Seven-step web design and usability checklist for marine businesses
Written by Sarah Rowland
Last updated: 19/09/2016
Months will go into the planning and design of any new business website; you’ll work with many different professionals, each with differing opinions and expertise, but when it comes down to it, there will be a few considerations that your new website should utilise to be successful with yachties and marine business users.
Yachting Pages presents a website design checklist for marine marketers and marine businesses targeting the superyacht industry, taking into consideration points that are particularly relevant to usability at sea and on the move.
Website design and usability checklist
Beyond the essential web pages, optimised content and carefully considered functionality of any new website, there will be certain questions that you should ask your web designer to ensure that your website is user friendly for yachties, marine businesses and associated users alike.
Before finalising your new website design, ask:
1. Is my website mobile friendly?
Can it be viewed fully and all features used completely on mobile devices?
With Google sharing that its mobile search queries had finally surpassed those made on desktop devices (those with screen size over six inches) back in May 2015, and continuing on the up ever since, the first question to ask is whether your new website is optimised for mobile users.
Traditional websites don’t automatically display in their proper form on mobile devices, including smart phones and tablets. Instead your website will need to be created as a ‘responsive’ or ‘adaptive’ design, so that it resizes to the appropriate screen size or resolution of the device(s) that it is being viewed on. Other alternatives include creating a standalone mobile site with its own m. URL. Find out more about mobile-friendly web design options here.
It may be somewhat more expensive to create a mobile-friendly website and it will be more labour intensive, with an additional site to SEO and manage, but if users buy via your site, this is a feature that could help in recouping its additional costs in the long run. More and more captains and crew are making purchases and enquiries using mobile devices as they travel the world, so it is a point worth thinking about.
By ensuring that your marine website is mobile friendly you would hope to see your bounce rate decrease and online engagement increase, as users are able to find the desired information and navigate your website more easily.
2. Is my website cross-browser compatible?
Will it be displayed as intended across different web browsers - including past and present versions?
As if there isn’t enough to consider with web compatibility across multiple devices, your website should also be cross-browser compatible, displaying properly with popular browsers in their past and present versions and on the various devices/operating systems that they are being used on.
You may only use Google Chrome to search the web on an up-to-date Windows PC in the office, but your audience may be using Safari on an iPad at sea - or even an outdated version of Firefox on a Windows tablet in dock.
It is a safe assumption that the majority of devices aboard today’s larger superyachts will be up-to-date with the latest software, commonly used technologies and popular browsers, but there’s always the chance that someone will be seeing a disfigured website on an outdated browser!
3. Does my website use Adobe Flash?
Can this be avoided?
Regardless of what you may have heard regarding steps forward in the development of Adobe Flash, it is still not widely believed that Flash is SEO-friendly. Largely for these reasons, it is therefore not readily compatible with Apple mobile devices, which, when you think about it, are among some of the most popular devices for online search in the superyacht industry.
Flash may allow for eye-catching videos and animations, facilitating a more encompassing user experience, and for what some consider to be quicker page-load times, but it is not fully compatible with HTML and therefore does not support many well-known ranking factors - the fundamental foundation of good web design.
In such a competitive industry, where ample yacht provisioning companies, marine chandleries, etc. compete for online search exposure within the main yachting hubs of the world, it is therefore probably less of a headache to create a website without Flash.
4. Is the content separate from the design?
Is it indexable by search engines and does it follow SEO best practice?
Similarly to the above principals of avoiding using Adobe Flash in web design, it is also important that your website designer works to keep web content very much separate from web design.
This not only makes it easier to update the website going forward, but it also assists search engines in ‘crawling’ or ‘indexing’ content. Pages will also load quicker which is a happy coincidence for both users (especially those using VSAT internet at sea) and search ranking.
As a general rule, your website should use the smallest image files possible (72dpi) to accelerate page load times, and fully utilise descriptive image captions and ALT text. Find out more about optimising web images here.
5. Is my website optimised for search engines and users?
What are we doing to ensure that my business is found and favoured by users?
The majority of internet users will likely find your website through online search engines, or ‘organic search’. Your website should therefore be optimised for search engines as well as for users and their search queries.
Your web designer should know what is needed to optimise your website so that it performs well in online search, including the use of relevant keywords, H headings, ALT tags, etc., but on-page content and navigation should ultimately be designed and written for users, reading well and being written and displayed for people, not robots.
Ultimately, if your website has meaningful content (and lots of it) that reads well for users and answers their search queries, the more likely it is that users will find and link to your website. Of course, this goes hand-in-hand with your content marketing and link-building strategies.
6. Can I make simple updates to my website in house?
Do I have access to an intelligent CMS system that will allow me to update my website?
With fierce competition in the marine and superyacht industries, both commercially and in fighting for brand awareness, it is vital to ensure that your website can be easily updated and improved by your marine marketing team in house.
Websites do not sit in a static world waiting for people to find and use them, so, as marine marketers, we must make efforts to ‘add value’ to our websites ourselves in the form of fresh and meaningful content, giving people a reason to visit (and come back again and again), as touched on above.
We have discussed the benefits of adding up-to-date content and engaging articles to websites in the form of blogs, news and industry tips many times before, but in order to do so without help from a developer, you will need a content management system (CMS) that is intelligent and easy to use. It should have all of the relevant fields, code and schema markup behind it to help your website to become success in SEO terms.
Make sure you have the ability in your CMS to add page titles and meta descriptions.
7. Can I track my website’s performance?
Do I have all the necessary code implemented to allow me to track the performance of my business website?
On the subject of intelligent CMS’s, you’ll want to ensure that your website is coded to track the basic statistics that are interesting to you and your business - not only to check whether your website is working effectively and having the desired outcome, but also as it is addictive to see things change and improve with your work and investment!
Ensure that your web designer has implemented the relevant tracking codes for your chosen analytics programme. Google Analytics is perhaps the most widely used free tracking solution. Find out more about GA and measuring ROI in our marketing stats and reporting guide.