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Rush to Responsive, Revisited

Ytimes' owner, Istvan Siposs, has graciously invited me to craft our company's email newsletter for this week. For those of you who I have yet to exchange with, I am Drea Solan (pronounced “Dray”), and have worked with Istvan for several years, serving in a blended role of E-Commerce Consultant/Partner and Project Manager for YTimes.  Over the years I have spoken to several hundred online merchants and have reviewed an even greater number of e-commerce web sites.  I look forward to connecting with even more of you in our YTimes online merchant community - you are indeed in good hands with our team here!


Our email newsletter from last week, "Big Announcement from Google: Mobile-Friendly Algorithm Change is Only Weeks Away", received tremendous response as well as a number of follow-up questions. We are happy to have gotten the word out to all of you regarding Google's fast-approaching changes and it is good to see so many of you taking it seriously. Note that we are doing all that we can to accommodate as many responsive design requests as possible in this time.

So, on to addressing some emerging topics here:

1. Where's My New Look and Feel? (aka "It Kind of Looks the Same")
With an “a la carte” responsive coding effort alone, you do not end up with a website "redesign".  Your existing website's look, feel and functionality are all preserved, while we implement the responsive behavior coding onto all of your pages.  Our extensive responsive effort establishes all of the individual callouts of how your existing page elements should appear when a visitor views your site on various mobile devices, reconfiguring the orientation of these items in adequate proportion to the device on which they are being viewed. 

Note: If you haven’t yet perused our responsive portfolio, this host of great references showcases how responsive behaviors work with a multitude of different store layouts and features - any interest in exploring the layouts, look, feel, or even functionality tools, are all valid considerations for a separate design effort on your site.

2. Yes, a Site Makeover Will Be Coming (aka "I'll Just Redesign Later")
We have been asked a number of times by merchants if they can have their responsive coding taken care of right now and then address a full site redesign at a later date.  Yes, you can choose to do this. However, if you wish for your new site design to be responsive, we would be required to recode the appropriate responsive behaviors to conform accordingly to that new design and its layouts, as well as any new usability features or other enhancements.

While it is tempting to immediately focus on meeting Google’s mobile-ready compliance deadline and to consider putting off a redesign until later, it is definitely more cost-effective to tackle both in one shot.

3. Why Redesign at all? (aka "I'm Just Worried About Appeasing Google")
It seems like the appropriate context to bring to light the following comment/concern which I've heard from merchants on a recurring basis over the years: I thought about doing some changes to the design, layout, navigation, … (fill in the blanks), but I don't want to mess things up with Google.

There are a multitude of different angles and layers to explore when discussing why a merchant should consider a site redesign; staying fresh and modern, establishing uniqueness and authority, better aligning with your customers, addressing navigation limits due to site growth, enhancing or repairing functionality tools, optimizing for mobile shopping, etc. are some that immediately come to mind. 

While these are all valid to consider, for now, let me speak to one core aspect; Google likes good web sites. Google loves good web sites! I don't mean just Google-aware or Google-ready web sites, but web sites that deliver a good user experience. 

Matt Cutts, head of Google's Webspam Team, otherwise known as the Keeper of the Google Search Algorithm, has been consistent in his response when faced with a blitzkrieg of questions about “what Google thinks” in analyzing and ranking sites. He says, with an unwavering grin, "Design your site with the user in mind … not us." That's it! 

So how exactly does Google validate good user experience?  This excerpt from an article on moz.com, speaks incredibly well on how good usability can be defined, measured and translated into value:         

There are a limited number of variables that search engines can take into account directly, including keywords, links, and site structure. However, through linking patterns, user engagement metrics, and machine learning, the engines make a considerable number of intuitions about a given site. Usability and user experience are second order influences on search engine ranking success. They provide an indirect but measurable benefit to a site's external popularity, which the engines can then interpret as a signal of higher quality. This is called the "no one likes to link to a crummy site" phenomenon.
Crafting a thoughtful, empathetic user experience helps ensure that visitors to your site perceive it positively, encouraging sharing, bookmarking, return visits, and inbound links—all signals that trickle down to the search engines and contribute to high rankings.
Many site owners have tried to crack the code in questioning Matt Cutts, and all are met with that same grin, and that same line (I know, for I once tried to do the same in person, mano a mano!) People falsely assume that his smile is hiding something and so naturally engage in a further battery of questioning with him. However, I have come to learn that the slightly amused smile simply means he has already provided the answer… and many times over!  "Design your site with the user in mind … not us."
- - -
Please reach out at any time with follow-up questions on the above topics or anything related to your online store (drea@ytimes.com, 253-777-0192).
Also, please stay tuned for our next email newsletter, which will present a trove of valuable Site Design considerations, specific to responsive as well as overall trends. This information will be provided by our Lead Designer and Chief Creativity Officer, Julia Fowler.

Yours in E-Commerce,
Drea

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