What makes a good website

What makes a good website – 10 essential elements

9 min read

If you’re looking for ways to build your business, an excellent place to start is improving your website’s content and functionality. Here are 10 proven elements for how to make a good website - that will boost your visibility, and help you win more business.

1. Focus on the goal of your website

Research your target audience. “Find out who your customers are, and what they’re looking for,” says Rebecca Coldicott, who runs digital marketing consultancy Realise Marketing in Birmingham. “If you know what information they’re after, then you can deliver the right content and the tools they need.”

And most importantly, what makes your business unique? “This must jump out in the first few seconds of visiting your site,” says Rebecca. “Customers need to know immediately what’s in it for them, or you run the risk of them bouncing straight off. You need to grab their attention from the start.”

To make sure you’re hitting the mark, consider a tool like Google Analytics, which provides invaluable data about how users navigate your website, suggests Rebecca. Examining metrics like bounce rate and session duration shows what content users value, and how easy your site structure is to follow. Too many small businesses are so busy they don’t make the time to test whether what they’re doing is working or not. “But it’s time well spent,” Rebecca points out. “Having a better knowledge of successful activities and ROI enables you to make better decisions on your marketing budget.”

2. Design your website with your users in mind

It’s important to reflect who you are in your website, that’s for sure. But more importantly, your users need to see themselves on it. “What your site needs to do is capture all your different users and put them in different boxes”, says Tony Sephton, owner of web design agency Hype London.

And ditch the flashy design, which only distracts. Keep things very clean and minimal. “Plenty of white space allows users to focus on the content,” says Tony. “Clean, structured page layouts allow users to follow your story, and stay on the page.”

Then extend the “less is more” aesthetic to smart organisation through simple, easy-to-use navigation. Make sure there is a logical organisation so that visitors intuitively know what to click to find what they are looking for. And there must be an easy trail back.

Finally, choose a user-friendly website design tool, such as WordPress or Squarespace, suggests Tony. Set-up with Wordpress is easy, and updates are just as simple. “However, as your business expands you might want to add more complex elements to your site, like a web shop. In this case it’s worth hiring a web developer to make sure you get it right.”

3. Show some personality

Many businesses have a vague “About” page full of jargon and marketing speak, and is often a regurgitation of what services they offer or products they produce says Alice Morgan, website content expert and co-founder of ALTA Digital.

“Great content is about story-telling – finding a human connection which resonates on a human level”. Which is why it’s a great idea to devote proper thought to your “About us” section. Share personal information and testimonials that readers can relate to such as setbacks on becoming an entrepreneur, your education and experience, and so on. Make it about you and your team.

Amy Porterfield’s “About” page gives the reader a front seat view into her, relatable, trials of becoming a successful entrepreneur.

After all, people want to do business with people and this is a great place to start building a connection. Explain who you are and share compelling stories about the origins of your business. Kris Carr does this very well when she shares how her diagnosis of cancer changed her life and led her to create her own successful business.

Add photos of yourself and your team to build an emotional connection which will inspire more trust in your future customers. Don’t ruin your credibility by using stock imagery of people or of someone else’s workspace. Whatever you do, keep it real.

4. Add plenty of content

A description of your product or services and team introduction are just the beginning. Today’s successful websites also typically include information that can help customers learn more, whether through blog posts, case studies, video tutorials, infographics or FAQs.

They come to your site to learn more so make it easy for them to get informed. For example, if you sell spare car parts and have a page on wheel nuts, you can list all of the different wheel nuts you supply. Then create a video to show people how they can fit wheel nuts. You can also add a section discussing the problems people may run into when fitting them or how to choose the right ones, suggests Darren Kingman a freelancer focusing on SEO.

5. Add credibility

It’s important to have content which helps you appear credible, as it’s a busy marketplace out there, and you want to stand out from the crowd. “To keep people on your website, you need to make them feel they know you, and feel comfortable about dealing with you,” says Rebecca Coldicott. Furthermore, reviews from existing customers should help reassure potential customers so they get in touch.

The easiest way to do this is social proof - testimonials and reviews. Display positive reviews from GoogleMyBusiness. “Collect your reviews off site on a regular basis, and the more detail the better,” says Rebecca. Photos and videos provide a backstory and help your audience connect and engage with you on a more personal level, she finds. Make this part of your process and send out feedback requests at the end of a project or purchase cycle.

6. Get found on Google

Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). It essentially means doing things to your website to help you get found in Google. And everything we’ve talked about so far in this article will help with this. But there’s one more thing you’ll need to understand – which keywords to use.

We’re all familiar with entering keywords into Google. What we’re perhaps less familiar with is what happens next: the search engines then match those keywords to websites which offer a close match. These are the websites we then see on the results page. This is why it’s so important to use the right keywords.

Tamara Warren, SEO expert at ALTA Digital explains what this means for you. “You need to research which keywords people are actually using to search for the products or services you provide. And then use these keywords in the right places on your web pages. This will mean you improve your chances of getting found by potential customers. A keyword research tools like Wordtracker or SEMRush can help you decide which ones to focus on.

But while SEO once meant stuffing your site full of keywords, that strategy doesn’t work anymore, and might even get you penalised by the major engines. Instead, make sure you are using the keywords naturally through quality content.

If you want to learn more about SEO check out The Beginner’s Guide to SEO by MOZ; it’ll teach you everything you need to know to get your website found in search engines.

7. Make sure your internal site search is working

Many companies pay so much attention to SEO that they never consider whether their internal search is easy to use. But overlooking that can cost you sales. Jordan Harling, multimedia manager at Interior Goods Limited says the company recently improved the customer experience - and increased their sales - by making it quicker and easier to find the products they were looking for.

After doing a deep dive into their website data, Harling said he found customers were navigating through the site manually. They were using filters to refine the products on each page, rather than deploying the search bar. The team discovered that the search function was only returning products that had the keyword in their title or description, rather than including other attributes that the design team had tagged. Tweaking the search engine was a simple task that produced immediate results, he says, with a greater percentage of people using the search bar and increased conversions.

8. Speed it up

Speed rules when it comes to webpage design. In fact, the probability of a customer abandoning your page increases by 90% when page load time goes from one second to five seconds, according to Google research. You can check your own page’s speed by running a Google Speed Test.

So how do you speed up your page? Clean code, for a start, says Tony Sephton. “The primary culprit of slow-loading pages is JavaScript, so the best way to speed up your page is by minifying (compressing) all your JavaScript files. This can reduce them by up to 80% of their original size.”

Oversized imagery is another key culprit, so don’t get caught out when you load new pictures onto your site. Optimising images massively increases site speed, and you can retain picture quality by keeping pixels high.

Tony recommends testing your website with an average phone over a 3G connection, to get a true feel for performance issues. “You’ll soon see if you have big, slow-loading images,” he says. You can also use WebPageTest, which provides insight into a wide variety of metrics and can be originated from a number of locations around the world using different phones and computers.

9. Make sure your website is optimised for mobile

Most people look for information today through mobile searches, Darren Kingman points out. The Google Mobile Friendly Test can help you determine if your site loads and displays well on mobile devices so you can make the necessary adjustments.

10. Make it easy for visitors to interact with you

Finally, you want to engage with your visitors. Don’t overlook clear calls to action so your visitors know what to do next - whether that’s downloading a resource, completing a transaction or using live chat for more information.

For best results don’t just use a web form on the contact page. Include your physical address, phone number, and personal email as well. If you do use a contact form too, try the process yourself to make sure it works and delivers email to your inbox.

After all, the entire goal of the website is to start a conversation with your potential future customer, so make sure it’s easy and inviting for them to do so.

Whilst improving your website can seem daunting, it’s one of the most worthwhile projects you can tackle. After all, a well-designed website is the gift that keeps on giving, selling you and your company to potential customers you don’t even know are looking.

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