What makes for a good website?
This is a question small business operators are confronted with when embarking on creating a new or replacement website.
There’s actually lots more to a great website than meets the eye – tempting as it is to judge a good website by appearance alone.
Ultimately, a great website is one that generates sales and leads. But it takes more than just a pretty, or technically well-performing website to achieve these highly sought after goals.
In my view the following nine attributes are all required to ensure your website is going to make a positive impact on your bottom line.
1. Technical performance
While this attribute is critical, it is often given too much importance compared to the remaining attributes. Yes, a website must download quickly and its links, menus, ‘buttons’ and forms must all function perfectly – along with any other ‘working’ components of the website.
But technical performance in isolation could lead to a well-performing eyesore, or marketing failure. Your website needs to perform well as an absolute minimum.
2. Looks professional and enticing
Like it or not, these days website visitors have very high expectations of the websites they visit; unfortunately they can be ruthless when it comes to the appearance of your website. If it doesn’t measure up to these expectations, they will click off to a competitor very quickly indeed.
So it’s important that your website design is professional as possible. This goes for visitors who already know your brand as well, as your website becomes the ultimate proof of your professionalism. Plenty have been dissuaded to do business with an organisation due to the poor appearance of their website.
3. Communicates well
Like appearance, many business have been let down by poorly written content on their website. The written content is the third thing that hits visitors when they visit your website and unless it is professional, it may well be the deal breaker.
So ensure your website content is well written and guides the visitor to the action you both want them to take.
4. Is optimised for search engines
The best website in the world is useless unless it is prominent among search engines. And many great websites have failed to deliver as a result.
The goal for any business is to be the first page of Google and others for their relevant search terms. Failure to do this is just a free hit for your competition.
5. Is easy to edit and add content
Don’t ever assume your website is ‘finished’. Your website needs to alter as much as your business, and its prices or product, alters. It really should have an ongoing program of changes from the day it is launched.
To this end it’s critical that you and/or your staff can alter the website content whenever you need to – or risk racking up huge bills with your website development professional.
6. Attracts sign-ups for future communication
A great rule of business is that you should never let a prospect walk out of your door without capturing their contact details. Because while they may not be a customer this time round, you want to be front and centre next time they are ready to buy.
To ensure you stand the best chance of gaining their contact details, you should be providing as much incentive as possible for them to leave them – be it an e-newsletter promising discounts or specials, social networks doing the same, or for more advanced users, an ebook or discount voucher.
7. Is easy and affordable to add new functionality
This is probably the attribute that most inflates the ongoing cost of your website. A good website development professional (and one with integrity) will understand your business well enough to predict your future functionality requirements and so set up your site to minimise the cost and pain when you are ready to do so, whether that be next quarter or next year.
But it’s also the most difficult to judge in advance. The best thing you can do is look at the websites of larger competitors and get a feel for the more advanced functionality they are using. Chances are, you’ll be ready to offer similar functionality sometime in future.
8. Is useable
When creating your website, it’s tempting to be creative and clever when it comes to your website navigation, for example by treating your menu as a kind of treasure hunt.
Unless you have a very strong relationship with your customer, it’s important to avoid this approach as it will just lead to frustration and ultimately abandonment of your website. Ensure your web development professional makes it easy for visitors to achieve their and your goal with as little fuss as possible.
9. Is responsive to mobiles and devices
This factor remains one of the most unattended by business operators. With the proliferation of mobiles and devices comes the expectation that your website will be easy to use and navigate on them.
Google has recognised this too and now penalises sites that aren’t ‘responsive’ in this way by making them less prominent among search results. Don’t let visitors and Google down by not attending to this important attribute.
The beauty of the internet these days is that it’s no longer overly expensive to ensure your website meets these important nine attributes.
How many does your website achieve?
In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team, which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.