5 best practices for creating a quality website that grows your traffic and drives results
There are many decisions you need to make when creating a website, and the best way to guarantee a quality product, is to start with a plan.
First you need to consider what your website will look like, but you also need to decide what content you’re going to include, how your customers will access what they need, and what burning questions you need to answer for them when they arrive on your website.
Follow these best practices to create a quality website that will withstand the test of time, keep your customers engaged and drive results.
1. Simple design
Remember those websites from the late 90’s and early 2000’s? Think black background, purple text in size 8 filling the entire page without any breaks to let your eyes rest or comfortably read the information.
Every now and then we stumble upon one of these relics from the past – usually some abandoned site filled with moon landing conspiracy theories or a fan blog dedicated to Canadian folk-rock legends Great Big Sea.
Thankfully most websites have evolved since then, but that means users have become skilled at weeding out the good from the bad and won’t hesitate to leave your page if your content is not easy to read.
When a user visits your website, they decide in a matter of seconds if they will stay. There is a tiny window to earn their visit, and if the user feels overwhelmed or must strain to find the information they need, they’ll hit the ‘back’ button and pick another result from their search.
The most successful websites effectively utilize white space and use creative ways of breaking up text such as lists, bullet points, images or infographics. Keep it simple to keep your readers on your page and comfortable accessing the information they came for.
2. Well-thought out
I remember browsing a company’s webpage before an interview once, trying to learn as much as I could so I could impress them. This company had so many layers of pages under so many headings that it was daunting finding out the information I needed, and to be honest, frustrating as a user.
I was a captive audience that needed to learn these details, however, most users who visit their site, don’t need to stay. If you make it hard on users to find what they need, they will abandon and find someone else who makes it easy.
Before designing a website, create a map of everything you want to include and where it should logically belong. Think about your user, and what they are coming to find out, learn, or take away. Present that up front so they don’t need to dig for it and can take action immediately.
3. Highly functional
People browse the internet from a variety of places – be it desktop, laptop, PC, mac, tablet or mobile device. They also use a variety of browsers. Then there are the users who have multiple tiny windows open all at once, or those that maximize one at a time, so they don’t need to go find their reading glasses.
Ultimately, you can’t control how users access your information, but you can control your websites functionality so that it performs the exact same way regardless of how it is being viewed. A highly functional website adapts to window size, browser, and type of device. Your website needs to be able to respond to any window size or shape and display your content in the way it was intended.
Imagine going on Amazon.ca and the content is showing images of products with descriptions that belong to the product above it. Are you going to trust that company with your credit card to purchase something that you hope you clicked on? No!
Having formatting issues on your website takes away from your credibility as a brand and prevents you from reaching your customers in the way you intended.
4. Mobile friendly
Have you ever tried to fill out a form using your phone for a website that is not mobile friendly? It is one of the most frustrating exercises of patience. It often involves straining your eyes and using the most precise finger taps to click on the next field without skipping several fields down. The window is constantly needing to be adjusted and the information you are filling out keeps getting lost. It becomes so frustrating that you give up and abandon the task entirely.
A site that is mobile friendly displays its content in a way that it easy to read on a smaller device and responds appropriately to fill the screen so that users don’t need to zoom in or out or scroll side-ways to read the content.
Without a mobile friendly website, you could potentially be losing out on more than half of your online business potential. In the age of the smart phone you can’t afford to not have your website be mobile-friendly.
5. Reflective of your brand
Think about your brand when you choose a design for your website. Do you sell auto-parts or artisanal cheese? Those webpages should not look the same and if they do, they run the risk of confusing their customers.
Not only should the style of the page reflect your brand, but the colours, font, and tone of the writing should too.
Some companies are great at infusing humour in their online persona through their webpage or social media channels (check out Old Spice – their brand has become synonymous with humour, whether through viral commercials, social media or their website); however, humour is not the right tone for every business. Think about the product or service you offer, the people you employ, and who your customer is when you set up your website to be reflective of your brand.