Welcome to 2018, the year you need to update your website's look and functionality for two business-critical reasons: legal compliance and user respect and trust.

The latter is probably long overdue and has been hindering conversions; the former, a long time coming, is looking to become an immediate concern.

The problem? Businesses that set up a website many years ago and have done few, if any, modifications since. They may have updated to integrate new forms of payment or to manage inventory in a more timely manner, but that's usually the extent of it. If that describes your business, then your site is doing a disservice to your business and your customers—and, potentially, your bottom line, because they are noncompliant at a time of looming enforcement of standards and legislation.

Here are updates you should consider for your website if you find it's out-of-date in any of the following areas.

1. Data Security

In 2018, security is going to be a top concern of your website visitors, especially if your site requires them to provide personal or financial information. After the numerous well-publicized data breaches in 2017, your users will be especially wary of how interacting with your site could affect them.

Minimally, you should be using HTTPS to protect confidential online transactions and even online info-request forms. But today's users now expect a trusted certificate on any webpage they visit, so be sure all your pages have up-to-date certificates. The addition of basic SSL-level security will also aid in your SEO efforts.

For e-commerce sites, Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) compliance, while not in and of itself the law, is the standard required by the major credit card issuers (Visa, Mastercard, Discover, American Express, and JCB) for all merchants accepting payments online. Merely using a PCI DSS-compliant processor cuts down your risk, but it doesn't eliminate your compliance obligations. Merchants still must validate compliance, and the usage of an Approved Scanning Vendor (ASV) to check your website for vulnerabilities can help keep hackers at bay.

Make sure your vendors understand the requirements for building your business on a solid, secure foundation and are building solutions that enable you to maintain compliance.

2. Design That's Beyond Desktop and Mobile

Design is now moving beyond desktop and mobile considerations, into more advanced technologies (such as voice). Design is now less about building a website and more about building a journey revolving around all the ways brands can interact with their customers. For example, you can use artificial intelligence (AI) to design and build a buyer journey based on user experience and buying habits. So content customization is becoming the centerpiece of any effective website-based campaign.

3. Embedded Background Video

Fully 60% of website visitors will click on a video if one is available. Video is the newest component of website literacy, with more "stick" value than any text or picture you might have formerly used. Moreover, video is one of the simplest and most effective ways to engage site visitors at that all-important emotional level, so be sure your video is funny or touching, or else extremely useful. Sites with video have higher clickthrough, engagement, and conversion rates.

4. Disability Compliance

Though not rigorously enforced up to now, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does require your commercial website to be wholly compliant so that it can be used by your visitors who have disabilities. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 3.0 and ADA compliance regulations are updated often, and infractions have become easier to track, which means compliance will be much easier to enforce in 2018.

The guidelines are intended to enhance accessibility for a wider variety of people with disabilities, such as people with low vision, learning disabilities, and speech restrictions. Legislation guiding mobile displays is expected midyear, as well. Is your site compliant?

5. Artificial Intelligence

In 2018, watch artificial intelligence, typically in the form of chatbots, to be incorporated into many business websites. Once again, the goal is to make the customer experience on your website seamless and useful. AI agents have a way of knowing exactly what your customer is looking for by analyzing their past purchases or inquiries. AI has also taken over the customer service function on many websites.

Does your site have a live messenger or chatbot presence?

* * *

These are all but the tip of the iceberg of changes that are coming to Web design in the very near future. Voice-command integration, engaging micro-interactions, and progressive Web apps are also on the horizon, which elicits the bigger question: Is your website management adequate for dealing with this anticipated sea change?

This may very well be the year you'll need to address the large issue of website development.

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Five Ways to Keep Your Website Relevant in 2018

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Brian Byer is vice-president & general manager at full-service digital marketing agency Blue Fountain Media, a Pactera company.

LinkedIn: Brian Byer