- Created: 07 July 2015
What Makes an Awesome Website?
Last week we talked about some of the reasons you might want to redesign your website, but if you’re starting from scratch you might not know what makes an awesome website. Well this week we can elaborate on that subject.
The Five Basic Elements
The five basic elements of an awesome website are pretty straightforward. Everything that you can do to improve your website will fall into one – or all – of these five categories.
- Appearance – A visual appealing design that uses color and whitespace to call attention to key elements.
- Content – A strong message that establishes a personal connection with the visitor.
- Functionality – Forms, buttons, and navigation elements that enhance the visitor's experience.
- Usability – All functional components adapt to different displays and input methods to give a fluid and flawless user experience.
- SEO – Content and keywords focus on marketing goals to bring in a wider audience.
It might not be clear how you can take this list of five things and apply it to your design plan. And some items fall into more than one of these categories making it even more confusing. For example the most important element in a website is its navigation. Navigation fits into all the elements at once. You want the appearance of your navigation to be clean and clear. It should highlight the most important content using SEO keywords. And any navigation functionality (like drop downs and flyout menus) should keep in mind the best usability practices.
So, how do you take these five basic elements and apply them to your design plan? Well in some ways you need to keep each of the elements in mind for each section of your website. To get you started we will break out a few website pieces and show you how to apply the five basic website elements to them.
Whenever a visitor is on your website, you want to make it clear what you want them to do next. A call-to-action can be a button to learn more, a phone number to call or even an email newsletter signup. Your Call-to-Action needs to visually stand out on the page and it also needs to use appropriate language to entice the user to take action.
How your call-to-action functions is another key element to keep in mind. If the user clicks a button to sign up for an email newsletter are they taken to another website with a long form to fill out? It might be better to put the email form field directly on your website making it easier to convert more users to subscribers.
It’s also important to test how your call-to-action preforms on a mobile device. If you have a phone number as a call-to-action, can the user simply click the phone number to call it directly or would they have to write the number down, open their phone app, and then type the number in? Is your mobile website laid on in such a way that the call-to-action is at the top of the page or does it get pushed down?
Landing Pages Have a Clear Message
A landing page is a page a visitor will land on when entering your website. A simple example of this is if you are a car dealership named Greg’s Awesome Auto, a user looking for you on google would type in your business name, and then land on your homepage. It would be rather silly if Greg’s Awesome Auto had a homepage with lots of information about floral arrangements. Most likely the page would show pictures of cars with pricing information sending a clear message that they are on a car dealership website.
The homepage is not the only page a user could land on. Let’s use a different example this time, what if you are a law firm that specializes in several types of law and when a user googles “family law” they are taken directly to your family law page. On your homepage there is a big bold button to contact you, and there is a phone number in the top bar, unfortunately this user landed on an internal page and after a few minutes of poking around they leave the site.
It’s important to think about ALL the pages on your website and not just the homepage. Think about how a user might find your website and consider whether each page has the same strong message your homepage does. All pages need to be able to function on their own with SEO content that draws users into the site.
Building off our last example you can see how important it is to have contact information available. Some websites handle this by simply keeping the main phone number in the header of every page with additional contact information in the footer. But if we are keeping functionality and usability in mind, this might not be the best solution for every website. Some businesses have multiple phone numbers depending on which branch of the business you are calling. For a business like this having a contact page with multiple phone numbers listed out would make more sense.
You are also more than just a phone number. Developing a separate contact page might be a good way to display a google map, phone number, mailing address and fax number. Just remember to test all your pages in multiple devices. A google map to your business is only good if it works for your users.
Text Content That Develops a Personal Connection with Visitors
A clear message is only good if people are reading your text. A lot of times text content is the LAST thing a business thinks about when making a webpage. It’s something that is left until the last minute and then slapped together in a hurry. But your content is the foundation for your website.
Snappy content writing draws the user in, sells them on your business, and develops a relationship with them all before they even speak to anyone in your company. Your website is an ambassador for your business, and like any ambassador, it should be able to speak on your behalf eloquently and concisely. Focusing on content that sets the right tone will help propel your business past the competition.
Developing great content will also help your SEO. Search engines are constantly scanning your website’s text to create your search engine listing. If your content works for both the user and the search engine then it has done its job two-fold.
Clean and Visually Pleasing Design
Design is so important to a website. They say a picture is worth 1000 words, well design speaks louder than words. Before your user has even blinked they have taken in the design and layout of your website. Instantly they have made a judgement about your business based on what they see. As they begin to scan the page the design will direct their eyes. It will impact how they interact with the site, and it will guide them from page to page.
A clean design that focuses on usability will literally be the most important factor in your websites success. It sets the tone for your business on the web and engages users. A good design firm will take your business and apply just the right design tone to make a bold statement that sticks with your visitors.