What makes a great website?

Websites are pretty much part of everyday business life. If you own a company, the chances are you’ve gone through the process of creating or managing the development of your website, if not once, but many times over.

When businesses begin planning the development, or redevelopment of their website, they often start by looking for a web developer or team. This makes sense because unless you are familiar with HTML/CSS, JavaScript, databases and servers as well as other development disciplines, you can guarantee that without specialists, your site isn’t going to be as awesome as you want it to be.

We don’t want to focus on our web development services but instead, look at the other ingredients that play an increasingly important role in the success of a new site.

Is your website user-centric?

There are several factors that make a website outstanding, the first one being to ensure that everything about it is centred firmly on the user. This may be your customer, but it could also be a gatekeeper, researcher, specifier or someone else in the decision-making process. Knowing the different users who will visit your website, their needs, what they are searching for and how often, will help you plan and structure a site that delivers the information, content and experience they are seeking.

Does your website have a clear goal?

It is commonplace to hear objectives focussed on look and feel, or performance in search or on different devices such as mobile function however, a more user centric set of goals should also be considered. For example, what is it that you want your visitors to do or learn whilst they are on your website? How does the website support them in completing their task but also, underpin your business objectives of generating sales?

A failure to consider how your website can support a customer or your business, can lead to a superficial experience but also, a lack of KPIs against which to benchmark your site.

A story well told

By far the biggest gap in website development, is the ability to use a website to tell a story in a captivating way, that meets the requirements of your visitors. Nobody is expecting to read War and Peace but neither will they be engaged by a blatant attempt to cram a page full of keywords.

The balance between telling your story well and succinctly and tailoring your site content for SEO, should not be a trade-off. If your website satisfies the needs of your visitors with the information presented, then that will provide a much stronger signal to search engines than trying to play buzzword bingo.

Expert web development teams will include designers and copywriters who understand how to present information that make every word, image, illustration or video count, thus allowing your visitor to get to know your brand, product or service better.

A good website loads super-fast

Let’s face it, we are all busy or impatient, or both, so it goes without saying that a website which takes forever to load, is either going to frustrate visitors or even worse, lose them altogether.

If you’ve been involved in a website build before, you’ll be familiar with compressing images and minifying files to ensure the page loads as quick as possible. There are however, other choices businesses can make which will aid the performance of a website and some of those are at the very foundation upon which the website is built.

All websites require hosting, the problem is that not all hosting services are the same. It is fair to say that as a business community, small businesses tend to opt for the most cost-effective service – think Crazy Domains or Go Daddy. These are often referred to as Shared Hosting services, where multiple websites are hosted on a server.

The website is essentially sharing the processing power with other sites which slows down performance. If you think of it as a train towing carriages, you’ll soon understand how much of an uphill struggle it can be to get the best out of your website, when you are being held back by so many other sites.

Virtual Private Servers offer the next step up whereby a website is still sharing the server, but often with far fewer sites, plus it allows for some customisation so you can optimise the server for your website(s). Dedicated Servers offer just that – your very own bullet train, dedicated just to you.

Can your site ‘talk’ directly to search engines?

In the good old days, search engines would try to ‘read’ the page to find out what the content was about which for a machine, even as powerful as Google, is damn hard. Search engines need a helping hand, so when building a website, it is important to factor in how you can mark up your pages. Structured data in schema format will help search engines take snippets to better understand the true meaning of a page which in turn, helps your website stand out more in Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs).

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