As with most things in life, technology is always changing, which includes the way websites are designed and built. We touched upon this topic at the beginning of the year. It is important to critique your website frequently to make sure you are promoting the best possible message you can to your clients and potential customers.
Proper Development and Attention to Content
The way a website is built directly reflects how search engine friendly the site may or may not be. Regardless of a beautiful design, when a website is built improperly it can never reach its full potential. This also includes the content of the site. If the content is sparse and unfocused, your website will not be the powerful marketing tool that it should be.
CSS3 and HTML5
There are a lot of fun things happening in the web community to enhance the overall web experience including the latest CSS and HTML coding (CSS3 and HTML5). These tools allow us to help make websites even more dynamic than they already are. Not only do these tools help with search engines, but they also help with styling a website. For example, we can create rounder corners, gradients, and shadows without the use of images, as well as animations and other exciting dynamics. When we use these rules to style a website instead of images, it allows the website to load faster.
The only downside to these tools in terms of styling, is that some of the functionality does not comply with antiquated browsers. A good amount of users are still running versions 6 through 8 of Internet Explorer. For those users, they are unable to see these features. For example, a rounded cornered box may look great in browsers like FireFox, but in IE, that box reverts back to a regular rectangle with four corners. This example is minimal and may not effect the website negatively. However, understanding what happens when those dynamics are forced to revert for older browsers is important.
Know Your Audience
Site statistics tools are imperative with helping grow websites. They can provide insight in many different areas including what browsers / browser versions your users are using when they view your site. If your user base has a good percentage of IE8 and below users, the decisions made when building the site need to be done with that information in mind. It may be irresponsible to use some of the latest and greatest technology as it will be lost on a notable number of your users. Trevor Davis of Viget wrote an excellent article on this topic.
With that in mind, it is also good to point out that a website does not need to be 100% exactly the same in each and every browser. Provided the experience is positive and the goals of the site can still be accomplished, potentially trivial details like a rounded corner working in all browsers may not be something to stress about.
As web designers, we need to be responsible and stay on top of the latest technology to provide clients with the best possible product. That includes knowing when, and when not, to use these tools.