What Makes a Good Website (with a Competitive Edge)?

What is a good website?

 

A good website is functional. By its layout, design and content, that website fulfils its role. Therefore, it accomplishes the following functions:

  • Create a connection between brand and people
  • State the positioning of the company into the market
  • Raise people’s interest into the company, products and/or services
  • Help complete purchases.

 

Not only is a good website functional, but it’s also effective. *Read “effective” as more than simply “functional” – that site drives to performance. Effectiveness relates to:

 

  • Traffic – the first condition for a brand to sell is getting enough traffic.
  • Engagement – for users to perform whatever action you expect them to perform, they need high levels of engagement. This translates into micro-interactions, interactivity, gamification, etc.
  • Leads – if you have traffic, you increase chances to have leads. Leads are potential clients, more inclined to buy your products/services.
  • Conversions – this is the actual point of sale. The number of conversions directly influences the company ROI.
  • Trust – this is a non-measurable value that has a lot to do with how people feel about your brand, your company, your offering.
  • Brand that’s easy to remember – this is also a difficult to measure value that does a lot in terms of promotion.
  • Authority – a website’s authority relies on links (votes) pointing to the website. For search engines, these links are an indicator that your website is a reliable source users can count on. As a result, the website will be more visible in search engine results pages and viewed by a larger number of users.
  • SEO – search engine optimization directly impacts a website’s visibility, with consequences for traffic, engagement and sales.

 

Beware how you meet the above objectives, they’ll influence your website effectiveness a lot. According to Sewor, 38% of people stop engaging with a website if the content or layout are unattractive.

 

The definition of what makes a good website can be split into specific definitions of the most important elements that ensure site success.

 

The 11 key elements of a good website

 

1. Make sure you meet users’ expectations with your content and design.

 

The main purpose of design is to provide the proper infrastructure for content. With every page in the website, you need to answer people’s questions and needs.

How do you do that?

The first step is to check Google first results page and see what content websites offer in response to a certain query. But what happens when there’s no result similar to yours in the first SERPs page? What does that mean?

Actually, this pushes research to a second step. And the second step consists of determining content gaps in the websites ranking on the first search engine results page. You can take a look at People Also Ask questions and related searches. Thus, you extend the analysis of that specific query and the issue that lies beneath it.

 

Take this example of website from the travelling industry:

 

 

It’s a mix of site and blog in the same page. And it’s famous for content that perfectly responds to people’s needs. That is, Nomadic Matt focuses on practicality. Practical tips for travelling on a budget, travelling awesome, etc. The website success comes from the fact that it provides complete information on a given subject. And information becomes complete after Nomadic Matt has understood would-be travellers’ interests and pain points.

 

2. Understand users’ behavior. You’ll better know your audience.

 

The browsing behavior itself supposes there are choices in the website. This relates to users’ freedom to select what’s best for them, from the website information. And here comes the second principle of a good website:

Users don’t make optimal choices. Instead, they satisfice. As soon as they find a link that seems to lead to their goal, there is a very good chance that it will be immediately clicked.

Your duty is to ensure there are multiple choices, not perfect choices. The buyers’ journey and pieces of information should develop within an extended range. Therefore, visitors will know they make their own selections.

 

For further reading on users’ behavior, please check this resource.

 

3. The website has to observe the E-A-T standards.

 

This third element relates to the first one. It refers to content quality. E-A-T stands for Expertise – Authority – Trustworthiness.

 

E-A-T derives from a 2018 Google update concerning content quality.

Expertise = you know the subject matter and you’re an expert in the field. Information is backed by data and research, and there’s evidence that your website provides high-standard content.

Authority = more than expertise, your website has authority. Authority comes from a large number of links to (they count as votes for) the site. The website is the point to go for many web surfers.

Trustworthiness = some signals of trustworthiness are a physical address, a phone number (actually, a way users can contact you), reviews, testimonials, counters.

 

All these together make a good website. And design can support E-A-T by:

  • Professional layouts
  • Items placement according to UX standards
  • Adequate color schemes
  • Coherent branding through visual elements, etc.

 

4. The website design is made for scan, not for reading

 

There’s plenty of speaking of browsing behavior and scanning web pages. They don’t refer to reading, as such. Instead, they speak of filtering and selecting information, while scrolling and accessing links.

That’s why the layout and page structure are utterly important in guiding users through the website. These elements facilitate browsing.

 

This is how web surfers “read” online

 

Designers should carefully place key items in strategic places, so visitors shouldn’t miss them. See the pattern of scanning pages, in the above image. The warm colors indicate most viewed areas, while cold colors signal a minimal interest in those areas.

The pattern is applicable to all web pages. It shows users’ web browsing habits, instead of classical linear reading habits. So the design should reflect an F-pattern in placing content on pages.

 

5. Provide a clean and clear structure

 

A good structure involves well-formatted content that’s easy to scan. Well-formatted translates into:

  • Headings and subheadings
  • White space
  • Images and videos that support the text
  • Links to further info on a subject, and relevant link anchor texts
  • Bulleted lists
  • Separation of ideas into distinct paragraphs
  • Graphics, charts, anything that adds meaning to your text.

 

6. Use grid-based layouts

 

Grid layouts are extremely useful for structuring information. According to the online browsing behavior patterns, grid-based layouts are appropriate for many websites.

Grids give an equal distribution to texts, photos, videos onto webpages, letting users decide upon the importance of each unit.

Example of grid-based layout:

 

 

A grid-based layout favours random selection of items for further inspection. It gives users the freedom to form their own path in discovering the website content.

 

7. Less is more. Don’t overwhelm users with elements

 

Minimalism is a good choice for web design. Keep it simple. Keep only the needed elements. Don’t stuff a website with all sorts of unnecessary items. Because it’ll do more wrong than right.

Limiting design to only essential parts not only frees users from consulting, but it also enhances the value of existing items. People easily focus on what’s important to know, and what the company really wants them to know. No redundancy, no superfluity.

 

Here’s an example of minimalist website:

 

 

Obviously, it arouses curiosity. The homepage is highly expressive through its few elements.  If you continue to explore the site, it will explain you the essentials:

 

 

Also, in the design process, it’s simpler. They concentrate on the important items of the website, and work them to perfection.

 

8. The design has to sustain a clear and compelling value proposition

 

It can’t be overstated: each and every website needs a valid unique value proposition. Because it’s the UVP that ensures a website’s success, and a company’s profit overall.

Usually, the title and tagline contain the value proposition. They’re the best places where you can showcase uniqueness.

Do you want to enter a market and make profit? Do you want your company to be noticed and appreciated? Start with that: your uniqueness.

What makes your company different from others? Why should customers choose you instead of your competitors? State your unique value proposition.

And you should start with that, before anything else.

Sometimes, title and tagline fields are filled in rapidly, in passing to the next important design elements. Thus, some website creators tend to underestimate the importance of these fields.

Remember: there’s no more important item in the website than the title. Use it properly. And use it to your advantage.

 

Take a look at this example:

 

 

 

9. “Trim” website navigation paths

 

We all know the menu is responsible for the main navigation path in a website. Therefore, the menu should have clear items that cover the whole website content. Also, you should carefully decide the order of the items in the main menu. Most important elements first, additional information after them.

Surely, you can design a secondary menu, a sidebar menu, if needed. It all depends on your design requirements. It involves a lot of customization, based on the website specifics.

 

But besides menus, other elements can add up to navigation easiness:

  • Good internal linking
  • Alternative forms of exploring content

 

Good internal linking refers to connecting the dots among related topics. This way, you simplify users’ process of pursuing research on a subject that they’re particularly interested in. Also, in terms of SEO, relevant internal linking helps boost results in Google.

Alternative ways of exploring content include content categories such as: Top Rated; Most Popular; Top 10. Such categories simplify content discovery according to some standards: high standards. Listings of this type approach a content discovery model users love. So don’t neglect their advantages.

 

10. Wisely integrate visual cues in site

 

Visual cues are items/signals that point out in the direction of the actual conversion. They direct users down the conversion path and to the CTA button.

Visual cues can be:

  • Explicit (arrows, bounce arrows, underlining, animated text, pointing fingers, etc.)
  • Implicit (white space, color contrast, etc.)

Visual cues are more obvious in a minimalist website design, where all sorts of visual distractions are left aside.

 

Examples of visual cues:

 

 

The page has implicit visual cues, as well as an explicit such cue:

  • Pricing button (color contrast)
  • Get pricing (color contrast + first position in a line of buttons)
  • Arrow pointing to “Rated no.1 for customer satisfaction…”

 

So, visual cues provide force of persuasion. They can drive to a wealth of conversions. Take them into consideration.

 

11. Make sure the website is user-friendly

 

User-friendliness means the website is simple for visitors to use.

Once they land on a website page, visitors expect to get the information they need, in the shortest amount of time.

Precisely, it provides traditional navigation paths, in relation with the users’ already formed habits.

It implies easy to use new functionalities and features. That is, a website with much originality should keep that originality within the limits of simplicity to use. There’s a new feature to use? Visitors need to get it quickly. Otherwise, they’ll decide to spend their time on other websites, simpler and friendlier to deal with.

 

Examples of user-friendly elements:

 

  • The logo always has a link towards the homepage (no matter where people are in the website, they can still click on the logo and they return to the website front page).
  • The menu is in the upper (right) corner of the page
  • Menu items change their state when hovering with the mouse over them, or when people are on a page corresponding to an item (indicating where visitors are, within the overall structure of the website)
  • Buttons change their state when hovering with the mouse over them (indicating items of interest to users)

 

Other relevant items:

 

  • Use of the right fonts – first and foremost, you need to make sure there’s good contrast between text and background. This contrast, together with the font family, support legibility of the text. (legibility concerns the proper visualization of text)
  • The search form is smart – that is, it auto-fills the last search if the user is logged in
  • Mobile-friendly design – it goes without saying, in a mobile-first online world, mobile-friendliness is a must. It means a website is designed to work in exactly the same way across devices
  • The pages load quickly, etc.

 

 

Ticking these 11 points, you observe the key principles of what makes a good website. However, you have to remember: this is only the starting point. It’s your own vision that takes the website further, on its way to brilliance.

If something has been omitted, please indicate it and we’ll add it to the list.

 

 

 

 

 

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