Whilst every one’s visual tastes are different, there are several universal principles that successful websites embody. We’ve distilled these down for you into a simple list of critical success factors. As the web matures, visitors come to your site with higher expectations. Failing to satisfy those expectations can dramatically reduce the effectiveness of your website.
1. Quality Content
People visit your site to view content, so providing worthwhile content is one of the most fundamental issues that website owners need to address. The quality of your content not only plays a vital role in converting visitors into results, but also directly impacts your search engine rankings. Good content is time consuming to produce, so ensure that you make adequate allowances for content production in your planning.
Many sites on the web – even cool ones – fail because people either can’t figure out how to use the site or couldn’t be bothered trying to work out the innovative navigation that the web designer spent countless hours inventing. To ensure that visitors find your site easy to use, it is advisable to run some simple tests with a small number of people from your target demographic. Just ask them to perform some basic tasks on your web site (such as “purchase 2 widgets using this credit card”€). You may be surprised at the results and the findings may vastly improve your website overall.
People access the internet in many different ways using an increasing number of connections, browsers and devices. From fast corporate connections to mobile broadband, blackberries & iPhones, speech browsers, old browsers through to old fashioned dial-up the range is enormous. Your site needs to be usable on any of the platforms that people are likely to access it from. The key concept here is “graceful degradation”€ which simply means that whilst a simple device might not display your web page in all its glory, it should still display in a respectable manner.
4. A Good Strategy
A good strategy is essential to gaining a good return on the money invested in developing your website. Our web strategy page covers 5 of the primary strategic reasons that organisations seek to achieve with their website. Ensure that you know why you have a site and what business outcomes you are expecting before spending any money developing a website.
5. An Appealing Design
Everyone wants to have the best looking site. Many web designers become obsessed with this – partly because it is fun and partly because it is an easy sell. Whilst your site should look great, its appearance is just one part of the puzzle. The key is to identify your target demographic and implement a design that they find appealing, but make sure that all of the other points mentioned above have been addressed.
6. A Marketing Strategy to Promote Your Site
Simply having a website is no longer enough. You need to actively build traffic by promoting your site. There’s several ways of doing this such as Search Engine Optimisation, Pay per click advertising as well as the traditional offline methods such as print, radio or flyers. The important thing is that you have a strategy and execute it.
7. Give People a Reason to Come Back
Some sites only want people to visit the site once. Unless your site is one of those, give consideration to providing people with a reason to come back. Most people surfing the net visit so many sites in a day that they simply can’t recollect all of the sites they’ve been to. To overcome this, your site needs to offer a compelling value proposition for people to revisit.
8. Use Analytics
There’s some great tools around that not only track how many people visit your site, but what they do when they get there. This provides valuable feedback that can be used to improve your site by identifying bottlenecks and departure points. With that feedback based on real-world usage your site can be improved to enhance its effectiveness.
9. Regular Website Updates
With the continuing trend towards social media and social networking your customers expect to see fresh and up-to-date information. A well designed website is all about keeping the web pages fresh and current.