So, what does makes a good website? The verdict? It’s not rocket science really. We’ve found through experience, that the best websites literally require users to think less. They do this by ensuring they understand and meet their users’ needs in a clear, easy and efficient way. Sounds simple right, but if you take a spin round the web, it’s amazing how many sites seem designed to confuse rather than inform. It may be tempting for many of the folk who work in the industry to cloud things in myth and mystery, but keeping the first principle of the KISS (Keep It Simple Son) is fundamental to making your website work for you.
There are also standard principles at the heart of good website design. These include making sure your site works on computers, mobile phones and tablets, and ensuring consistency of visual elements, including your fonts and images.
7 Must Haves for a Great Website
Now, there’s no silver bullet for creating a great website. But, if you stick to these 7 principles when creating your next blog, ecommerce site, portfolio or business website, you’ll find creating a good website is easier than you think.
1. Clear purpose – Make sure you know what your site is for, and importantly, not for.
2. Clear audience – Identify who your site is aimed at. Do you know what your audience looks like? What they enjoy? Do for work? How old they are? What other sites they use? All of this information, and more, is crucial for building the best website.
3. Straightforward navigation – Is it easy to work out how you get around your site?
4. The right style – Your site should be unique and distinctive, whilst still appealing to your users.
5. High quality imagery – If your images aren’t good, your site won’t look good, either.
6. The right fonts – Make sure your font matches the general style, and is legible.
7. The right words – Your site can look amazing, but if none of the words make sense, design won’t matter.
1. Clear Purpose
It’s absolutely essential that when you’re thinking about your website, you understand exactly what you want your site is to do. For example, if you’re looking to create a site to sell products, selling products should be your absolute priority. An ecommerce site is an entirely different animal to a corporate “information” site. Every decision you make, you should ask yourself – is this going to help users buy my products? Defining your purpose is your first step to creating your initial webmap.
2. Clear Audience
Identifying who is going to be using your site is also crucial to building a good website. If you can understand what sort of people are going to be visiting your site, reading your blog posts, buying your products, or taking a look through your previous work, then you can build the site to suit them. The best way to do this is to create “Personas”. These can be as simple or as extensive as you want to make them. Put simply, your customer persona is a snapshot of the details of that person from gender, age and occupation through to what digital platforms they use – large organisations can document every aspect of the imaginary person’s life to craft bespoke messaging. Personas are a great way of humanising who you are creating your website site for, and gaining an appreciation of how to genuinely connect with them.
3. Straightforward Navigation
Once you’ve established the purpose of your site and your target audience, you can create a site structure and navigation to make it as easy as possible for this audience to get around (and fulfil the site’s purpose). Remember we said that the best websites literally don’t require users to think? Site structure plays a huge role in reducing the cognitive effort needed to get from page A to page B.
The site structure is your start point. It doesn’t have to be in any slick format – as long as everyone is clear what the sections, sub-sections and pages are and how they are linked to provide the viewer a simple journey to find out the information they need quick and easy. You can’t really underestimate how important this part of the process is – now is the time to share the webmap and make any changes to the structure now. Believe me, if somebody in the organisation starts insisting on major changes to the architecture at the programming stage, it is a major headache – both very time consuming and costly.
4. The Right Style
Once you’ve settled on your structure, you’re designers will start styling your site. The design must be on brand. It’s very obvious – your website is not a separate entity to everything you do offline. There is a tendency for some established organisations to treat their sites as somehow different to the brand they have spent years establishing, and the sites havn’t appealed to their core customers. Personas can also help with this process – always bear in mind your target customer – don’t let the ego of the designer get in the way of getting the style right.
5. High Quality Imagery
Once you’ve got your site’s general design nailed down, you can move on to the individual design components.This first one is can be a tricky and sometimes thorny subject. Most organisations we work for don’t have a library of high quality images – far from it. All the best websites use great imagery, and whether it’s to showcase products they’re selling, create a certain mood, or illustrate something else, they need to be high quality.
Blurry images, or an over reliance on joyless stock images, will make a website seem amateurish. To look for an outstanding example of how to do it right, take a look at the images on Apple’s site. They are all clear images that reflect the brand, and are targeted towards the users of that specific product.
6. The Right Fonts
A typeface might seem relatively inconsequential. However, users spend most of their time on a website reading (or at least scanning) text, meaning it’s an essential part of the website you want to create. We can all joke about Comic Sans, the typeface that seems to have been universally abused since Microsoft was introduced, but not all examples of font misuse are that obvious.
Typography is a very important. We take good typography for granted. Everyone expects offline media such as a newspaper to be readable with impeccable type. Move online and you’ll soon realise that digital media hasn’t caught up yet with print. Just think readability every time – on all devices!
7. The Right Words
So, you’ve picked your design, you’ve got your images sorted, and you’ve found the right font (or fonts). Now you need to fill your site with the right words, and again this can prove very challenging, as your organisation may never have documented in any length all the core elements of your business and its products, services and philosophy. Further to that, copywriting, in particular for the web is very highly skilled and bad copy sticks out like a sore thumb and can ruin your credibility in a sentence.
Again, users and purpose are at the forefront of any copy crafted for your site. You’ll want to make sure it’s engaging, easy to read, and has a consistent tone. If one page on your website is written in the style of a youth magazine and the next page written like a legal contract, your users will be confused and turned off by your site.
Make sure your copy is to-the-point and clear. If you’re selling products, give your users the information they need to know about the product. Whatever you’re doing, your copy should point users to an action without overdoing it – whether that’s buying a product, making an appointment, or enquiring about a service.