The online world is continuously developing and advancing; it’s easy to get carried away understanding the latest and greatest internet sensations, but sometimes, looking back can be as valuable as looking forward. 94% of B2B buyer journeys start online, proving just how essential your website is to business success; but what do these consistent online advancements mean for your website? What will need to change? By looking to the evolution of websites, and understanding how far they have come, we can decipher what the future of online marketing holds.

The first websites

When the online world first began, dial-up was required to gain access. Websites had to be highly simplistic to ensure they properly loaded and were usually incredibly basic. Completely text-based, websites featured a string of links and no images. They were single column, in HTML format; completely unrecognizable when compared to the modern website experience.

By the mid-’90s, websites had progressed into a table-based format, and were able to include some images and started to include navigation options like sidebars, but there were still highly basic by today’s standards. The introduction of Flash in 1996 enabled anyone with a website connection to build a website, meaning the number of business websites in circulation quickly increased. These sites, however, were not focused on conversion, they usually acted as ports of information, providing product insight and contact details. Apart from the occasional image, no rich media was used.

Functionality was key

At this stage in website evolution, design took a back seat to functionality. Websites needed to be simple, so they could load quickly on inconsistent, dial-up connections, and easy to use, so those viewing them could quickly access the precise link or information they needed. At this early stage, the look and branding of a business website weren’t important – many businesses didn’t even have a website, so this medium certainly wasn’t viewed as a business essential. Though some still attempted to create a better-looking website experience using animated text (which at the time, seemed very on trend), and many would place hit counters on the bottom of websites.

But even with the odd addition of aesthetic features, looking back at these websites now is both nostalgic and amusing. It’s almost comical, how simple the first websites were, and how alien they seem to us now, just a few decades on.

The websites of today

It’s safe to say, websites have evolved enormously. A huge 94% of B2B buyers start their purchasing journey online, proving just how much we have embraced the online world, and how often we turn to it when seeking answers or solutions. With the internet now so readily available across a multitude of devices, anyone could access a business website from anywhere, at any time! This enormous surge of online accessibility (along with an undoubtedly noticeable uplift in social media usage aligning with smartphone technology advancements) has moved hand in hand with website evolution.

Websites of today heavily focus on two key elements, user experience (UX) and user navigation (UN). Thanks to broadband offering a more reliable and speedy internet connection, websites can carry a myriad of features, maximize on rich media and enhance appropriate branding without compromising their load time. Modern websites contain multiple pages and layers; with the release of JavaScript, websites advanced to offer seamless UN through simple drop-down lists, menus and embedded links. Current business websites are able to provide detailed content, from downloadable assets to blogs and videos, using colour, animations, buttons and a vast array of image and graphics techniques to offer a fully branded and informative UX. The goal of modern websites is more than just providing information; many organizations aim to secure new business opportunities through their website, and the rise of e-commerce sees an ever-increasing number of products purchased online.

The rise of website analytics

Having a business website is now essential to success, as so many potential buyers will turn to this platform to discover your brand, learn about your products and identify how their business can benefit from your offering. As with any essential business process, consistent measurement is vital, so with the rise of website reliance, comes the rise of website analytics, helping businesses gain incredible insight into their website success and online audience.

It’s very common for modern websites to change regularly, as businesses use web analytics tools to understand their most popular pages, and how to properly optimize website content for increased conversion. Website analytics help your team understand where your website needs improvement, so you can continue to offer a highly effective online journey. For businesses of today, tools offering these vital metrics are as essential as having a properly branded, high performing website, and will undoubtedly play an enormous role in the future of website success.

Websites of tomorrow

So, what can we expect next from website evolution? Understanding how much websites have changed there’s little doubt they will continue to evolve; in just 5 years’ time, websites may look very different. We, of course, can’t say for sure, but we can look to understand the online expectations of consumers and business buyers, offering windows into how your business website will need to change, in order to meet modern buyer requirements.

Many websites are still stuck between evolution stages, as they attempt to embrace a mobile-first strategy. As 50% of B2B buyer searches are conducted from a mobile device, adapting website appearance and format to properly appear on a mobile or tablet screen is essential, but for some businesses, a lengthy process to undergo. It’s highly likely many websites will change layout and appearance over the next few years as they fully adopt a mobile-first approach, but there’s an even bigger evolution on the horizon, set to truly revolutionize how your website attracts and converts B2B buyers…

Website personalization

The most advanced websites have started offering website personalization, dynamically changing content to instantly match the needs of valuable website visitors. Instead of offering every business the same static online journey, customized webpages instantly display industry relevant case studies and assets, products and offers meeting previous purchases or business pain points; these highly targeted website pages can even greet specific website visitors by name. Over 70% of buyers expect online experiences to provide some form of customization, and 74% of your online audience feel frustrated when a website offers no customized features at all. Website personalization is what your buyers want, so it’s highly likely this is the next step websites will take on their road of evolution. In 5 years’ time, it’s possible a website failing to offer personalizations will seem dated, much like how websites from the early 2000s look strange to us now.

Webeo is proud to be the website personalization experts offering the industry-leading software solution, enabling businesses to deliver thousands of customized online experiences. Whether used to better tailor webpages to your target industries, or to impress key ABM prospects with highly tailored experiences, Webeo can help your website plunge into a future of success. Our clients have seen exceptional results by evolving their website to consistently offer bespoke website personalizations, increasing new business opportunities gained by 150%, boosting average order value by 800% and achieving outstanding ROI in excess of 12,000%!