Incremental updates don't win awards
Originally posted on Liquid Light
By Mike Street
The web industry thrives on “the big reveal”. Waiting until the last moment to launch a new website or show the client a full design. It lives on that thrill of the “will they/won’t they” mentality. Facebook updates, twitter refreshes, we’ve all been surprised or shocked by sudden changes (granted, we weren’t privy to the process) but you can sense the anticipation of getting a reaction from those involved. You just know they are waiting in the wings, watching for the gasps and feeding off the shocked tweets and status updates.
There are plenty of award sites for “Sexiest website” and “Most crazy thing done with web tech”, but the sites that win these awards don’t tend to be functional, accessible pieces of technology. There are the car prototypes of the web world, showing off how far you can push design while it still resembles something you access via a browser. They are the things that get people excited, but when it actually comes down to them being used, we struggle to find the menu icon.
Our culture at Liquid Light isn’t built around huge reveals, massive facelifts and unnavigable interfaces. We take chances based on informed decisions and often replace parts rather than whole systems. We make incremental updates and believe that once launched, websites should be built like the Ship of Theseus - replacing every part so that none of the original remains (don’t worry though, it will still be your website).
We walk our clients through every stage of the build, or reskin and make sure there are no surprises. Our project builds take place in front of their eyes, along with the people that have a vested interest in our project. We involve our clients from the beginning, helping us shape their website at every stage. From wireframes, to mood boards, to style tiles to prototypes - we make sure that the stakeholders have seen every single step and heard the reasoning behind each one.
Once built, we ensure our internal research and development benefits every one of our clients. In 2020, we made more than 620 updates, bug fixes and improvements to our CMS core which are then deployed to our projects and clients. All behind the scenes and all without a drop in performance, accessibility or user experience for our clients and their visitors.
We have sprints focused on an area where we investigate, research and implement. We nurture each topic, getting the most we can. An example might be Google Lighthouse and chasing the perfect score. To achieve this, we have optimised our CMS codebase to be the best it can be, doing things like enabling the latest HTTP protocol or implementing an image optimiser we can roll out for everyone. As a result of this, all of our recent projects score top scores.
Just recently we updated everyone’s search, as the existing one had some limitations. With our internal focus being on site search, we’ve been able to enhance both the usability and performance of the site search package we use on our websites, bringing in more features, customizability and stability than the one previous. Again, this update got rolled out without causing any shock or gasps from our clients.
We keep our servers up-to-date, we ensure the SSL certificates are always renewed, we keep up with the proposed Google search engine updates and optimisations and we make sure important accessibility changes are implemented and deployed as soon as we can.
It’s these kinds of incremental changes that don’t win plaudits. There’s not a bang-crash-thump as the new site lands. The small changes we make, the silent updates that no-one notices ensure our websites can climb Google rankings, or improve conversions as users can find what they want and use it how they want to use it.