The good web

by Darren McSorley on 8th May 2014

Darren McSorley

My friends always laugh at me whenever I turn up my nose and dismiss a company’s website. I know what they are thinking ( or assuming.. which you should never do ). They think I am judging a website design by its colours, its textures, photographs and the typography used. While I do appreciate these factors, thats not really how I see good web design. Good web design is about the content, the structure, the marketing - and ultimately .. the business it generates.

Since man first created the simple HTML document, and the internet became a something businesses could make money from - every entrepreneur thinks their website is going to make them stinking rich. However trends in design, along with what makes a good website change over times. We had the early Geocities craze - bringing along with it Guestbooks and flashing text. But we're a fussy bunch in the design industry, and that was soon sneered at as we welcomed the era of ‘web 2.0’ - the Social Web. Reflective logos, user participation, tag clouds ( and this nonsense).

Currently the trend we see amongst business websites now is Facebook and Twitter widgets. A Google location map along with a little Search Engine Optimisation. A few keywords typed in the footer, meta title and lets not forget to stuff those alt attributes ( or as a marketer would incorrectly label them, ‘alt tags’ ). So, if you have these elements on your website, then you’re doing everything you can to maximise your websites potential. Yeh? Well, before you give yourself a pat on the back - lets breeze through these quick points in what I think makes a good website.

A good website should describe the company in one snappy paragraph.

The moment your homepage has finished loading ( in under 4 seconds ), I should have a good grasp of what your company does. Its even been a topic of heated conversation in the Reflex Team in the past. We've had to bluntly add to our copy "We design and build websites for SME businesses in Northern Ireland".

Think the 5 W’s. The who, what, where, why and when - and get that onto the homepage so the visitor knows exactly who they are dealing with from the moment they land on your website.

Heres 50 inspirational introductions to give you some food for thought

A good website is responsive to the users device

If you want to be up to date with the latest web trends, then being responsive the one of those current trends. Responsive design is a design that changes to the screen size on which its being used. Whether that would be desktop, phone, tablet ( or mablet ) - no matter how big or how small your viewing platform is - the website optimises to that screen size. With the mobile marketing exploding, and with an never ending list of devices coming onto the market. You could potentially be losing visitors if you website isn’t mobile friendly. Check this responsive checklist.

Test your website on Responsinator - make sure that page is accessible and the visitor get easily get the information that they require. Even check our own website here at Reflex Studios to how responsive it is.

A good website should allow customer engagement

A good website should encourage the customer to take action. Enquire, Purchase or Find Out more. Thinking back to my days as a student reading Don’t Make Think - as it talks about usability and idiot proof navigation, but I think you extend this concept to engaging with a visitor on your website. You should make it easy as possible for the customer to buy your product or service. If your are a restaurant - let them book a table. If you’re a hotel - let them book a room, if your shop - let them buy the product. If you're a … well.. you get the point. At the very least, an enquiry form. The last thing you’d want is for your visitor to move on to your rivals website just because they made the same process easier.

A good website should have good relevant content that's regularly updated.

Content.. oh boy, the holy grail of every website. We could do a blog post series ( and probably will at some stage ) on content alone. But in keeping the theme of this post, I’ll try keep it brief.

Write content with purpose. Write content that reflects the needs of your customer. When a customer lands on your site, don’t make them read all about your staff hierarchy.

“High-quality web content that's useful, usable, and enjoyable is one of the greatest competitive advantages you can create for yourself online.”

Kristina Halvorson, Content Strategy for the Web

Also, keep it fresh. If you’re not adding to your content ( example: via News or Blog ) from time to time - your website will become stale. Its important to give the impression of a company where lots is going on. You don’t want to put your visitor off by feeding them the ‘latest news’ from 3 years ago. Check to see if your websites CMS allows you to do this without going through the agency. If not, its time to call Reflex.

Furthermore, keep your business details up to date. This may seem like a silly one, but many a time I had the unfortunate experience where I’d ring a number of a company’s website - only to find that that number no longer exists. I’ll try emailing the company, but will get bounce backs (twice this week.. ). I do a facepalm and move on to the next search result. Don’t let this oversight cost you a customer.

Finally.. read .. read and reread. A BBC Report a few years ago concluded that spelling mistakes are "costing millions in online sales". Don’t fall into this trap ( did you read that there Michael?)

A good website gets found in search engines

Continuing our previous point - another added advantages of adding content is to get more presence on search engines. Post regularly about upcoming events. You can drastically increase your traffic by posting about hot social topics whenever you can relate them to your own business. Our friends at Mozilla explain this better than we can.

Do keyword research on your business and what you could take advantage of online. Think about what makes your business niche. Think about your services, products and the brands that you offer. Think what the customer would be looking for? If no one else in your area is offering what you can, then its important to get that on your website so you can benefit from that lovely ever growing search engine traffic.

A good website stands out against its competitors

When it comes to our own website, we always tried to take a step back and ask ourselves what is it adding to our company? We like to compare ourselves to our competitors to see what we’re missing or where we could gain a competitive advantage. Ask a trusted customer, or a friend to compare them for you from an unbiased point of view. A harsh opinion is a necessary evil in putting together a good website. Find out what they think would make your website and business work better.

Finally, A good website makes more money than its costs.

“Websites promote you 24/7: No employee will do that.”

Paul Cookson

For most people it can hard to judge what makes a good website. Not every website accepts online orders, so what's the measurement of success? To do so, you have to take a step back and think of the bigger picture. Look at the enquiries you generate, and how often it leads to a sale. Think of the customers that come to your shop, because they found your product from a search query. How often the phone rings whenever someone has spotted something they like on your website. Often, you can turn these orders into repeat custom.

If marketed correctly with the right product - your website will give you a return on investment in no time. As well as opening you up to new markets that you may not have considered before ( eg. Overseas). Obviously the more you invest, the longer it’ll take to make a return - but equally - the more turnover you should see. If your website is costing you more money that it makes, then you might want to sit back and re address the issues I talked about above - and see what steps you can take to improve your online presence.

Conclusion

There is no right or wrong answer to what makes a good website. Every agency will tell you something different. It can be a matter of opinions. Some of which you’ll no doubt shake your head at. But in writing this, I hope you agree with me more times than you don’t. If you think I have raised shortcoming in your own website, then get in touch and we will see if we can help you.

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