Websites – they can be big, small, weird, musical, beautiful, ugly (hopefully not yours). Websites with videos, buying facilities, account log-in functions, and websites to compare this, that and the other.
With such an array of examples out there, and the technology available, some clients I mentor wonder where to start with their new website. And to be honest, I can’t blame them. There’s almost too much choice of where to start, and when you do, what’s right for you?
So I thought I’d put together a list of must-haves and must-dos to make an amazing website. There are nine in all. And yep, there are always other tweaks you can do, but if you follow these tips, you’ll have a website that’ll do the job you ask of it, and something you can be proud of.
- Be responsive: OK – I’m starting with a basic one here, but make sure your website adapts to the device it’s being viewed on. So whether someone is holding a phone on a train, looking at a laptop, or on the sofa with a tablet, your website must perform. This will ensure the viewer is happy finding and viewing your content, and also Google recognises it as a ‘good’ site – great for SEO. Websites are available that allow you to test what your website looks like on various devices. You can then see any issues and tweak accordingly.
- It’s a website, not a maze: You know yourself, it’s frustrating when you spend hours searching a website but can never find what you need – and eventually leaving. Don’t let this happen on yours. Make services and products easy to find in an understandable, easy layout. Quick links on the homepage can effectively direct visitors to the right area, and navigation drop downs also help to make sure visitors don’t get lost in a maze.
- Get to the point: When visitors find what they’re looking for, make sure it is easy to understand and digest. No one likes to read pages and pages of text – it’s boring. Less is more. Use headers and captions, and a paragraph of text can be more than enough to describe an offering. Also, if you have a difficult message to communicate, think outside the box. Would a video or infographic work better than text for example? Whatever way you think your target audience would like to digest the information – tailor accordingly.
- Just the job: Another obvious one, but your website is there for a reason. Whether it’s for branding, an e-commerce facility, or to help and educate people. Whatever your reason for creating the website, make sure it delivers on its purpose and is right for your target audience. Put yourself in the visitors shoes. Is it providing the information you need and does it offer solutions to whatever may arise when a visitor pops by?
- Start the SEO: Search Engine Optimisation – the tactics and techniques that drive organic traffic to your website. Sounds important, and it definitely is. There’s no point spending all that time creating a beautiful website if no one visits. So make sure the basics of SEO are applied – URLs, navigation, structure, headings, keywords, page and meta titles are just a few to keep in mind. Also make sure that any image uploaded has an alt attribute. This tells search engines what the picture is, and helps people viewing on assistive technologies. Want more help? Read this SEO starter guide from Google – it’ll give you great advice.
- The clock is ticking: How painful is it? You’re watching that circle thing go round and round, just waiting for a website to load. Remember, if it doesn’t render quickly, it may turn people off. So make sure it’s fast. Some stats say that if it’s not up in three seconds – you may lose 40% of customers – scary! Websites are available to test your site speed – use them and see if changes are needed.
- Make it the best: There’s no reason to say your 1,000 €/£/$ website can’t compete with a 20,000 €/£/$ one. Good design and styling doesn’t cost the earth. So spend time to find a great, affordable graphic designer. And if design isn’t your bag, then just look at websites you know are fantastic and try and find someone who can deliver a style like that. Having a strong look is everything, and if people fall in love with you at first sight, you’ve already broken down many barriers to securing that sale. Photography too is important – don’t rush in choosing an image. Think about how it could look better and more eye-catching. Overall you’ll have a professional website that will knock spots off competitors.
- Don’t let them get away: Obviously you need to attract people to a website, but once they are there, what happens? Do they disappear? Hopefully not. So you’ll need some way of gaining their contact details. Think about lead captures like downloadable ebooks, newsletters or discounts on a first order. You can then use their names and emails for database marketing, further pushing your messages. Remember, read up on data protection and how it work for both you and your subscribers.
- Padlock your website: Finally, SSL encryption. I know this sounds like something from a Jason Bourne film, but it’s really useful and get a developer to sort the tech for you. It’s a certificate that makes your site safe for you and visitors, and hopefully beats the hackers. Google likes this too as you have a responsible, safe website, and it’s particularly important if you have an e-commerce website. GoDaddy has more info to help on this.
So that’s it, the nine tips for a great website. I’d advise on each tip to carry out more research, and then over a couple of hours you’ll have a good feel as to how you approach your web build, and what it will look like.
Another tip I use when creating a website is using three processes.
The first, take into account the brand, what it’s about and what makes the company so special (USP).
The second, I look at competitors and see how they portray themselves.
And finally, I use my marketing experience to think about how it could look. I then combine all the three factors together and I see the seed of an amazing website.
One last tip – browser extensions can help to improve functionality of websites. Here are 26 extensions you can start using straight away to hone the experience.
If you’ve followed this and created your first site, send me a link, I’d love to see it. In the meantime, enjoy creating your first online presence, and see your website take off!