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As we approach the much-anticipated countdown, the exchanges of good cheer at midnight and the traditional caroling of 'Auld Lang Syne' to make the transformation complete, we wake up the next day expecting change to accompany the calendar's new date. The number of gym memberships will skyrocket as cigarette sales slump, but we propose a resolution of a different sort: to improve the web experience. This is a broad goal that can be achieved through adopting a few simple resolutions. Change doesn't occur overnight; instead it takes initiative and action to happen. The world's eyes are upon the online scene, anxious to see where it will go next. Let's give 'em something to talk about. Let's be the change we all wish to see and resolve to create better, more engaging online experiences. Here's a few resolutions to consider:

1. Resolve to know your audience.

If you've been slacking on this critical step, there's no better time than now to improve your focus. 'User experience' literally starts with just that'the user. First, identify who this person is and why. Who uses your brand and your site? Who do you want to use it? Get to know these people better than you know yourself. Understand how they use, why they use and what they want out of the experience, and apply this information to create a site that delivers and keeps them coming back.

2. Resolve to keep it simple.

Simplicity is a beautiful thing and an aspect that is extremely attractive to users. Don't overcomplicate things. Make navigation easy and the next step obvious. Use design elements to enhance this process and create an atmosphere that makes the user feel confident in their use. It's that simple.

3. Resolve to learn from others.

It's always good to look around and check out what others are doing. There's a lot that can be learned from examining a good website and determining what makes it so great. It's okay to adopt practices you admire and integrate these successful elements into your own design. As much as one can take away from a good site, almost more can be learned from a bad one. Understand why it fails and what could be done to avoid the problems if your site is suffering similar pitfalls. Make sure that your site isn't making the same mistakes that others have. Learn from these sites and use your acquired knowledge to take yours to the next level.

4. Resolve to generate better content.

In 2012, content is still king. If you haven't been giving it the appropriate amount of attention, make this your New Year's resolution. Whatever it is you are putting out to the world, make it interesting and engaging. It's a wonderful time we live in; online interface gives us the opportunity to have real-time two-way conversations with our users, but it is often up to the administrator to start the process. So get 'em talking, and make it good.

5. Resolve to be engaging.

Again, we are all in the interactive business now. To get users to interact with you, you must engage them. This goes back to knowing your audience'provide them with what they need and want. Appeal to them in a way that attracts them to your brand and makes them want to get involved.

6. Resolve to thoroughly test.

Many of a website's issues can be caught and correctly early on testing'if you give the right amount of attention to this step of the process. A website abound with errors, broken links and malfunctioning features is a huge turnoff to users and can give a negative connotation to your brand. Unlike much in business, this is something that you can control. Dominate in testing your site so it's in top form when it's presented to the world.

7. Resolve to listen.

Everyone has a voice now, and it would be foolish not to listen to what's being said. Monitor the conversation going on about your brand'it's right in front of you'and respond to the feedback. Address problems, make improvements where needed and build strong relationships with your users. You can learn a lot from their comments, so be mindful of your brand's response.

8. Resolve to update regularly.

The beauty of an online presence is that it's current'so keep it that way. Maintaining an up-to-date website fosters a positive perception of your brand as being modern. Establish a web presence that is responsive and timely, both to the changes of the business world and the commentary of users. Create an atmosphere in which you appear to actively participate.

9. Resolve to cover new platforms.

The Digital Age has provided us with multiple platforms from which brands can present information and interact with consumers. Not all will be relevant to your brand, but it's wise to make use of the ones that can expand your brand's presence and touch consumers in new and different ways. Always be on the look out for new programs and networks that allow you to reach your users and connect with them.

10. Resolve to be media-friendly.

Continuing on with the point made in Resolution #9, for a brand to reach heightened success in today's day and age, it must take advantage of the media available and those that will be developed over the coming year. Ensure that your brand is not left out of this growing phenomenon and cover all appropriate bases. Have your brand be there in the way its users need and want it to be. Update your brand's profile on these forums frequently and use them to gain further insight into your business and your consumers. Being media-friendly builds better relationships within the industry and with users. Come on, everyone else is doing it. You should be, too.

2012 is sure to hold even more changes for the business landscape, which makes it imperative to resolve to be ready. If you feel that you are already exercising these practices, do it even better than before. There is always room for improvement, and if you need the start of a new year to motivate you, now is the time.

Let's all resolve to grow and create a bigger and better online scene than the world has yet to see.

Here is to a Happy New Year.

Written by Savannah Harper. LB Wordsmith

Photo courtesy of Web Design Hot!