The question of what makes a good website is often asked, yet seldom answered satisfactorily. To some degree, the answer varies according to each site’s nature and purpose – ecommerce, promotional, informational, etc.
Nevertheless, there are a number of key elements that are crucial in your website planning, creation, and maintenance. We’ve built this helpful guide to aid you before, during, and after the website building process. You will gain the confidence to explore creative options and send your message out into the world knowing that you have built yourself a good website that is great!
A truly great website starts from day one. Before you begin clicking or typing, there are some important questions that you must first ask yourself to be sure that you are heading in a worthwhile direction.
6 Questions to Ask Before Building a Website
Commissioning a new website can be an exciting time. The possibilities seem endless, from media integration to checkout functionality and dynamic design. However, deciding how to design a website should always be done with care to ensure a new or relaunched site is worth the time and money invested in it.
When you begin planning to design a website have the following six questions in mind:
What design are you looking for?
Websites come in many styles nowadays, from responsive single-page affairs to New Brutalism sites starring white backgrounds and blue hyperlinks. Knowing how to design a website that will appeal to your target audience is crucial. For example, media firms often upload case studies and employee profiles, whereas manufacturing companies increasingly add multimedia content to their sites. Responsive designs that automatically resize to different sized devices are highly recommended, but everything from fonts to the use of image galleries is open to discussion.
Are you happy to use a template?
WordPress is the world’s most popular website builder, powering around a quarter of the world’s sites. Blue-chip clients include NASA, Facebook, and Toyota, and the WordPress platform has 48,000 plugins handling functions as diverse as ecommerce, embedded video, and visitor analytics. Despite offering standard templates, WordPress’s endless customisation opportunities allow you to create completely bespoke and unique websites. Many UK2.NET customers have created successful and innovative sites through the WordPress platform.
What is the new site supposed to achieve?
For new companies, this may be nothing more than an online resource prospective customers can read before getting in touch. For existing brands, a replacement website may be able to offer functionalities that weren’t practical or possible before, such as downloadable content or multimedia presentations. If the objective is simply to generate more leads and business, discussions around how to design a website will vary among companies whose primary focus involves being on top of search engine rankings. Which brings us onto point four…
What are your SEO goals?
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is so important that this has evolved into a distinct objective in its own right. Google and Bing are the all-conquering oracles of internet enquiries, and the hugely complex algorithms that collate their search engine results pages (or SERPS) are very finely tuned. SEO goals can affect the design and functionality of a new website – search engines favour sites that are regularly updated, for instance, and blog sites with new pages being added all the time prove this to be the case. We will talk more about SEO later in this helpful guide.
What are your competitors doing?
A decision to redesign a website is often made as a response to competitor activity. It’s vital to identify what your rivals do particularly well or badly in their online profiles. What messages are they conveying, and does their tone of voice come across as authoritative, friendly, cost-driven, etc? If elements of their sites are more effective than yours, it can be a good idea to add your take on them – without resorting to plagiarism!
Which website content should be prioritised?
Clearly, the homepage is the place to make headline statements about your brand, products or services. It’s not the place to profile your brand’s history or discuss past projects. Decide what your central messages are and structure sub-pages in descending order of priority.
People will be more likely to click on the first menu option than the sixth, so front-load opening pages with the most important messages. Finally, ensure sub-pages are easily found anywhere on the site, and always provide a clear route back to the homepage and ‘contact us’ page.
If you have already built your website, all is not lost. Simply ask yourself the following questions to determine whether your website is at the top of its game or if there are steps you can take to improve conversion, traffic, and even sales.
How does your site compare to your rivals?
Before launching or refreshing a website, undertake some competitor analysis. Rivals may have already considered what makes a good website and offer pointers you can follow; equally, the failings in their sites could be instructive in determining how your site takes shape. If all your rivals have downloadable product PDFs and Google Maps-powered directions, your site should probably include these functionalities as well.
Has the site been coded as efficiently as possible?
Is the site accessible on any device?
We live in an age of unprecedented connectivity, where people may be viewing your website on a TV, a tablet, a mobile or a MacBook. Construct your site on a flexible platform that will resize pages according to the screen resolution of each display device, converting header bars into dropdown hamburger menus if necessary. The days of separate desktop and mobile sites are over, and desktop/laptop computers now carry less than half of the world’s web traffic.
Is the content regularly updated?
This is vital for search engine optimisation – the process that determines where your website appears in results pages. Google and Bing prioritise sites with blogs or news pages that change regularly, so never launch a website and assume your SEO work is done. New posts provide extra scope to incorporate key search terms, and they can focus in detail on specific products or services – a key factor in determining what makes a good website.
Are your key messages front and centre?
Back in the days when people had decent attention spans, many websites had landing pages. Nowadays, you have a matter of seconds to get key messages across before visitors start heading off to watch YouTube beauty vlogs. Place core propositions on the homepage, encouraging people to read on but ensuring they leave with the basics of your business in their minds at least.
Is the site visually arresting?
Discussions about what makes a good website often focus on content, overlooking the importance of aesthetics. If your site sells clothing, upload 360-degree views of specific items or photograph them from multiple angles. If your industry has any visual angle to it, source or takes dramatic photographs that will capture people’s attention. Use bold colours sparingly against neutral backgrounds, but avoid unusual fonts that might cause display issues in less sophisticated web browsers.
How to Build an SEO-tastic Website
There is a fine balance between creating online content that will engage an audience and creating content to impress the algorithms used to collate search engine results pages.
Although the increasing sophistication of these algorithms has reduced the disparity between these two audiences, it’s still important to consider how new web content will be viewed by Google and Bing when deciding which website builder is best for SEO.
Here are our top tips for building a website with SEO in mind:
The first thing to remember is that search engine optimisation isn’t all about content.
The actual construction of your site is also very important, from a logical page structure to a responsive design that resizes on smaller screens. Page loading times play a big factor in modern ranking results, while responsive websites eliminate the need to duplicate the main website with a mobile version. With page abandonment typically taking place within five seconds of loading, try to avoid unnecessary stylesheets or multimedia files. When deciding which website builder is best for SEO, consider whether any of WordPress’s 48,000 plugins would be worth the drop in page loading times their use may involve.
Hidden website signals
There are various ‘invisible’ components of a website that are oriented more towards algorithms than people.
A robots.txt file provides search engines with a useful overview of your site, while static and descriptive URLs deliver concise explanations of the content on each page (e.g. www.website.com/about-us). Uncomplicated navigation menus at the top or side of the page are easier for the web crawlers to navigate than dropdown menus, an XML sitemap will allow effective indexing of available pages, and well-chosen image captions can reinforce your brand with every published photo.
Effective use of images also ties back to the first point, since pictures should be rescaled to a minimum size before being uploaded.
Never rely on a plugin or source code to do this on the fly. It can significantly increase page loading times. Even free software reduces a JPEG by 90% without affecting the picture quality too much on a typical web page. On a related note, never allow video content to automatically play. It slows down page loading times. Plus, few things will make audiences jump quite like a video whose soundtrack suddenly bursts into life moments after the text has loaded…
And finally, we come to perhaps the most challenging aspect of building a website with SEO in mind – written content.
It’s vital to strike a balance between making content readable while appealing to search engines with long-tail keywords and shorter search terms. Keywords are the centrepiece of any search strategy. This is because results are collated based on everything from word ordering and capitalisation through to spelling and punctuation. The popularity of keywords also fluctuates over time. So, when deciding which website builder is best for SEO, ensure that a content management portal will be available for revisions later on.
To optimise the value of keywords, use them sparingly and organically. Search engines have grown wise to the old trick of stuffing keywords and they now punish sites that do so.
Instead, use certain keywords a couple of times on each page and ensure they’re prominent in page titles and tags, image captions, and the opening lines of body text. Analytics tools can determine what phrases people are searching for. These can be used as the building blocks for content. Incorporating geographic terms is an easy way to improve keyword optimisation. If you run a business in a particular location, ensure that the town and county names appear on most pages to differentiate your brand from rivals elsewhere.
How to Promote Your Brand New Website
It’s a common misapprehension among new business owners and budding entrepreneurs that creating a website is a finite task. Once it’s launched, potential customers will find it within days and new enquiries will begin rolling in.
Of course, seasoned business owners and marketing managers will tell you that nothing could be further from the truth. Even the most engaging website will struggle to attract more than a handful of visitors without ongoing marketing and advertising.
Below, we consider ten of the most effective ways to promote website content and ramp up traffic volumes. Follow these steps to make your good website great even after it’s published:
1. Maximise SEO
As mentioned previously, before the site goes live, think about how to bolster its appeal among the search engine algorithms. Regular updates and effective use of meta/title tags will help. You can also include the strategic use of popular search terms on each page.
Despite the inevitable budgetary constraints faced by new enterprises, advertising is critical. If funds are tight, stick with Google and Bing for intricately targeted cost-per-click campaigns. Facebook is another good option for capturing an audience.
3. Develop Links
This is initially time-consuming. However, links to your site from third-party platforms or directories can stay in place for years without any effort. Search engines favour sites with multiple inbound links, providing those external sites are legitimate.
4. Build Partnerships
Are there any partnerships or collaborations you can develop, such as mutual recommendations with related firms? These relationships can help both parties to promote website content for free.
5. Use Social Media
Another free way to build brand awareness is via social media – specifically the big three of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Try to add humour into regular weekly updates that encourage people to respond, repost and remember you.
6. Look for Press Opportunities
Are you recruiting an intern for the summer, or launching a new brand? Have you won an award or done something unusual? Local papers and websites always welcome press releases about quirky stories or events.
7. Vehicle Branding
If you’ve got a car or van, why not invest in some vinyl advertising decals? If you don’t mind your vehicle being a mobile billboard at all times, you can promote websites to audiences who’d otherwise never have seen your web address.
8. Business Cards
Rumours of the business card’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. They still provide valuable brand (and website) promotion, from ‘drop your card into the box’ competitions to networking events. Speaking of which…
Sites like LinkedIn regularly list networking events in your local area. Check any event you attend is directly relevant to your business. Ensure plenty of attendees leave with a copy of your website details for future reference – or enquiries.
Winning an award or being shortlisted in a competition builds brand awareness. It can also promote website content at the same time. It generates handy PR, gives you bragging rights over rivals, and sounds great on the About Us page…
Start building a truly great website today by partnering with UK2.NET. We have the prices, tools, and expertise you need to find success.