Everyone knows they need a website.
It also needs to be a GOOD website, one that does the job you want it to do – to create the right impression on potential customers and help you get more business. But what makes a website good or bad?
One of the big problems is, so many people are selling their own particular bill of goods. Just because someone has a big company name or is spending millions of dollars on TV advertising doesn’t mean they are selling something you should be buying.
We see new fads appear with regularity. Last year a company made a big splash with websites that had multiple videos playing out of squares on the home page. Now I can’t even remember their name.
So: What is it that really makes a website good?
The first answer to that is, it should look and be professional.
No matter what line of work you are in, your potential customers want to know that you’re a professional. You know what you are doing. You are going to deliver to your customers, in exchange for their hard-earned money, a service or product that is and does what is expected. They are going to be happy with what they bought.
When your customer arrives on your website, the look of the website immediately starts to communicate that, or fails to, by the way it looks. Is the look of the website appropriate for your industry? Bright blues, yellow, and red colors are fine on a website for small children. They just won’t look right on a website for computer services.
Besides being appropriate, the look needs to be aesthetic. It doesn’t have to be a work of art, but it needs to be artistic. In some businesses, that is especially important – dentists for example. But even a plumber’s website should look good. Why? Because whether people know it or not, visually, aesthetic means professional. In other words, if it is aesthetic looking, they will think it – and the owner of the website – are professional. This is all the more powerful for being subliminal, something people aren’t directly aware of.
The next test the website has to pass is: Is it user friendly? At the most basic level, do the links work? Obviously if you have broken links your visitors are going to be GONE. More subtly, can you easily find your way around the website?
Good websites make it not just possible, but make it EASY to find your way around the site and to find what you are looking for. In thinking about your website content, you need to think about what the visitor wants to know first, what they will want to know if they go into more depth on the site, and what they will want to know or do if they are now seriously thinking about calling you or purchasing your goods or services.
You have to think how to arrange that material so that the immediate answers are visible at once when your potential customers arrive on the site. The rest – including very much the confidence builders such as testimonials – has to be organized with the visitor in mind. How are they going to use the site?
Sufficient visuals – whether photos, videos, illustrations, icons or other graphic imagery – are important as well as answering questions and directing your visitor’s attention.
Under the Hood
A vital part of what makes a website good is how the site is built and how professionally it is built. This is about the platform or programming language used.
Unfortunately, this is mostly outside the sight of the purchaser, who also usually doesn’t have enough information or know-how to make a good judgement on it.
But there are some common sense guidelines. “Professional” and “Do-it-yourself” in any subject are contradictory. Yet companies such as Wix and GoDaddy offer you low-priced, do-it-yourself website builders to produce “your very own professional website in minutes.” Does that really make sense?
Do-it-yourself websites are great if you just need something to get started with.
Other platforms, such as WordPress, which we use for most of our work, are supposedly do-it-yourself tools. WordPress really isn’t. More to the point, it is designed to be able to produce a fully professional website.
The next point is a little more subtle. It takes a team to build a good, professional website. Why? There are at least four complete technologies involved in building a good website:
- Design. This is art, pure and simple, and it takes an artist to do it. Some platforms, including WordPress, have many themes with pre-existing designs available, and many of them are excellent. But, if you aren’t an artist, you won’t necessarily know if they are really appropriate. Also, they usually need to be modified to suit.
- Development. The actual building of the site is all technical, and there is a lot to it. Again, a WordPress theme automates a lot of this, but not all, and if you aren’t a developer, you won’t be equipped to tell if a theme is properly constructed at all, or suitable for what you are trying to do. You’ll just notice things don’t look or work right or are too hard to change, or things break.
- Search Engine Optimization. A completely different, and equally technical subject, one which is constantly changing. But vital! After all, your website is useless if no one is visiting it.
- Marketing. Let’s not overlook this. Your website is a marketing tool and it takes marketing expertise to make it all come out right. The million dollar Internet success stories are a result of brilliant marketing that uses design, development and SEO to drive visitors to the website and get them to take action.
You are not going to find one person who is an expert at all of those things. That is a big reason why you see so many bad websites online, and why so many people end up with unhappy Internet experiences. A one-man band website designer is trying to present themselves as an expert at everything, but that certainly can’t be the case. Typically, overseas developers are ONLY good at development (if even that). So the choice of the right website company is important.
So there are some rules to avoid the worst pitfalls and help you to steer towards getting a website that does what you want it to. I’m almost certain that, after gaining a little experience in creating successful websites for your business, you’ll see this is all common sense stuff. Ask any expert in the field – this is not just my opinion or the particular axe I’m trying to grind.