 20 percent of the population cannot understand or operate your website, you’re missing a lot of potential business,” says friend John Samuel of strategic partner LCI Technologies. Headquartered in Durham, LCI Industries is one of the largest employers of Americans who are blind or visually impaired. LCI recently launched a technology division in 2019, to focus on making technology more accessible for those with visual impairments.
Accessibility is great news for those with disabilities, but the concept is also becoming increasingly controversial. In 2017 Winn Dixie was the first big domino to fall when a judge found them in violation of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act because Joan Carlos Gil could not access the website through his JAWS screen reader. One of the resulting injunctions stated that Winn Dixie had to enact an Accessibility policy “to ensure the persons with disabilities have full and equal enjoyment of its website and shall accompany the public policy statement with an accessible means of submitting accessibility questions and problems.” According to this compelling Wired article they are not the only one. Tech companies Apple, Amazon, and eHarmony have each been sued for web designs that weren't fully compatible with screen readers. Even Beyonce hasn’t escaped litigation. In short, IT’S A BIG DEAL. Just like usability, we have written extensively about ways to make your site more accessible in our blog.
5. Plan for a New Website
As the world increasingly operates in a connected ecosystem, the importance of your website cannot be overstated–it is now the face of your company, the front door if you will. In fact, Stanford University web credibility research, according to Kinesis Inc., suggests that 75 percent of consumers admit that they judge businesses’ credibility based on their the design of their website.
What people don’t realize is that a solid website project can take months to complete. Incorporating strategy and best practices in your web redesign project are as equally time-consuming as they are rewarding; It requires heavy collaboration between your development team (or agency) and marketing/content managers. At DesignHammer, we employ a thorough planning and discovery process to help our clients find exactly what they need for their website ahead of time. This way we can avoid the risk of having to backtrack over design miscommunications; which can cost a lot of extra hours and a lot of extra money.
If you are one of the 35% of organizations who use WordPress as your content management system, it’s a great time to redesign or retheme your site as web design trends have changed dramatically in the past few years.
If you have a Drupal-based website, did you know that Drupal 6 is already unsupported and that 7 and 8 will be deprecated in November of 2021? Using Drupal to power your web presence is a great option due to its robust CMS, but building it out can take time. Why not start thinking about it now? Even if you can’t budget it until 2021 it’s still worth a conversation.
These are just a few tips to help you prepare now in the midst of an ever-changing business landscape. If any of the above tips are areas that you could use help, advice, or planning, please let us know. We will provide a free consultation on any of the above strategies to the first 19 people who contact us during the COVID-19 pandemic.