Website Tips

Website Predictions for 2020

Best practice in website design doesn’t stand still, and your site shouldn’t either. You might not have the appetite to refresh your website every year, but depending on your industry and how much content you have on there, you don’t want too much time to elapse before you take an objective look at your online home.

Website Predictions for 2020

Here are some of the tendencies I’m seeing in the world of website design.

One or two, I admit, might be slightly wishful thinking on my part, but if you’re undertaking a website project in 2020, you should certainly be aware of these considerations and make conscious choices.

My 2020 website predictions:

1. Fewer websites with blogs

I’ve talked recently to a few authors who are moving away from blogging, either to spend more time on writing their books, start a podcast instead, or to focus on posting that same content on other platforms where it has a much better chance of reaching a new audience. I think this is a smart move. Here’s a guest article I wrote on this topic, which explains my thinking. In it, I explain I’m not against writing blog-type pieces, but I worry when authors only post on their own sites.

2. Less content (and less clutter) on websites

Marie Kondo isn’t just influencing our homes, she’s making her presence felt in the amount of clutter you see on websites. Recent clients have told me they want to pare down the amount they put on their (new) sites, and their instincts are right: in our busy and distracted world, most people simply aren’t reading long, content-stuffed web pages. And of course, many of us now to the majority of our browsing on tiny screens.

In fact, a study from Missouri University found users only spend 5.59 seconds reading your written content, and about the same time looking at images and menus. So it’s vital you get your key points across quickly and clearly.

3. The death of the sidebar

OK, this leans to wishful thinking on my part but I challenge you to find 5 websites which:

a) Are owned by people succeeding in their writing or creative business, and
b) Were built in the last 2 years.

I’ll be surprised if more than 1 or 2 feature a sidebar, which is outdated both in design terms and also a prime location where clutter lurks. Lose your sidebar, if you can.

4. Fewer websites using WordPress

Yep, this site uses WordPress, and it was definitely the best option when I set it up to support my author activities in 2012. Like many others, I haven’t switched (yet) because it’s a big undertaking and, to some extent, I can tolerate the quirks which accompany the WordPress ecosystem.

However, I no longer recommend WordPress for authors and small business owners who are just getting started. There are simpler, cheaper options out there now and (unless you  love playing around with technology and have lots of time to do so!) I strongly recommend you look into the alternatives before following the WordPress route.

I encourage my clients to:

  • Express the key parts of their writing or service business in 5 pages;
  • Forego the blog;
  • Eschew bells & whistles.

If you can do the same, you can then use a platform like Carrd.co and enjoy both simplicity and low annual costs.

5. Better photos of who’s behind the website

Not everyone can afford a full “brand photoshoot”, but one of your first priorities in spending limited money on your site should be to get a decent photo of yourself. I’d even say you should pay for photos and build your website yourself, if you can’t afford the cost of both pictures and a website designer. And there are some good budget-conscious tips here.

Another option is to have a talented friend take lots of pictures of you in a neutral setting, choose one or two you like best, then use a tool like remove.bg to remove the original background and place yourself in a setting (or in front of a color) which matches your brand. This isn’t a silver bullet, but it can be a big help in looking more professional.

For examples I like of authors with professional photos on their sites, check out Mark Dawson, Marian Keyes, Tara Mohr, and Chantel P. Walls.

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If you feel your website needs some attention so that it looks more 2020 than 2010, you might also like this post on fast updates you can make. And if you’ll be investing in new technology or hiring a website designer, here are my suggestions on how to evaluate the masses of advice you read online.

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4 Comment

  1. Reply
    Sandra Beckwith
    February 4, 2020 at 4:33 pm

    Great post, Pauline, with lots to think about. Regarding the shift away from blogs to podcasts, I hope authors take into account (a) where they’ll find their audience, (b) their skill set, and (c) the time involved to create a quality product. I’ve lost count of the number of consultant-types I know who jumped into podcasting because everyone was talking about it, only to drop out quickly when they learned after investing a lot of time and money that they couldn’t sustain the commitment.

    I would LOVE to be a podcaster because I really enjoy interviewing people, but most of my audience isn’t listening to podcasts, so what’s the point? In addition, I’m a writer — as in, I have a journalism degree and I do it for a living — so using that skill to help authors via the written word still makes sense.

    Thank you for this excellent content!

    Sandra Beckwith

    1. Reply
      Pauline
      February 4, 2020 at 4:59 pm

      And of course, starting a podcast doesn’t mean it will be found by anyone, which is then a similar problem to blogging only on one’s own platform. Very interesting that your audience isn’t listening, either!

  2. Reply
    Ari
    February 7, 2020 at 9:38 am

    Interesting post. There are some points here I definitely need to do, though I am not sure about moving away from blogging on your own site. One of the benefits of having a blog on your site is that it gives consistent fresh content, which means Google spiders visit you more often which helps with ranking and being found in searches.

    Yes, definitely need to blog on other sites and do guest posts, but the benefit of maintaining your own blog I think still holds enough benefit that I’d not want to let it go.

    I agree with shorter content. I remember when posts around 300 to 500 words were the trend, then suddenly it became long 1000 to 4000-word posts. I always wondered if that would linger because as our focus shortens and our attention drifts, who has time to read those kinds of posts these days.

    Thanks so much for sharing.

    1. Reply
      Pauline
      February 7, 2020 at 3:05 pm

      Great point about Google, Ari. I do still blog (as can be seen here) because apparently I enjoy it(!) and it doesn’t take me long. For other authors, though, it’s a drudgery, and I believe life is simply too short to feel so burdened by (one piece of) our marketing plan.

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