Google doesn’t always provide advance warning about its updates, but that’s exactly what they’ve done in anticipation of 2021. The search engine giant has gifted web designers a six-month time frame to update their websites to preserve and better their page ranking status. Google’s 2021 updates will specifically impact user experience criteria related to factors like site responsiveness and speed. The updates are a continuation of Google’s Core Web Vitals developed to boost page experience. Businesses who want to remain in the search engine’s good graces should plan to incorporate page experience metrics into their 2021 site updates optimization. When creating your update strategy, be sure you include the following UX musts and Google-inspired web design trends. Ranking well means the likelihood of increased business. Your updates can actually protect and help you improve your bottom line.
Updates to Google’s Page Ranking Algorithm
Known formally as The Google Page Experience Update, the search engine’s next big thing in its perpetual algorithm refinement is scheduled to take place in May 2021. Many businesses have already begun to update their digital properties, but there’s still time to focus on yours so that your website doesn’t lose its rank and be digitally edged out by its competitors. The update will target user experience with the underlying goal to encourage website owners to prioritize usability and other metrics that enhance the user experience. In fact, Google intends to provide a visual indicator in search results to let searchers know if a site has met its page experience criteria.
The updates to the algorithm will relate to various factors that affect a website’s usability. Google has stated that its “page experience specifically is not a ranking score,” but “each element within has its own weights and rankings.” These specific elements refer to mobile-friendliness, loading speed, interactivity, visual stability, HTTPS and safe browsing. Consequently, many of next year’s UX musts and web design trends will necessarily relate to user experience. The advance notice of the updates is a nicety that reflects on the consistent requests among site owners to be ample time to prepare. That time is now.
Take a “Mobile First” Approach
Let’s just get this out of the way first thing–make your website mobile-friendly and prioritize mobile design first. Mobile-friendly sites will be ranked higher than sites that aren’t. When it comes to mobile, businesses have had years of encouragement, pleas, and warnings to optimize for mobile. At this point, if you don’t make your digital properties friendly for mobile, you’ll face some harsh consequences when it comes to your page rankings. If you’ve invested in SEO for mobile in the past, don’t assume you’re safe either. Google will be looking for sites that load flawlessly on the mobile platform whether the user is searching from their smartphone or tablet.
The mobile-first approach is not a brand new trend, but it has become a definite must for the year ahead. A mobile-responsive design is only a bare bones measure at this point. Google knows that more and more users access the web via their mobile devices, meaning that mobile optimization cannot be an afterthought–and that’s non-negotiable. Your development team should be working on web development techniques that are specifically designed for the mobile experience. Doing so will enhance the users’ experience and, ideally, set you up to enjoy an increase in leads and conversions.
If you’re designing for mobile as suggested, your developers are necessarily going to have to opt for more minimalist designs, and that’s actually going to make the navigation process easier for users. The new algorithm updates will assess user experience in terms of navigation ease. A complex design will not only fall flat on the mobile platform, but it’s likely going to impede users from easily navigating your site, and that will be a mark against your rank.
To ensure that users have an easy time navigating your website on mobile or desktop platforms, opt for concise pages that streamline information and provide users with convenient functionality. To some extent, you’re going to want to prioritize function over aesthetic appeal or, at least, ensure that the design never impedes the user experience. And, of course, an easy-to-navigate website also supports customer conversions.
Relevant Content Is King
Is your website content relevant? In the future, no fluff or throwaway content is going to serve your website well in the rankings department. In fact, evaluate every single page of all your digital properties and remove any irrelevant content or content that is bogged down by keyword stuffing. Google’s increasingly sophisticated algorithms are trawling for content that is highly useful for site visitors.
However, don’t assume that relevant content means less content. On the contrary, you’ll want to replace irrelevant content with better, long-form content. According to Search Engine Journal, “blogs over 2,000 words dramatically outperform blogs of 1,000 words or less.” The trend for long-form content took off in 2020, but it’s expected to escalate in the year ahead. As you prepare for the Google update, reassess your business blog and company website to ensure that each page is loaded with strong, high-quality content that helps to establish your business as an authority in its field.
Diversify Your Content with Video
Google has already been prioritizing websites that feature video because to put it simply, users like to watch more than they prefer to read. In a given month, more than four billion internet users will watch videos. If you don’t yet have a strategy to develop branded video content, it’s high time to get one. Having grown in importance steadily in recent years, video content offers users a more dynamic experience and is easily consumable. To that end, video content has now become a critical asset for digital property owners. As Google and searchers alike place a stronger emphasis on video, businesses will need to produce this content to stay competitive. If you’re listing your UX musts for the upcoming year, but producing video content near the top of your to-do list.
A flawless web page design considers even the smallest details. According to UX Collective, your developer should feature design details like micro-interactions to “delight the user.” And why wouldn’t you want to delight your users if it means a boost in page ranking and a stronger likelihood of conversion? A good micro-interaction should enhance website navigation and use. One simple example of a micro-conversion is changing the color of your page font where it’s associated with a clickable link. It’s an intuitive signal for users to click and open a new page.
That’s a simple example, but technology is supporting slightly more complex micro-interaction with tools to create micro-animations. Visually reward users with an animated confetti burst when they’ve completed a task (i.e. completed registration or signed up for your newsletter). Micro-animations are becoming more sophisticated. For instance, if you have no choice but to stand behind your site’s longish load time, you can include an interactive micro-animation on your load page to keep users engaged and prevent them from bouncing.
Make It Fast
Long-form content is in and short load times are a must! There’s no redemption for websites that fail to load quickly. This is one design trend that can’t wait for 2022. Users are impatient and Google is well aware of bounce rates associated with poor loading times. Your developer should boost speed to deliver the information that searchers want more quickly than ever–and they want it lightning fast. Five seconds to load? That won’t win you any boosts in the rankings.
Achieving website speed will likely involve more than your developer’s attention. You might want to take a team approach that includes all relevant decision-makers. To speed up your loading time for a mobile device, you’ll need to evaluate each page element because each one will affect loading speed. Images, videos, codes–these may be important to you but if they’re affecting your page speed, you need to refine your design. Then, test. Your web page should never take more than three seconds to load up.
Make It Safe
Last but not least, keep your users safe from malware. Google will know if you’ve ignored the steps to keep your users safe and secure while they shop your site. Safety and security are core Google values. As you prepare your update plans, it’s a wise idea to invite your UX team and IT department to a sitdown lunch to discuss cybersecurity. When these two entities work together, there’s a stronger likelihood that your website will feature more robust protections from cyber threats. In fact, when your UX team begins to work with your IT team, it can build in security features during the development stage. This provides your site with protection that’s more seamless.
Start Planning Your 2021 UX Updates Now
Don’t wait to address these considerations in your 2021 UX updates. With Google’s May rollout, you want to be fully prepared to thrive in the year ahead as opposed to playing digital catch-up to your competitors. Certainly, there are lots more trends to look forward to, but by focusing on Google’s Page Experience Update, you can maintain your SEO and guard against a fall in page rank all while making your website a more pleasurable experience for customers and potential customers. Moreover, these practices aren’t mere trends either; you’re likely going to be focused on them for the foreseeable future. Ranking on page one of Google search results should provide you with a significant boost in website traffic, and with more traffic, you should expect more sales. So invest in these updates now so they can boost your business in the coming year.