What makes a successful website?

So, you may be tasked with finding a web design company to create your company’s first website, or perhaps you have already been through the ups and downs of creating a website and you are after a refresh or upgrade. Creating a successful website can be a challenging process at the best of times and takes careful planning and thought, but get it right and you will see the rewards. Hopefully the following tips will go some way in making the design and development tasks easier for you.

Be realistic
Be realistic with your expectations. What can you expect to achieve with your website? Will your budget allow for this? Have a clear understanding of your goals and what you are after as you will need to relay this information to your web design company.

Purpose
What is the purpose of your website? Is it to sell a new or existing product online? If so you will require an e-commerce facility. How will you handle shipping? Have you researched the different payment providers out there? Your web design company should be able to guide you but you need to make sure the questions are asked and addressed before development starts. If the purpose of your website is to advertise your services, then a call to action needs to be prominent on every page.

Usability & Structure
Getting visitors onto your website is hard enough, so once on there it is essential that they are able to navigate and find the information they are after. Usability is important not just for your visitors but also for the site administrators. You or your staff will need to keep your website content fresh, process orders or use the various backend functions developed. When approving the designs for your website don’t just think focus on a “pretty design”, think is the information clear, can people navigate round my site regardless from where they entered the site?

Content
Content is King and in this case a key component to having a successful website. Lifting content from competitors’ sites or your company literature is just not good enough. Your content needs to be written and structured for your web pages. Too much content and your site visitors will not read it all. Too little and Google will not rank your site highly. Ensure that content is well laid out, the language used is fitting for your target audience and you mention your key phrases within your text, as this will help with your search engine rankings

Content is King

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
When talking about SEO most people assume that this is something that is carried out after the website is live, but the truth is it is important to structure a website correctly follow the latest coding standards at the time of creating the website. Any web design company worth their weight in gold, regardless of whether they offer SEO services, should consider your Search Engine Rankings during the time of development. SEO consists of two major components, on-site and off-site. One would expect that when getting a website developed the on-site elements would be carried out as standard. This would include ensuring that the site filenames are structured correctly and in a friendly manor, meta-description tags and page titles are available and able to be updated easily (as you will need to tweak them depending on the page content and target phrases), all images have alt text and the correct use of heading tags are implemented.
Off-site SEO is an ongoing process and does require commitment, whether it’s your time or financial. It does require some trial and error as there is no quick or easy fix and what works for one business does not necessarily work for another. It is important not to use black hat techniques and try and cheat the search engines as you will eventually get found out and be penalised. Be honest and truthful, keep your content fresh, use the social media channels available and write and share your expertise online.

Mobile
With more potential customers using some sort of mobile device daily (and PC sales in decline), gone are the days when a one size fits all website will suffice. Most smartphones will display a website that has just been designed for a PC or Laptop but how many times have you visited a website on your smartphone or tablet and had to zoom in to click on a menu button or read some text, then zoom back out to navigate to another section on the page to zoom back in again to read text. How many times are there functions that don’t appear to work correctly? Flash not displaying, accordion type functions not working? All these scenarios are frustrating for the user. They are also not great for your company image and worst still, they will cost you leads and sales. When designing a website ensure that your web design company implements a responsive design. This will allow your website to adjust depending on the type of device it is being used on. A good web design company will understand the importance of a responsive web design and will be able to create you a mobile optimised solution. A mobile version of your website will improve usability but it is also a fact that Google does prefer a website that has been created using a responsive web design, especially as so many searches nowadays are being carried out on a variety of devices, including mobiles, tablets, games consoles and televisions.

Mobile Wireframe

Online Marketing
Before websites were the norm every business owner needed to market their products or services, and magazines and directories full of adverts were being distributed left right and centre. Just because you have a website, don’t assume as soon as it is made live your will get an influx of visitors and your website will be found online by anyone searching for your services or products. There are many options and they all work differently for every business. Try them and measure your return. The majority of them will allow you to set a daily spend limit or you can try for a month without committing thousands for an annual contract. Google’s Pay Per Click, Facebook Adverts and Sponsored Posts, Twitter featured Teats and LinkedIn Promoted posts are a few avenues you could try. The most important thing to remember when trying out this type of online marketing, it is not volumes you are after but the quality of visitors. So try with targeted phrases and areas, measure the performance and then expand bit by bit. We always recommend you use a specialist company to get you started for a few months and see what return you get.

Analytics
Not every element of your website will be 100% perfect from the word go. Sometimes your first website is the initial step to your online journey, however measuring the success will allow you to make more informed future decisions. An analytics program or service (such as Google Analytics) is essential in finding out how often your website is being visited, where your visitors are coming from, how long they spend on your website, did they visit your “goal” pages? The data available will help you make tweaks to your website, improving it so that it is exactly what your visitors expect and in turn increasing your leads or sales. This data is also extremely valuable when redeveloping a website.

Website and mobile analytics concept

Summary
A successful website takes time and investment. Don’t be unrealistic, you will never get the experience of a multi-million pound website such as Amazon for just a couple of thousand pounds. That said, a successful website does not need to cost over the odds. You are paying for experience and the time required to design and develop a web project, so finding the perfect web design company that understands your needs and you feel you can work well with, is essential. They will be key and the initial components to creating a successful website. More expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better, cheaper should not cloud your judgement. Hard work is required from your web design company and yourself, like everything in life, you need to work in order to make a successful website.