Jul 31

What Makes a Great Website? A 5-Step Guide

Look around the internet. You will find some great sites out there, ones that stand out from the crowd, and have a real “wow” factor. Then there are the also-rans! There are still sites that epitomise the worst of 1990s design fashion. Unfortunately, there are also too many sites that in all reality have no value at all. You look at them and think, “Why does this exist? Who would willingly stay on this site?”

So what is the difference? If you have a site yourself, what do you need to do to make certain that you attract visitors and to encourage them to return? What makes a great website?

1.      Have Plenty of Original Content

This has to be stressed repeatedly! Good content will make or break a website. The days of websites that consist of nothing but links and advertisements are over. Google hates them. Web browsers hate them. They are a dying breed.

There are many millions of websites in existence. Some succeed. Many do not. The key reason for the success of particular sites is that people have reason to go there, and to return. That reason is the content that is available for people to read, listen to and look at.

There is a whole sector of marketing devoted to providing quality content – content marketing. Good content marketing is one of the most lucrative ways for businesses to gain customers. However, it really does have to be good. This means that you regularly produce credible, original material. People have to find value in what they encounter on your site. If you want them to return, you also need to be consistently producing new content for them to devour.

2.      Focus on Your Target Market

If you want to succeed on the internet, you need to know whom you are targeting. Who are you trying to woo to your site?

If you represent a business this should sound familiar. Businesses need to focus on particular markets if they hope to be successful. It is virtually impossible to succeed in business if you say you are trying to sell to “everyone”. Web sites that represent existing businesses will most likely focus on the same types of people who frequent their offline premises.

If you are exclusively online, then you need to go through the process of determining who your probable customers will be. Are you aiming at middle-aged women? How about teenage boys? Are you targeting sports fans, with plenty of money to spend on your exercise equipment?

Even if your website does not represent a business, you still need to decide who your target audience is. It is too difficult to produce content for a wide range of people with disparate interests. If they see articles that are well outside their interest areas, they are likely to bypass your site. All the quality blogs focus on providing content suitable for particular targeted groups of people.

3.      Clearly Provide the Relevant Information

Remember; focus your content on providing help to your target audience. They come to your site to help them solve a problem. Anticipate their needs, and make certain that they find what they are looking for.

You need to provide timely, useful information. It is often a good idea to create a content calendar for yourself. This way, you can organise and discipline yourself to create content, and time it to meet your users’ needs. For instance, if you are in an industry that makes good Christmas sales, make certain that you start to ramp up your pre-Christmas content from October or November. If you are into fishing, make certain that you are publishing appropriate content at the beginning of the fishing season. Virtually every niche will have key times when you should deliver the perfect content your visitors want to see.

It is likely that your visitors will often have the same questions. Try to envisage what they will be. Have the answers to their questions in a clear and obvious place on your site. Consider having a FAQ (frequently asked questions) section.

4.      Make the Site Easy to Use

Research shows that the average first-time visitor to your website will give you eight seconds of their time. After eight seconds, either you will have piqued their interest or they will have moved onto another site that that they feel is better at meeting their needs.

Eight seconds is not very long. This becomes a real problem if your site is slow loading, and they give up before they even look at what you have to offer. Make certain that you optimise you site to be quick loading.  Graphics are good and make a site look interesting, but they can slow things down. Be careful about the size of your images. Ensure that you have a reason for each image that loads and that it is not just padding.

Let us assume that browsers actually stay long enough to see what you have to offer. You still only have eight seconds, less loading time, to attract their attention. They need to be able to spot instantly what your niche is. They have to be able to see the targeted content that you are producing.

Your site has to near-instantly give them a feeling that this is a place to stick around and take a look. This is where your design becomes important. Are you using a clear combination of colours and fonts? Remember, readability is far more important than cleverness. It is no surprise that most of your big websites still use black print on a white background for their body text. It is a combination that always wins any readability tests.

Your menus and navigation are also very important. Visitors need to easily find their way around your site to find the solutions to the problems they are facing. Make certain that all your links work. Nothing looks more amateurish than dead links, which are guaranteed to send people to competing sites.

5.      Ensure the Site is Responsive / Suitable for Mobile Users

With more than 50% of people checking and browsing websites using their phones or tablets, it is a no brainer nowadays to ensure that your website looks good and functions well on mobile devices. Google agrees with this and heavily penalises sites that are not mobile-friendly.

Conclusion

Running a website is something of a science nowadays. You cannot simply put together a slapdash site, that lacks planning, and expect to be successful. You do need to constantly work at making your website valuable to potential users.

It is not that difficult to succeed online if you do follow these principles, however. When it comes down to it, you simply need to find a target group for your site, and then create an online place that they would want to go to, and then return time after time.