So you have decided to get a website, but now there’s a 100 different questions to ask. What makes a successful website? How can you get consumers past the home page? What do you feature on your website? How do you set it up? What do I need to write? Whether you are starting from scratch or simply trying to improve the website that you already have, there are key components that every website should possess.
People’s first impressions frequently come from your website and from this they decide whether they trust you, if you are credible and most importantly whether they would purchase your product or service so it is important to get it right.
Consider when you are looking for something online, whether its the answer to a query, your car insurance or to buy some new clothes. Did you find that the sites you used look clean, clear and fresh or outdated and messy? Were they too cluttered or were they difficult to navigate?
As a potential customer what have you done in this kind of scenario? I’d guess, like most others, you would most likely leave and look elsewhere for a website that more suitably meets your needs and features what you are looking for.
1) Web address
Your domain name should not be complicated or easy to forget, it is like your brand and should be memorable for people to share and talk about.
A customer should be able to type it in to a web browser or email with ease, it should also be short if possible. If for example your domain name is www.bethdanherdancingschoolmerseyside.co.uk it might say exactly who you are and what you do but do people really want to type in all that?
I would also look to avoid extra characters such as dashes (which can cause SEO headaches) and numbers because as we have said we are trying to make it as easy and memorable as possible.
Avoid using a made up name or words that are hard to spell as if people try and get it wrong you will be lucky if they try again. One example might be www.fluorescentxylophones.co.uk is two hard words that are very commonly mis-spelt risking people missing your site.
2) Good Visual Design
First impressions count, they always have and always will. Its the same with people, restaurants and now your websites visual design. If people go to a web page that is not visually pleasing, looking like it was made 10 years ago and by a 10 year old then will do one thing. Turn it off.
I am not saying that every website needs to look magnificent, with thousands of pounds and hours of work gone into every last detail. However if a site looks like it hasn’t been updated since 1994, it’s just going to be looked down upon in comparison to your competitors.
Your objective is to have a clean, fresh and simple design, having special effects and hundreds of moving objects might seem cool, but will it covert? Quite often the “less is more” theory definitely comes in to play. People come to your site to either fulfill a need / want or to get information, they want this process to be quick and easy, so you don’t want your design to be over crowded.
Any graphics used should be attractive, relevant and easy to load. As we have said any graphics that move around the screen, blink or change in any way should be kept to a minimum, perhaps no more than one “noisy” feature per page.
Your website needs to evolve and stay recent, a stagnant website can be detrimental for certain business’. If you are looking to inform and teach your readers, then you will want to continually update your information regularly. Giving your readers a reason to keep coming back will increase visitors, sales and this in turn will help you with to rank better with search engines.
Although it is important to keep your website fresh and to keep it updated which may require changes, but it is important to stay consistent throughout your design. If a visitor changes from your ‘home page’ to your ‘about page’ they don’t expect everything to go from blue to red, with the menu going from the top to the side and the font to change from ‘13px Arial’ to ‘16px Times New Roman’.
One final point I’d like to make about the visual design and the development of your website and that is to ensure that if you sell your products / service through your website. That is to ensure that the checkout process is very simple and easy. The more steps you put in the way of the checkout the more likely they are to abandon their purchase. Don’t force your customers have to use all their time just to buy something from you.
3) Clear Navigation
A website that is difficult to navigate is futile.
Users have to be able to get to and from different pages and back to the home page as easy and as quickly as possible.
The simple way to ensure that your site is easy to navigate is by using a consistent, main navigational toolbar or menu at the top or side of every page. Your main menu is there to make certain that visitors won’t get lost as they surf your site.
Don’t forget to feature a “home” link on your menu/toolbar. You may even wish to consider hyperlinking your company logo on each page of the website so that it too, will take you back to the home page.
You have to imagine that you are the visitor, who maybe isn’t as knowledgeable as you. Think about;
- What are they trying to get done?
- Is it easy to find?
- Can they get there within 2 clicks?
If people can’t find it, they can’t buy it.
One other point to remember is that in most cases your primary navigation menu should be ‘Above The Fold’ (usually considered to be within the top 500-600 pixels) this means that it should be in the top section of your website, so that when they load your page it is one of the 1st items that they see and they don’t have to look for how to navigate your website.
While we are on the topic, many websites this year are repeating their navigation on the footer of the page to stop visitors having to scroll back to the top of the page to change page. Again your main priority is to make it as easy as possible for people to find the content they are looking for.
4) Mobile Friendly
The mobile world is growing day by day, with about half of people’s online searches coming from a mobile device, therefore your mobile strategy and design has to be as well thought of as your desktop website.
Another reason that this is now a must is that Google have now made this a part of their search algorithms, so if your site is not mobile friendly then you will be penalized by Google. This will affect your search rankings and could in turn then affect your earnings.
If you go back a couple of years then designing a website was pretty much just for a desktop but now no new website should be created without laptops, tablets and smartphones in mind, all of which have different screen sizes.
By using responsive website design you are able to use fluid widths, so that your website layout will adapt to the screen size that your visitor is using.
5) Be Secure
If you want people to trust your business and especially if people are purchasing through your website then your website has to comply with the requirements of the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI DSS).
It is imperative that you protect your online information, as if you are hacked it’s a nightmare, and it could lose you customers.
One thing you have to ensure is that your content management system is regularly updated, your hosting company is reputable and secure and finally that you have a Secure Socket Layer (SSL).
SSL is an encryption system that assists in the protection of the data exchanged between your customers and your site. Let people know that the site is secure with the SSL, before people purchase goods online they need to trust your business and the website.
6) Contact Information
There are not many things that can turn off a prospective client more than not being able to get in touch with you. If they want your product or service but can’t find a simple contact page with a way to speak and hire you then they will 99.5% of the time go to somebody else.
You should be looking to give people more than one way to contact you. The very minimum should be a contact form and an email address, however the more personal, ‘human-like and real you come across the easier it becomes, so adding a phone number would always be a recommendation of mine. I would recommend having your contact number and email on your home page as this is the main page people will visit.
The best place for the contact information is the top corner of the home page and then to aim to include the contact details on each page of the site. Also even with so many business’ running from home now, it still helps if you give a mailing address, as the more opportunities people have to get in touch with you the better
Many websites also use a map now with directions to how to get to your store or office, again an example of how your thoughts need to be based around making the process easier for your visitor and prospective client. It is also a small way towards building credibility and trust with your client
7) Social Media Links
Following on from your contact information, your social media accounts should be reachable through your website. You should allow the customers to stay in touch by providing these links on your home page. Use the icons which are so well recognized nowadays for the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn.
You should also be able to feature your website across your social media pages as well, looking to give your website as much exposure as possible. If you choose to write on your website such as a blog, you should be sharing this on your Twitter, Facebook and Google+ and get them back to your website.
However one thing I will state against this is that, if you don’t use your social media, don’t send people there. It has the same effect as an old, badly designed website, looks like you don’t put as much effort in as you could do.
Different social media platforms work different for different business’, some are more effective than others for you. One example might be a make-up company, their best social media weapon might be Instagram asTwitter is less effective for them, whereas a company who offers airport transfers might find Facebook and Twitter effective and Pinterest pointless. Sometimes you just need to experiment and do some research into what is working for your competitors.
8) Quality content
As we have said your website is very often the first impression a customer gets. Your aim being to give them what they’re looking for, and reason to come back time and time again.
If your content is quality then not only will your customers enjoy it more, be more likely to share it but it is also brilliant for your search engine optimisation (SEO).
Fresh content especially is a goldmine for SEO, search engines love relevant, fresh, content it shows Google that they can trust you, that your are there to help people and that you are delivering useful information.
Your content should be written for your target audience, delivering exactly what they expect. After you have written your content you will likely need to cut this down further as very often ‘less is more’ online and by doing a ‘So What’ test on your content you should be able to do this.
Read your content line by line and ask yourself – As a prospective client; Do i need to know this? Is it helping me get to where I want?
From reading your content whether it is your home page or the ‘about’ page, they should have a clear sense of what your company is offering. They won’t spend time reading that and then calling you up for more information or if it isn’t clear what you do they will look elsewhere to find what they want.
9) Clear calls to action
Throughout your website there should be clear calls to action to get what YOU want from your visitors, so far we have discussed a lot of what people expect of your website, how they want it to look, what they want to read etc.
But your calls to action are your chance to get what you want from this website. There are many possible avenues you might go down but some common goals are:
- Contact Details
- To Register & Order
- To Call & Email
These should be very clear, concise and stand out against the rest of your website, people may do this by giving it a lot of space, different colours, directional queue’s such as arrows literally pointing these out to the visitor.
Calls to Action are by far, the most common missing element from websites that are struggling to convert visitors. We continue to help business owners whose websites have had a well designed site but are struggling to convert visitors to clients.
When you have got the visitors email or whatever you want to gain from the call to action, you can then use this information to re-market to them to build up a stronger relationship with them through social media, email marketing and pay per click marketing, which we will look at later.
10) Image & Video
It can be visually pleasing to break up some of your text with images so that it does not look like you have to read a full essay just to get a small bit of information that you need. There are certain things that are important when it comes to selecting and using images though.
First of all images should (in most cases) represent what you do: If you sell flowers, then the home page of the site should have a picture of some of your nice flowers. Although this is clear and obvious, many business may just use some irrelevant images just because they look pretty, or worse, no graphics at all.
The next point is to ensure that your pictures are optimized for the web, this means that the images are saved in a compressed format. This is to help with you page load speed because the longer your website takes to load, the more likely a visitor is to leave and it is also something that Google take into their ranking considerations.
If you or your web developer use a program such as Adobe Photoshop then they have a “Save for Web” feature which automatically convert your image to 72dpi for you.
Another must for either yourself or your web developer is to make sure to never post an image without an ALT and title tags. This is because search engines can’t read images and descriptive text helps to increase your rankings.
On to the videos:
Videos have become the latest trend in web design and they are getting used more and more frequently and its easy to see why. Its easier and more appealing than reading text for a visitor, you can sometimes get a message across better than text and it shows more than a static image.
Video definitely increases visitor engagement, however as we have said Google weighs file size and delivery speed when ranking pages (so this could work against you).
Some ways you can use video:
- Enhance Your Website
- Give Your Business a Personal Face
- Promote a Sale or Special Event
- Demonstrate a Product or Activity
- Share Your Expertise
- Stand Out From the Competition
- Drive Traffic to Your Website
- Earn Money
- Encourage Regular Visits to Your Website
- Engage Customers With Your Brand
11) Testimonials & Feedback
Its great trying to tell everyone how great your company is, what you can and have done for people and that you are the best. But, this doesn’t mean they will take your word for it. The most effective way to tell people how great your company is for someone else to tell them.
Honest words from people you have helped, make your products or services more credible and appealing to prospective clients. They help your potential customers to build trust in you, especially if you or your product / service is new to them.
Other types of third-party validation could be:
- Client lists
- Case studies
- Awards and recognition you’ve received
- Positive news clippings
One more modern way to receive that kind of validation is through social media, firstly having a presence to see that you can be contacted and are a genuine company. Then secondly from who and what you tweet and your number of followers. Like i said earlier if you only have 15 followers and have never tweeted then this does not appear like an established business that many people have used.
The best way to get your message across through testimonials is with the use of videos, if you can get your real clients talking about what you have done for them and how good you are this makes for such a huge impression on the visitor in comparison to a few words and a name. Then if you can’t get a video, even a picture of the person will improve the credibility of the quote.
Why not have a feedback form for visitors on your website to really learn more about what people like and dislike about your site and what you offer and from this also get more testimonials.
12) Search Facility
For many business, especially websites which sell through their site (eCommerce) then having a search bar can be really effective as it again saves time for your visitor to get exactly what they are looking for as quickly as possible.
Everything that you incorporate to make your customer’s life easy is highly valued by them and becomes a necessary component. If you research the majority of large e-commerce websites then they will have a search facility whether it is in a holiday industry, fashion or selling goods such as books.
Your site does not have to sell products to have a search facility though, as your website grows, you have more information, more blogs, more news then this will save time for your visitor rather than having to sift through 10 pages of blogs.
Customer loyalty rarely exists anymore and most people have short spans of attention for the websites they surf. If they don’t find what they are looking for rather quickly, they’ll go somewhere else.
When your site has been built you (or usually your web developer) should create 2 different sitemaps. One is for humans and the other for the search engines. The html sitemap is for your visitors on the site to find just what they are looking for, with a list of the pages available to them.
A sitemap is effectively a structured list of all the pages on a website, this can also be very useful if you include a search feature on your site. The link to your sitemap is frequently placed in the footer of your page.
The XML sitemap is for the search engines, and this should be uploaded to the likes of Google and Bing which is necessary if you want to increase the chances of site being indexed.
14) Statistics, Tracking and Analytics
Unlike the others this element is completely behind the scenes of the website and one that visitors do not know or really care if you are using. However this tool is very important for the owner of the site.
There are plenty of companies that offer tracking and statistics for your website but the most commonly used is Google Analytics. Google Analytics can track over 80 different things for your website such as:
- Find out which online campaigns bring the most traffic and conversions
- Determine where your best visitors are located.
- Learn what people are searching for on your site.
- Visualize what people click on the most.
- How many people visit your site
- How many of these are from unique visitors?
- What websites link to me?
It’s actually incredible how much information you can keep track of and learn from with a good analytics program.
If you want to monitor your web site’s performance and figure out how you can progress in the future then this is a must.
Now we have looked through some of the key components of what you need on a website from your content, images and testimonials right through to your search facility and analytics. Do you have a better idea of what you want and need?
If you really want to grow your business, create a strong online profile and an extra source of income, then this is how to do.
Can you see the value of a well designed site as opposed to a cheap, home-made, rushed website?
Why Choose Breeze Development?
We do Digital. We’re your web design company, web development agency and digital marketing team all rolled into one very special integrated digital service. We help you to grow your brand, business and profile online. We do this by creating a tailor made website, designed to represent your high level of service and developed to maximise results.