If you’re not sure what’s really important, it’s easy to judge something by its appearance and price. But what makes a website “good” is much more than that.
This spring, my wife and I went to a hot tub trade show to look at hot tubs…
Hang on, I haven’t lost my mind, I just want to say something.
We walked around the showroom for a good 15 to 20 minutes before we had to admit to ourselves that we had no idea what we were looking for.
Neither of us had the slightest idea about hot tubs… And since we had no clue which hot tubs were “good” (or would be suitable for us), we could only compare them on the basis of appearance and price.
While these things are important, they’re hardly what you want to base your decision on when you’re looking to spend five or ten grand.
Luckily we were able to escape before the vendors could accost us – I prefer to avoid situations where I am obviously ignorant in public. We simply weren’t in a position to buy a hot tub that day.
On the drive home, it dawned on me that the situation I was in was probably not dissimilar to the situation of many people who turn to me when they need a website.
The internet is far from new, but most people have never bought a website and simply don’t know what to look for.
Browsing through portfolios and agency websites to find the right developer is difficult when you can only rely on looks and price. And as with a hot tub, you won’t want to base your decision on these things alone.
If you have the feeling that I am addressing you directly, then you have come to the right place.
In this article, we look at which components are important for the success of a website and what you can look out for when searching for a developer for your next project.
There’s a lot to cover, so let’s dive in!
Understand the purpose of your website
Ideally, your website offers added value for your visitors and supports the goals of your company that are being pursued with the website.
But who are your visitors and what are your goals?
This is a really important question, and websites can have many different purposes…
It can be an online store that relies on direct sales, it can be a blog that helps you build authority in your industry, it can just be informative to promote your services – or all of these things.
And that is precisely the reason why so many websites with templates fail. With a template, you make decisions in the wrong order – first you choose a look and layout, then you try to customize it to your needs.
To develop a website that will be a successful investment for your business, you need to have a clear answer to these two questions: Who is your website for? And what are your goals?
Knowing who you’re building the site for and what purpose you want it to serve will help you make better decisions about the look, functionality and scope of your project to help you achieve your goals.
Who is your website intended for?
A mistake that many people make (especially those who design their own website) is that they choose design and functionality according to their own taste. But your website is not for you – it is for your visitors!
A website that has been planned and created with your customers’ needs in mind will always be more successful – even if it’s not the fanciest or most extravagant.
To consider who your website is intended for, you should ask yourself the following questions:
- Who are your customers?
- Why do they visit you online?
- What do you want to achieve on your website?
- What is important to them?
- What things do they find attractive?
What are your goals?
Of course, you don’t create a website out of charity and goodwill – you want to generate a return.
What actions do visitors to your website need to take for your website to be valuable?
The goals may include making direct sales, collecting contact information or simply informing your visitors about the products and services you offer.
But if you don’t clearly define your goals before the project starts, you have no way of measuring whether it is successful or not.
A good website offers its visitors exactly what they were looking for and at the same time fulfills the business objectives for which it was created.
Consistency from start to finish
When it comes to design, a lot is a question of taste. You may like the look of the Ling’s Cars website, while others may wonder who on earth could like it!
Trends come and go, but the most important factor for an appealing design is consistency – regardless of style and aesthetics.
Firstly, consistency means that you are consistent with your brand. Of course, the colors and typography of your website should match your logo and branding, but that’s not all.
You want consistency in your tone of voice, your point of view and your personality.
They want a uniform tone of voice, a uniform point of view and a uniform personality.
Companies often unintentionally cause confusion by creating marketing materials with little or no cohesion. If your website, billboard, storefront and business cards all look different, customers will have a hard time recognizing you and remembering who you are.
Brands stick in our minds through consistency. You don’t have to see the word “McDonalds” to know that you’re dealing with a brand (from the building to the hamburger).
Beyond brand consistency, it is important that the elements and theme of your website are consistent throughout.
Nothing ruins a design faster than inconsistent spacing, inappropriate photos or incorrect alignment.
You may not be consciously aware of these things – but your subconscious does, and that drives it crazy. We long for consistency on a cerebral level. Even if many design preferences are subjective – consistency is not one of them.
Even the simplest design can be extremely effective – as long as it is consistent from start to finish.
You’ve probably heard the phrase “less is more” – and it certainly applies to websites.
Even though you and your web development partner will spend hours sifting through every single pixel of your website, that’s not how visitors will interact with it.
Rather, their goal is to visit your website, find what they are looking for and take the next steps (whatever they may be) as quickly as possible.
Websites shouldn’t be a complex puzzle for your users to solve – but some feel like they are!
If you make your website too complex, too bizarre or too difficult to navigate, visitors won’t stay.
There are standards (like a logo in the top left corner of your website) for a reason. If you understand and follow these standards, you will create an experience that visitors will intuitively know how to use.
I’m not sure if Einstein was talking about websites when he said: “You should make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler”, but he hit the nail on the head.
Simplicity is not always easy to achieve – it often requires more thought and forethought than creating something complex.
Creating a smooth experience for your visitors is related to understanding the purpose of your website. It’s much easier to create a website with a great user experience if you know who you’re building your website for and what you want them to do – anything else is wasted time and money.
Unless you’re living with a disability, you may never have thought about it – but the internet poses major challenges for people with all kinds of disabilities.
While there are many types of disabilities that affect internet use, one of the easiest to understand is blindness or visual impairment.
Visual impairments can result in people having to navigate your website using their keyboard and a screen reader. If your website hasn’t been designed with this in mind, it could be impossible for them to navigate your website (and ultimately become your customer).
According to the WHO, 15% of the world’s population has some form of disability. This means that around 15% of your website visitors could have a disability that prevents them from fully using your website.
Excluding people with disabilities from using your website (and thus losing 15% of your potential customers) is not only a bad business decision, but in some cases illegal.
Unfortunately, the regulations (at least here in the US) aren’t always clear on what needs to be done and who it applies to, but there are standards that your website can adhere to in order to provide the best possible experience for all users.
Accessibility is becoming increasingly important and is something you should consider for your website.
Optimization of performance
Raise your hand if you love waiting forever for a website to load… How about when you open something on your phone and suddenly all the content shifts and you accidentally click on an ad?
Nobody likes a slow website – not even Google, which in June 2021 officially made the performance of a website a decisive factor for its ranking in search results.
But how impatient are website visitors? If your website only takes 4 seconds to load, the probability that visitors will wait is only about 10% – the rest is gone.
Between search engine optimization and user experience – the performance of your website is a decisive factor for its success.
But even knowing these statistics, most websites still do not load in the “tolerable” range of 2-3 seconds. This is largely the result of today’s DIY tools, which make it easier to create a website but make concessions in terms of performance.
If you want to test the speed of a website, enter the address of a website in Google’s PageSpeed tool, which gives it a score from 0 to 100 and classifies it by color in red (poor), yellow (average) or green (good). Most websites don’t pass this test – but you don’t want yours to be one of them.
A fast website is not necessarily more expensive – but it can have a drastic effect on the value of your website. There are many factors to consider when optimizing a website’s performance (from hosting to codebase), and the best results are usually achieved by developers with more experience and a good understanding of website performance.
Compliance with the regulations
Compliance is often overlooked because most people don’t notice it (just like you might notice a bad design) – but that doesn’t mean it’s any less important.
You may not realize it, but websites worldwide must comply with certain laws and regulations. Failure to comply with these laws can not only result in fines, but can also lead to companies spending a day in court explaining to a judge why their website is not compliant.
Nobody has time for that!
Make sure your web developer talks to you about legal compliance and what precautions are being taken to ensure your website is compliant with local, state and international laws.
Metadata is something that most people don’t notice from the front of the site, but it’s what robots (like the Google bot that makes decisions about how your site ranks and what it ranks for) read.
This takes the form of page titles, meta descriptions, alt tags and schemas (to name but a few).
Without getting too technical, this is the data about your data – and if you want your website to be found in search engines, it’s extremely important.
After reviewing hundreds (maybe thousands?) of websites, I’ve realized how many websites fail to enter or complete the metadata on a website.
This applies not only to DIY websites, but also to those created by large (and expensive!) agencies.
You don’t have to become an expert in website metadata (leave that to nerds like me!), but if you want a good website, then you should make sure your metadata is complete.
If you’re curious about a website’s metadata or just want to vaguely familiarize yourself with it, Hey Meta provides a simple interface that displays the metadata of any website when you type in the address.
Content: Created for humans (and optimized for bots)
Content is everything that appears on your website – the written word (or “text”), images, graphics, videos, tables, documents, etc.
It is probably the most important part of your website – and one of the easiest to confuse.
You want your content to attract your visitors so that they learn more about your company and ultimately become your customers.
Many entrepreneurs choose to write their own copy – primarily for cost reasons… But writing effective website copy is an art form (and a profession!) in itself.
Whether or not you should write your copy yourself is an argument for another day, but whatever you decide, your content needs to be created for people.
This statement may sound strange – but let me finish.
Because search engine rankings are so important, people have spent decades trying to decipher the Google algorithm for ranking decisions. This work led to a massive shift in the creation of content written specifically to make the Google gods happy (at the expense of users).
Fortunately, Google has seen through this tactic and fundamentally changed the way they determine website rankings. Put simply, the content on your website should be written in a way that gives users the best possible experience.
However, this does not mean that you can ignore all the technical factors that still influence the ranking.
The strategic planning of the content you develop, the keywords or key phrases you use, the correct HTML structure and at least a dozen other factors are still crucial.
Your content will be most effective if it’s written for humans and optimized for bots.
Usable for all devices
There was a time when there was a “standard size” for the design of a website. You could plan everything pixel perfect and everyone had the same experience when viewing the website.
But those days are long gone!
Today, people surf the Internet on devices as small as a wristwatch and as large as a widescreen TV – and everything in between.
What screen size will your visitors use when they come to your website? This can literally be anything – so your website needs to be built to accommodate this.
Nowadays, this is called “responsive design”, where the content of the website automatically (or “automatically”, as I call it) adapts to the user’s screen.
Fortunately, most websites today are set up this way, and even DIYers take into account the large number of device sizes available.
But just because it’s standard doesn’t mean it can be overlooked.
A site that is not “mobile-friendly” can quickly lose visitors and rankings.
When looking at portfolios or websites for inspiration, try viewing them from different devices (desktop, laptop, tablet, phone) and see how the layout of the website changes as you change the size of the screen.
A well-designed website offers a great experience regardless of screen size.
Safety and maintenance
As with anything online, it’s important that your website is secure – which can be a constant battle. Experiments have shown that hackers can attack a website just a few hours after it is first published – and they never stop.
When most people think of website security, they immediately think of e-commerce websites where credit card numbers and personal information could be stolen.
E-commerce has an extended security thread, but any website can be a target.
Most small business website hacks have nothing to do with stealing money and everything to do with stealing traffic.
A common malware tactic is to redirect visitors from your website to other websites (usually websites that are not safe for work or sell illegal substances), or to display ads for similar types of businesses directly on your website.
It doesn’t matter how small or insignificant your website is – it’s a numbers game. The hackers are not specifically interested in your website – they are just trying to infect as many websites as possible.
Dealing with such attacks can be a nightmare and it is difficult to get rid of them.
There are numerous precautions website owners can take to mitigate their risks, such as security software, firewalls, frequent backups, updating website software, and more. With the right systems, you can thwart most attacks before they even take place.
It is much cheaper to invest in the right software and systems to prevent attacks than to remove them after the attack.
webdev4u offers complete website management packages that take care of these things (and more!) for you, so you don’t have to worry about web security.
Continuous measurement and improvement
One of the biggest advantages of digital marketing is that almost everything can be tracked, measured and continuously improved over time.
Your website is not “finished” after you have published it – it is born… After the launch you have to take care of the maintenance and growth of the website.
If you plan your website strategically and have an experienced partner to help you, you’ll be off to a great start – but it’s all just theory until you actually have visitors interacting with your website.
Once you start measuring the usage of your website, you can use this data to make informed decisions about how you can improve your website to increase conversion rates.
Analytics software gives you deep insights into how visitors use your website, such as how many visitors you have, how they find you, which pages they visit, where they get stuck and what content is most important to them.
The ongoing optimization of your website not only makes it more effective, but an active website also creates trust among users and search engines alike.
If visitors find information on your website that is obviously out of date (e.g. your last blog post is a year old), they start to question whether the information on the website is still up to date.
The same applies to Google, which wants to promote websites with the most accurate and up-to-date information possible. Based on the metadata, Google can recognize when pages have been published and/or changed and will give preference to websites that are frequently updated.
And apart from all these benefits of updating your website – things are changing! The products or services you offer today may look different in 6 months or a year’s time. Unlike printed material that has to be thrown away when the information becomes outdated, your website can be easily changed and updated – and it should be!
Easy to update and change over time
Since it’s so important to keep your website up to date, it’s important that you create a website that can be easily updated over time.
If updates to your website are expensive or cumbersome, you probably won’t do them, and your website may start collecting dust.
If you hire someone to build your website, it’s important to find out how updates and changes will work once the site is launched. Many agencies create their websites with these aspects in mind, and such a conversation can ensure that the key aspects that need to be kept up to date are simple and easy to use, even for inexperienced users.
But this is not always the case. Websites can be created in thousands of different ways, and it’s not uncommon to find a website where only the original developer knows how to make changes.
This is one of the reasons why WordPress (which we use here at webdev4u) has become the most popular content management system (CMS) in the world. Not only are websites easy for most people to change (e.g. text, images, videos, etc.), but because it’s such a popular platform (running about ⅓ of all websites on the internet), you don’t have to look far to find an expert who can help you – even if it’s not the person who originally created the website.
If your car breaks down, you don’t want to have to track down the team that built it – you want to be able to take it to any garage that can fix it. The same applies to your website.
Keeping the information on your website up to date should be an asset to your business, not a burden. If you have a website that is easy to update, it will continue to be useful long after the website has been launched.
Recognizing a “good” website
As you’ve learned in this article, a “good” website isn’t always easy to spot by looking at the front end… things like metadata, security, and the ability to easily make changes are things that may not be immediately obvious when visiting a website, but are extremely important to the success of the site.
No two websites are the same – they all have different goals, target groups and strategies that need to be taken into account. A good website for your business speaks to your audience, guides them to your goals, is consistent, easy to use (for people of all abilities), loads quickly, has the right metadata, displays well on all devices, is secure and properly maintained, and is constantly evolving to meet the challenges of tomorrow.
If you’d like to talk about creating a website that does all of these things (and more!) for your business, I’d love to chat with you.
It only takes a few minutes to fill in my project enquiry form and we can arrange an appointment to discuss your project in detail – with no obligation.
If you want to learn more about planning a website project, read my website buyer’s guide, which goes into detail about website planning and scoping.