Most of us will come face to face with this situation sometimes. It is the decision to create a new website. Maybe it is the first one we are building. Or perhaps, we are redesigning an existing one?
Of course, our aim always is to create the best website possible. Though the definition of best is subjective and differs from person to person. However, there are certain characteristics, we can all agree, should be an important part of our websites.
These essential features will ensure that the website is effective and will able to perform the tasks expected of it.
Because what good is a website if it is unable to help you achieve your business objectives efficiently? Let us dive straight in and check out the features now.
#1. DIY Vs A Professionally Built Website
This is more of a decision that will likely impact the future of your business than a built-in feature of your website. But since it is such an important step, I decided to include it on the list.
So, for many, the first decision would be whether to build the site on your own as a Do-It-Yourself project. Or whether to hand over the responsibility to a professional web design company or firm!
The decision would likely rest on many factors like:
- Are you a business?
- Does this website need to be highly professional?
- Do you have lots of free time?
- Do you have time to learn and experiment with technology?
- Are you looking to save money?
- You do not have money?
If you have lots of free time and are willing to put in the time to learn and grasp new technology. And, if you do not have money and do not need the best website possible instantly, then you could surely take the DIY route.
The moment you try to get some utility out of it, like adding your domain, you would be expected to switch to a paid account. Which is usually a nominal amount that you are expected to pay every month.
So basically, they are inexpensive ways to create websites that are not so professional.
On the other hand, if you are a business, you need a professional website. You need to think of the expense incurred in hiring professionals as an investment in your business.
It is something that will get returned to you many folds as your business yields higher returns.
A professional web designer can design using pleasing colors bringing focus to areas that need them. Using white spaces to maintain that minimalist look and to break up sections. Use CTAs to increase conversions. To know about the latest design trends. Smart use to typography, etc.
You cannot expect to achieve this level of professionalism yourself as a DIY project.
Therefore, invest in a good web design company.
#2. Choose A CMS
It is not a choice anymore whether to use a CMS or not. Rather the choice is which CMS to use as the backend of your website.
Many years back, people used to build websites using simple HTML, CSS & JS. They did serve their purpose but had many limitations.
If the sites grew larger, it became immensely cumbersome to maintain the sites. Each linking had to be manually updated. Suppose you have 25 pages in a website, and you decided to add another page. This new page would then need to be manually linked from all the other 25 pages.
One would need to update all the pages and upload them to the webserver.
Luckily, Content Management Systems (CMS) came along, and managing a vast number of pages became immensely easy.
Let’s list a few of the Content Management Systems available to you today:
And many more…
I listed WordPress at the top for a reason. Because it is the most widely used CMS today. It is very much ahead of all the other CMS platforms and commands a staggering 63.3% of all CMS market share.
It powers approx. 36% of all websites on the internet. That is indeed a huge success for any CMS to accomplish.
I am a big proponent of using WordPress over other CMS platforms. Partly because of my own experience with it. It is an indeed powerful CMS and the best part is, it is FREE to use in whatever way you like.
It has a fabulous ecosystem of developers & users helping each other. Creating more modules & plugins that can be used to extend and add more functionality.
This is an especially important aspect of choosing a platform for your new website. Because you want to be sure that new developments will keep happening. And that you are future-ready with your website. The important thing here is to choose a CMS that will be at the core of your website.
#3. Responsive / Mobile Friendly Website
A responsive layout is one that automatically adjusts to the width of the screen on which the website is being viewed.
The concept is like water in a container. If you pour some fluid in a container of various shapes and sizes, the fluid adjusts and takes the shape of the container itself.
The same happens with a responsive website.
The content arranged in different grids on a web page slides up or down, adjusts their own width & height, including the size of the font, to fit optimally in the available viewing space. This, in turn, creates an optimal viewing experience for the end-user.
Most of your customers are on mobile these days. And mobiles come in various shapes and sizes. To ensure that all your website visitors have a comfortable experience on your website, it is absolutely a must to ensure that your new website is Responsive. Or in other words, mobile-friendly.
Google has stated that investing in a mobile-friendly site is critical, as they show up higher in search results.
In the same article, they also state that more than 50% of all searches on Google are done through mobile phones. And that if your site is not mobile-friendly, then your visitors are 5 times more likely to abandon and leave your site. When you are designing your new site, ensure that this feature is included and is going to be a part of your new website.
#4. Secure With HTTPS
Google in this update mentioned that beginning in Jan 2017 the Chrome browser will mark sites as insecure if you collect sensitive data like passwords or credit card information when your site does not have a valid SSL certificate.
However today all sites that do not have a valid SSL Certificate, i.e. sites not secured with HTTPS would show a not secure warning in Chrome browsers.
It is not a pretty sign and shows your website in a bad light. It says that you do not care about privacy or in protecting your website visitors when they are on your site.
It is also known to be an SEO factor. That is something that would impact how your site is displayed in search results. It is obvious of course, that sites secured with HTTPS would be promoted and insecure sites will get demoted.
The good news is that securing your site with SSL has become a breeze today. Many web hosts provide free SSL certificates that are part of their offerings.
This will help you in securing the communication between your website and your online visitors. Make sure that the website is designed keeping this feature in mind from the beginning.
#5. Original & Impactful Content
Content is the heart of your website. It is through the content that you communicate with your audience. Therefore, it is important to give adequate time in planning and creating the content that will help convert your online visitors into customers.
Plan your important pages
Make a list of the important pages you plan to have on your website. The first landing page, is of course, the homepage. So, one needs to plan and write up the different sections that this important page will have.
The other important pages you might want to include are:
- Services or Products
- Request a Quote
- Terms & Conditions
These are some of the standard pages you would usually find on any site. You, of course, would need other pages to explain your business in a more efficient way.
Use Original Images & videos
Many people are quick to use free stock images on their website. While it does serve the purpose and, in many instances, it would be okay to use them too. However, there is nothing better than using original images of your business and work environment.
If you have it, then flaunt it. There is nothing that can create more trust than the original images & videos of your workplace. Your business employees working in a neat & clean, comfy surroundings can say so much about your work ethics and culture.
This video can go on the homepage header. Imagine the impact it would create on your visitors.
The Team section can have photos of the key members of your team with a little description of each of them that can go a long way in instilling the much-needed confidence in your online visitors. Such original imagery should be used throughout the website to create a personalized touch.
Similarly, testimonials can work wonders in converting your visitors to customers. When someone lands on your website, they do not know about you or your business.
Keeping a section of reviews from your past customers acquaints your visitors with the kind of service they can expect from you.
Your businesses’ social accounts say a lot about the legitimacy of your business. Therefore, it is a good idea to create your business profile pages on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.
When your visitors see that you have been around for quite some time. And they see your interactions with other fellow users, they know they can trust you. That you are a legitimate business. It can go a long way in increasing trust & sales.
#6. Friendly Navigation
Next, we look at the importance of a good navigation system. Though this would most probably be taken care of by your website designers. But you can keep an eye to ensure that it is done properly.
Good navigation is of prime importance because it makes traversing your website easy. It goes a long way in creating a great user experience for the end-user. If they find the information they are looking for with ease, they are likely to interact and stay on your site for longer.
Ideally, you would keep your most important pages linked from the top header menu. Usually, the top landing pages would be always visible in the header menu system. And subpages can be linked from the dropdown menu that rolls down when you hover over the main menu items.
This helps to cut down on clutter and yet highlight the important sections of the website.
The footer menu would usually have links to the pages that important but are not the primary landing pages. These would include Privacy, Terms & Conditions, Contact, Newsletter signups, social icons, contact information, and all other such pages that did not find a place on the primary header menu.
Ensure that all pages can be reached within a few clicks from the homepage itself. The more discoverable a page it, the more visitors it will receive.
This is yet another form of powerful navigation when you link to your internal pages from the website content itself. It lets users find meaningful pages as they go through your website content. One must link to their internal pages frequently in this way.
Include a search bar on your website. This can be conveniently placed either in the header, the sidebar or the footer.
When a site grows large, it becomes increasingly difficult to find pieces of content or information on a site. This could be frustrating for the end-user. A search bar is convenient and extremely easy to place. And therefore, it should be a must on every site.
All in all, a good navigation system makes finding information easier and therefore more user friendly.
#7. Include a Blog
When we create a website, we do it so that our customers can look us up on the net and find the much-needed information about us from the comfort of their homes.
There is another reason. That is to reach potential customers who do not know about our business yet! And this is where a blog comes in.
You share your expertise on your blog in the form of articles. In turn, not only do you help others, but it creates awareness about your business too.
Suppose you are a baker and you have a local store. You bake bread & cookies. You can write articles on how to bake the best bread at home; The different types of bread one can make.
You can also write about cookies. You can describe the cookies you have in your bakery. There is so much you can share on your blog.
When people search for similar information, your article will help them. At the same time, they will learn about your business too.
Sharing specialized information and expertise also helps position yourself or your brand as an expert in the field. They will know you are knowledgeable, and you know what you are doing. Creating and the trust needed to convert many of them into loyal customers.
When you are starting with a new website or redesigning your existing one. These points above will guide you or nudge you in the right direction.
Though many things would be dependent on the web designer or design firm you have chosen to undertake this process. I have mentioned many points above. Do you feel I have missed out any? Or did I miss any points important points? Do let me know in the comments below.