The technical effectiveness of your government contractor website is just as important as the design if you want to grow your company.
Built into every website are many technical features that can either improve the website’s performance or slow it down and impair the user experience — damaging your brand. To build the most effective website and design the most satisfying experience for your visitors, consider the following.
Technical Features to Improve User Experience
These eight technical elements are building blocks to ensure your website is functional, easy to use, efficient, and effective. If these are not included in your website design and development process, the website can be slow or broken. That creates a frustrating user experience and results in the loss of prospective buyers.
Here’s are the top technical features you need to consider:
- Browser capability
- Security (SSL certification)
- Page redirects
The first technical element on the list is speed because it can make or break a website’s effectiveness. Speed to load affects both the user experience and the search engine ranking for your website.
You have about 2-5 seconds to make an impression on your visitor.
They need to know they’ve come to the right place for the information, and they need to resonate with what you’re presenting.
If your website visitor waits for the site to load, they will be frustrated from the start and may (likely) just bounce. What might they expect from working with you if your website can’t load quickly? For many visitors, the speed of loading is the first impression of your company through your website.
Similarly, the search engines place websites on the top search results page based on performance metrics within their algorithms. Page Speed is the metric indicating how fast your web page content loads into your visitor’s browser. You can check how your site is doing on Google’s PageSpeed Insights. Some speed signals the search engines look for include:
- First Contentful Paint (FCP) or how long until the first content elements show up, and
- DOMContentLoaded (DCL) is when the initial HTML document has completely loaded.
In 2021, Google implemented a new performance assessment tool called Core Web Vitals (CWV). CWV measures overall website useability but focuses heavily on speed. CWV is now one of the many criteria that impact where your website will appear on the search engine results page (SERP). The higher your position (i.e., position one on page one of a Google search), the more traffic you can expect to attract organically.
To ensure a fast speed, you want to compress large files, optimize your code, use the most direct navigation paths possible, leverage caching, and other efficient solutions. A fast website is the first key to an effective website.
The second technical element to consider is responsiveness or mobile delivery, also called “mobile-friendliness”. These terms all refer to how your website presents on different devices in various aspects, sizes, and ratios.
The combination of possibilities is enormous and means your website needs to have this flexibility, or responsiveness, built into the code to present fast and correctly, no matter where. The scaling is not infinite, thank goodness. There are breakpoints where the website can detect a mobile device and be programmed to resize appropriately with a well-suited configuration for that type of device. Webpages must be optimized for specific breakpoints and sizes and can look slightly distorted on devices with uncommon aspect ratios.
These issues must be considered and configured into your website design and development. This includes navigation, image configuration, text sizing, and many other factors.
3. Browser Capability
Websites are designed and built within WC3 industry standards. These technical specifications and guidelines support the delivery of web data anywhere, anytime, on any device to anyone.
Delivery occurs through web browsers designed to interpret the data on a website and display it accurately according to the standards. Sometimes there can be glitches in how one browser displays information vs. another browser.
Part of excellent web development is to review how each browser renders the design and content to ensure a great user experience. The most effective websites are built to the strictest standards to produce the fastest, most “vital” results.
Mobile-Friendly Within Different Browsers
One colossal task for website design and development companies is to build web pages and websites that meet these standards for all devices across all browsers. You can imagine the enormous number of combinations and the technical challenges of this task.
Consider these critical technical demands before choosing a partner to build or update your government contractor website. Select the best web design agency that also understands the critical technical development factors that can help your website support your company to grow and thrive.
4. Security (TSL and SSL Certification)
SSL refers to Secure Sockets Layer, and Transport Layer Security (TLS) is the successor protocol to SSL. The terms are often used interchangeably. SSL/TSL is an essential technical feature to keep your website (and your website visitors) safe.
SSL is the standard technology for keeping an internet connection secure and safeguarding any sensitive data sent between two systems, such as filling out a form, making a payment, or sending an email. Any data transfer must remain protected (and not shared with anyone with mischievous or criminal intent).
SSL is represented by a “lock” icon next to the URL, that lets visitors know the site is protected. SSL/TSL is a licensed feature layered onto a website and is purchased or renewed annually.
The SSL also promotes trust between a company and its website visitors. The SSL informs a visitor immediately that you have their best interest in mind and are working to protect their data.
Credibility is yet another benefit of the SSL from a visitor and browser perspective. When it’s not present, a browser can signal that the website is “not secure”, sometimes even resulting in the page not being presented at all. A warning message can cultivate suspicion and translate to questions about the safety or security of your company in general.
With a touch of irony, the worst-case scenario is a data security company with a website missing an SSL/TSL certificate. Don’t be that company!
5. Page Redirects
All webpages should be visible, but occasionally visitors will see a “webpage not found” or “404 error”. 404 is the error code that a web page cannot be found. Instead, the page needs to redirect (or be forwarded) to a live page.
From a visitor’s perspective, a “404” can break trust and tells the visitor you don’t have the information they are seeking. This will likely result in the visitor leaving and never returning, a big loss for your marketing investment. Similarly, from a search engine perspective, it’s an indicator that the website is not reliable and can result in the website being penalized with lower rankings.
The solution to 404’s is to make a previously “not found” page forward or “redirect” to a live webpage. This is like moving to a new home; you let the post office know you’ve moved and provide your new address. In the case of a website, you have to tell the browser to present a different page.
Moving website pages around is common, as is updating a URL, but both can leave a trail of broken links and is a bad practice. Redirects can fix these issues and let the browser (and the search engines) know the page has moved and now has a new address. The redirect is a seamless part of the visitors’ experience—they shouldn’t even notice. They will know that they found the information they wanted. Your job is to make it easy for them.
The next technical feature to address in your website development is the sitemap. A sitemap is a documented depiction of the organization of your website. It reflects the hierarchy of the pages on a website and allows visitors a quick view of what is available, helping them get where they want to go fast. It also can help search engines understand what content is available and how it is structured. This tells the search engines how to present the available data or content.
A sitemap is also a helpful tool for SEO as it can organize the pages in a manner the search engines (Google) can index and connect you with your audience. The sitemap is “submitted for indexing” to help speed that process along.
Another consideration for your website’s technical effectiveness is called accessibility. Accessibility means that your website is easy to use by people with a disability. For example, those who are visually impaired, hearing impaired, or cannot use a mouse.
There are industry standards for accessibility features, written by W3C, the same organization that keeps the browser standards. These accessibility standards refer to Section 508 of the US Rehabilitation Act of 1973, often referred to as 508 compliance.
There are three levels of compliance A, AA, and AAA, with the most common level (if required) being AA. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) has even developed a compliance checklist to help web development companies meet these expectations.
Government agency websites must be accessible, which makes a lot of sense as they must serve every person their agency serves. Strictly speaking, other entities are not required to have websites that meet 508 compliance. However, companies that provide services to the general public are increasingly under pressure to meet accessibility standards.
Some lawsuits have been brought against companies for failure to comply. Examples include a victory that went to a blind man who sued Dominos Pizza because he couldn’t use their website or mobile app as neither had accessibility features. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court and sided in his favor, changing the expectations for businesses.1 In 2020, with the help of Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), San Francisco’s LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired sued payroll processor ADP due to a lack of accessibility on their website and mobile app.2 The suit was successfully settled with accessibility features added to web and mobile applications for people who use screen readers. With today’s diverse user base, it is both a need and an expectation for websites and mobile apps to be accessible to everyone.
8. Website Hosting
The final technical element in this list is your website hosting. Professional hosting can significantly impact website speed – improving the user experience and Search Engine Optimization (SEO). So it’s essential to make an informed choice.
Web hosting is one of 3 services that website owners always need to publish a website. The three services are:
- Domain Registration (Registrar) is who you pay to assign your domain name to your company.
- Web hosting is where your website files are stored.
- Domain Name Server (DNS) Hosting is a service that connects your domain name (at the registrar) to web files (at the web hosting service).
Each of these three services is independent and can be purchased through individual companies. However, many providers also try to bundle all three services, and the combination of different services can therefore be confusing.
Before buying, ask questions and get all the answers you need to feel safe and confident that your website will perform well and protect you, your company, and your website visitors. Your reputation is on the line.
Here are some essential details to keep in mind:
Always own your own domain:
- Buy it with your credit card and consider it an asset of your business.
- Do not lose control of this or you can lose your whole website, its historical value, and all of your followers.
- Keep the account login and password in a safe place, and be selective about who knows this data.
Also, maintain ownership of the DNS hosting account:
- The DNS setting is the pathway to your website and is an asset of the business.
- Keep the login and password in a safe place, and be selective about who knows this data.
Website hosting options:
- Some companies choose to host their website themselves on internal servers. These need to be configured for fast service delivery to search engines and account for all safety, security, and accessibility compliance factors.
- Most companies, however, will work with a website development company and SEO provider who should be experts in providing security, maintenance, and optimization services.
3 Common Website Myths & Misconceptions
While the above factors address the technical aspects of a website, there are some myths and misconceptions that create confusion. Let’s clear these up.
1. The coding and technical aspects of my website are the same as SEO. FALSE.
The technical aspects and the technical requirements around Search Engine Optimization (SEO) often get confused.
The technical build determines how the website performs once you get there. So the top priority of building a technically sound website is to create an excellent experience for your user—which includes making it easy for them to find you, then find the info they need. “Easy to find” is one area where the technical build overlaps with SEO.
Conversely, the top priority of SEO is optimizing your website for the search engines. SEO is about getting the right people to the website in the first place – people who are looking for the information published on your website.
One example of overlap is speed. High speed impacts the website visitor’s experience and is used by Google (and other search engines) as a ranking factor for SEO.
2. Publishing a website means a company will automatically get found online. FALSE.
Getting found online requires additional work, such as search engine optimization. A high-ranking site is updated regularly (well maintained) and is used frequently and prolonged by real, unique visitors. This includes:
- Regular content updates and additions
- Engagement from visitors to the site
- Content directly related to search terms and other factors the search engines deem as a relevant and healthy site
3. It’s easy to know who visits a website. TRUE and FALSE.
You can track metrics like how many visitors come to a website and how they got there. But, you cannot see exactly who the visitors are (or follow up with them) unless you secure their contact information.
To capture contact information, you need to offer some high-value information or content that a visitor will download in return for their contact information.
Some services can track repeat visitors based on IP address, but there are limitations that you should investigate before accepting the data without question.
Summary: Launch Your Website With Confidence
All of these technical components can be overwhelming – there is a lot to consider.
The best website design companies will hold your hand through each element in a digital marketing program, especially a website launch, and help you make decisions confidently. Your online marketing program can unfold as a seamless process with the proper support.
A Website Design and Development Company Can Help
The best news is that you don’t have to navigate these technical details alone.
Ocean 5 Strategies is a top growth agency specializing in helping govcon businesses throughout the USA and beyond. We are based in the Washington DC metro area and involved in the local government contracting community.
Contact us for a Free Website Assessment and learn more about how we can help you design and build a government contracting website that will support your business growth.