What Makes a Good Website? 5 Core Principles
Hate to break it to you, but NO, your logo and your web design are not the most important elements that make your website a “good” website. That’s not to say that they don’t matter at all, but they pale in comparison to some functionality issues that you’d better get right. There is also no universally-accepted notion of a “good website”. The best you can find is a sum of aspects that can grant a website a much better than average quality, if applied correctly.
None of these aspects are forbiddingly difficult to understand, but website builders and/or business owners who focus on the aesthetics more than the utility tend to overlook them. And that, today, is a capital sin. You simply can’t afford to not have a customer-friendly online presence. Not if you want to make money and grow your business. That’s what we’re going to talk about in this article.
Is your website RESPONSIVE or, at least, MOBILE-FRIENDLY?
Most of the internet page traffic today comes from mobile devices. Gone are the days when the bulk of traffic on your page was done by people surfing the web sitting at a desk, in front of a desktop computer. People are constantly on the move, but they are still connected and still want the things they wanted in the desktop PC era, only now they want them in the palm of their hand.
With that in mind, how ready is your website to offer its visitors the same quality brand exposure and browsing experience on all devices?
1. Make sure your website is responsive.
That means it should adapt the way it serves page content to the type of device the visitor is using to access it. If the visitor is using a mobile device with a smaller screen, the content of your website will adapt accordingly, all the while keeping the same brand characteristics and information accessibility as in its original, expanded form. Admittedly, this option is the not so cheap option. To build it, you will need to employ developers that truly know what they are doing. But the initial, steeper investment will be quickly earned back by the success of your website and, implicitly, your business.
2. Small budget? Go mobile-friendly.
If you don’t yet have the means to invest in a responsive website, you can still get away, at least for a while, with a mobile-friendly website. A mobile-friendly website is designed to look good mostly on mobile platforms, but will also offer a passable experience on bigger screens. Don’t forget, this should be just a temporary solution, unless you have a relatively simple website, with limited functionality, some text and not a lot of images.
The HOMEPAGE is the MOST IMPORTANT page on your website!
The first contact your visitors have with your website is through its homepage. Since you have a VERY limited time to capture and keep their attention, your homepage’s content and structure will make or break your website’s success.
1. Keep it simple.
Tell your visitors what is it that you do and how they can contact you. Don’t give them more things to think about. They don’t have time for that. After all, the reason why they’re on your website is to solve a problem, and they’ll appreciate a business that helps them do that as fast and as painlessly as possible. Proper and simple navigation is also extremely important.
2. Make it short and informative.
Forget about lengthy text descriptions of what you do and why they should choose you instead of other companies in the same field. Do that and you’ll lose them almost instantly. The sad but accurate truth is that few people have the patience to read lengthy texts on webpages. The only long-form text you can get away with is on your blog or on dedicated “about” or “story” pages. Keep it away from your homepage.
3. Appeal to their emotions.
Because there is just so much stuff on the internet and all around them, people tend to choose services and products based on their emotions, not on their rational mind. So, show them your true colors, highlight the story, add an emotional value to your product or service, make it memorable and you win the race. It really is as simple (or as difficult) as that.
4. Use links.
Add some useful quick links to your homepage structure. Include links to various sections of your website, to your very well-built and detailed contact page, to your blog, shop, partner pages and anything else you think your customers may find useful. In addition to helping your visitors navigate your website easily, such links will also improve your Google rank.
If you are present on social media, add those links on both your homepage and contact page. But if you do this, make sure you properly maintain your social media presence. Keep it up to date, with the same contact data as what you have in the contact section of your website. Otherwise, better not link to social media at all, because it will only show that you are either sloppy or not really interested in conducting your business properly online.
Optimize your website for SEO from the start!
That doesn’t mean that you have to abuse keywords. Far from it. After all, you will write all your content for HUMANS, not machines (bots and crawlers don’t count because they analyze your content in terms of how human-friendly it is).
You will need to make sure to implement proper search engine quality requirements into your website right from the start. Build it with that idea in mind and you will spare yourself a good deal of frustration when trying to understand why your ranking is nowhere near where you hoped it’d be.
Don’t forget: Google really likes it if you constantly make relevant copy changes on your website. That means that you will have some relatively fixed sections (like product or service descriptions, prices, etc.) and some relatively dynamic sections (like a blog, testimonials or landing pages). Google sees your website like a living, breathing organism. The moment it stops evolving, Google considers it dead or dying and starts pushing your ranking down the drain. Don’t let it get there!
For heaven’s sake, get that SSL certificate!
Data security is a really big issue. You have to take very good care of your data and that of your customers. There is no excuse for not doing it. Business owners should give up the idea that security measures are not foolproof so they’re all a waste of money. Not having any security measures in place makes you liable for lawsuits in case you’re hacked. So, why make it easy for hackers? Make their lives as miserable as you possibly can.
A simple way to increase your website security is to get an SSL certificate – a good website is a secure website.
Have you noticed how many websites use the “https://” addressing (or they have a small lock to the left of their web address)? It means that the connection between the visitor’s browser and the website’s server is secure, and that happens only if there is a proper SSL certificate installed on that server. This is really important, not only because you make sure your connection is secure (and look trustworthy to anyone who visits your page), but also because not having a proper SSL certificate installed is penalized by search engines.
And last but not least, content and branding.
Think about it this way: a website is a place on the internet. Your website is your place on the internet. You want passers-by to get curious enough to enter your place, look around, maybe buy your product or service and, ideally, return at a later date to get some more.
To achieve that, you have to make your place look inviting, give your visitors a quick tour (they should figure out what you do after only glancing at your homepage) and make it memorable (so the next time they need what you sell, they remember your place and return to it). All that is achieved with well-tailored branding and very well-curated content.
Getting the proper branding and content, custom built for your needs, is like getting a tailored suit. A shopping mall suite will NEVER make you look as elegant as a tailored suit will. Ask anyone.
In conclusion, when you build a website, start with a list of functionality, security and ease-of-use features and then focus on how to make all these things look pretty. That’s how you build a “good” home on the internet, one that people like to visit over and over and always leave with a souvenir. I might have gone a little too far with that one, but you know what I mean. 😊
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