People are always asking us what are the must-have items for a great website? The answers are easier than you might think. You’ve probably visited to a not-so-great website before. Maybe a restaurant site without a menu or hours? Or a shopping site with a checkout that never lets you know you’ve completed your order? Or any site with out-of-date information or broken links.
What makes a website great? Basically, that it does what it is supposed to do – helps visitors get the information they need in a way that is quick, simple and pleasant.
Here are five things every great website does:
1. It works.
This one is pretty obvious, but you’d be surprised how many times it’s overlooked. Your website should be easy to read, use and understand. It should load quickly, have a consistent, logical layout and common sense navigation. Users should be able to find what they’re looking for within a couple of clicks. If they can’t, they may get frustrated and head elsewhere.
Also absolutely crucial in today’s world is that your website be universally compatible. It should work across platforms, operating systems and on all mobile devices. Research show that about 40% of time spent on the Internet today is accessed from a mobile device. Whether your visitors are on their laptop, desktop, smartphone or tablet, their experience on your website should be the same.
2. It looks good.
Not that we would ever recommend style over substance, but many times, a user’s visit to your website will be their first impression of your company, so it needs to be good. It should look professional, with high quality graphics and photography that go with your page. Showing your product or people is ideal. Random pictures of beaches or clipart are not.
Pick a few complementary colors and stick with that scheme consistently throughout your website. Choose fonts that are easy to read and at least 12 points in size (14 is even better). Make sure the color contrast is black on white or something similar so people don’t have to squint or adjust their screens to read.
There is a tendency to get very copy-heavy on your website (you want the people to know all the information right now!), but resist the temptation. Use short sections with prominent headlines. When people scan websites, they spend more time looking at headlines than anything – even photos. Leave plenty of white space to break up the copy and create a more polished look.
3. It answers the right questions.
Remember the restaurant site without the menu or hours? Not very useful. Before you create or update your website, spend some time carefully considering the information that your customers or potential customers want or need. What questions will they want answered? Focus on answering those questions instead of promoting your product or services.
Then, go to work creating content. Your copy should be informative and organized. Use clear labels and short paragraphs. Users often spend less than 10 seconds scanning a webpage to find what they want. Make it easy.
It might be tempting to add bells and whistles like animation, flash or video. Some of this is okay in moderation, but don’t make it an impediment to those users who just want to get the information they’re looking without being bombarded with sensory overload. If you have some great multimedia content, consider making it downloadable so that it doesn’t slow down your site, and your users have the option of viewing it when and where they like.
Don’t forget the obvious! Make sure to include (and make easy to find), your contact information, phone number, email address, social media links, address and map to your location and hours if applicable. All of this information can be featured in an “About Us” section, but it’s a good idea to make the basics accessible in several places on the site (header, footer or sidebar, etc.) so that they’re always a click away.
4. It’s current and correct.
If you’re still promoting that holiday event from last year, that’s a problem. The web isn’t like printed brochure that you can update once or twice a year. In the age of Twitter, Google and an app for everything, users expect the information on your website to completely up-to-date. When a special promotion, event or sale is complete, remove it or move it to a section for archived items. If you have a blog, make sure that it is updated at least once a month, preferable more.
Everything should work quickly and correctly. Check to make sure there are no broken links and that contact forms, drop downs and search boxes or work as they are designed to.
Finally, grammar sticklers notwithstanding, you will be judged for errors on your site. Carefully check that your copy is free of spelling and grammar errors and that your facts are true and accurate. Your website is a reflection of your business; you want it to be mistake free.
5. It’s chock full of keywords.
As they say on the commercial, you need to make sure “y’all optimize it.” In order for search engines (and thus searchers) to find your website, it must be SEO optimized and full of metadata. If you’re not sure what that means (you think metadata is an NBA player or a Transformer), then get advice from someone who can help you. Basically, you want to fill your website with important keywords and search terms people would use when looking for your business. If you sell cupcakes and your store is in Cincinnati, then you would want to use the words “cupcakes” and “Cincinnati” frequently throughout your site.
In this digital age, your website is your new front door. It cannot be set up and then ignored. Constant curating is an absolute must. If you don’t have a single webmaster or content manager to oversee your website, make sure that at least one person is checking frequently to ensure everything is up-to-date and working properly.