So, we get a lot of clients that come to us, that have a preconceived notion of what their website should do. Others have no clue what it should do, they are just told that they need a website.
It is critical that you know what you need your website to do, when story-boarding the layout and content of your site. All too often, website owners focus just on the “I want to make money” or “I want to start a community”, and they miss key characters that will enable them to reach their goals.
What I’m about to describe is not a secret list. It’s actually a common sense list, but all too often, when talking about websites, the old adage of “common sense is often uncommon” is true.
At the end of this article, I’ll provide the checklist in point form so that you use it on your own website.
1. Your Website Needs to Load Quickly
We put this at the top of the list, because you need to make sure this one is squared away before all other things are looked at.
You could have a the most amazing invention or service, but if your visitor doesn’t want to stick around because it failed to load fast enough, then you’ve lost even before you’ve begun.
If your bounce rate is through the roof, you need to look at how quickly your page loads. Investigate Google Page Speed, and make sure your site is optimized with an 80+ rating for both desktop and mobile.
Many of the tasks with Google Page Speed are easy to do. From optimizing images, to minimizing CSS and JS files — these type of tasks are the easiest route to making sure your site loads fast. There are other server-side tasks such as GZIP compression and browser caching that can get more technical. If you need help with this, you can drop us a line.
2. Your Website Needs to Capture Your Visitors Attention in Under 3 Seconds
This is absolutely critical.
You could have the world’s best miracle cure for joint pain, but if your visitor bails on your site because it failed to inspire them to continue browsing, then you’ve got some work to do.
- Is your initial above-the-fold branding eye catching, and clear?
- Do you have a clean and clear logo?
- An inspiring tagline?
- An image that conveys exactly what you do?
Count with me to three.
- One Mississippi
- Two Mississippi
- Three Mississippi
That’s it, that’s the time you’ve got. If your website takes 1.5 seconds to load, you have 1.5 seconds to make that first impression. If your visitor did not find what they came searching for, or thinks that your site is garbage because of unprofessional formatting, then you’re done.
3. Your Website Needs to Have Logical and Clearly Defined Navigation
Search fatigue is real — your visitors don’t want to have to hunt for the information they need to make a decision about your products or services.
Make sure your top navigation has your most popular links to your most popular services or products. You can employ the use of “drop down” menus that expand when clicked or hovered. This is not new technology, but it often isn’t used effectively.
When setting up your navigation, remember to keep your ideal “buyer persona” in mind. What are they coming to your site for, what is their education level, their experience, their age. All of these parameters come in to play when you set your navigation terms.
Then make sure you have common navigation in the same places throughout the rest of your site.
And once you have that, make sure you have “sub navigation” by way of vertical navigation, off where you’re providing products, services, or resources that have sub categories.
And for goodness’ sake, make sure it is all consistent! 🙂 Again, common sense.
4. Your Website Needs To Answer Your Visitor’s Needs Easily
For crying out loud! Don’t make your visitors hunt! (Oh, did we already say that?)
The happier they are with your website, and the ability to find the information they came for, the more likely they are going to return. This ties in with your story-boarding and understanding who your ideal buyer persona is, and a consistent set of navigation.
In addition to a clear path, a clear funnel of information, you also should provide some sort of search mechanism to help your visitors find the information, product, or service that they’re looking for.
While you may think that when I say “don’t make your customers hunt” is contradictory to “provide a search bar, so they can hunt”, there’s a difference between jumping to the index in the back of a recipe book, and flipping through the book page by page, to find what you’re going to make for dinner.
Can you imagine if Amazon didn’t have a search bar? Exactly. It wouldn’t be the success that it is without it.
Clear and relevant results are an absolute must have.
5. Your Website Needs To Support and Promote Your Brand
Well that’s a “well duh” statement, isn’t it. But all too often we see websites that are either lackluster, or are designed without the drive to “wow” your visitors. We used to hear “build it (your website) and it will sell”. That’s hogwash. You have to “earn it (your reputation, your credibility), and it will sell”. You hear this more and more these days, and it isn’t because it’s catchy to re-write a phrase, but because it’s the gosh darn truth.
What that means is, you need to be actively promoting your social media, your newsletter lists, showing off your customer testimonials, providing prominent “calls to action” that pulls visitors in the direction that you want them to move.
If you have a choice between the following two buttons:
Which one would you select?
6. Your Website Needs to be Indexable by Search Engines
Okay, we’re getting into some no-brainer requirements here. If your site isn’t spiderable, or isn’t set up to be spidered effectively, then you will never ever get ranked for your service, resource or product.
In the past, we used to see the drive for landing pages that had just the logo and a single button with the text “Enter Site”. I don’t know which snake oil salesman came up with this, but it is utterly ridiculous. You need to have CONTENT on your home page. Your home page is the single most important page in your site — it is where most people will link to. And the weight of those links will be absolutely nothing if there’s not relevant content on the page.
Using those types of pages is like standing out on the street corner with a big ol’ sign that said “Come Here”, but nothing else such as “Great Chinese Food” or “Best Gourmet Buffet” to tell everyone what you have to offer. You could be waving that sign as hard as you could, and no one would either a) find your establishment, or b) know why they should go there.
Content. It is KING. If you don’t have it on your home page so that the search engines can serve up your page in their results, your website will never amount to much.
Oh, and the other thing that just will tank your site is if you do not have relevant page titles. If the tab at the top of your web browser, when viewing your home page, says “Welcome”, you need to stop what you are doing and get (or get your webmaster) in there and change your page title to: “Such and Such Products and Services | City | State | Business Name”
Replace the “Such and Such Products and Services” with what you do, and “City” with your city, “State” with your state/province, and “Business Name” with… well, your business name.
Do it, and do it now.
7. Your Website Needs to be Updated with FRESH Content on a Regular Basis
Yes, regularly. If you’re in competition with anyone anywhere in the world, if they have more regular fresh relevant content on their website, all other things equal, they will rank better and be more relevant to your end user.
You need to be regularly posting engaging and interactive content and resources that complement your brand, services, and products. And then of course you need to be sharing those articles via the appropriate social networks.
8. Your Website Needs to Be Mobile Friendly
Heh… I just posted a “facepalm” moment on this today. Over 50% of searches through Google are mobile. And, over 50% of eCommerce is now also mobile. If your site is stuck in 2002, you absolutely MUST get it upgraded to a mobile responsive framework.
If your visitors have to pinch to zoom your site, or if your site has Flash animation, you need to get on board with the new reality that mobile phones, and how your site is viewed on them, are where you need to be placing a huge amount of focus.
Not only that, those sites that are not mobile responsive will not be ranked as well for the same key terms as a competitor who’s site is mobile friendly.
You could be losing money and not even know it. As I say in my Facebook “facepalm” graphics: If this is your [facepalm] moment, we can help you.
9. Your Website Needs to Have GREAT Typography
Typ..whataphy? Yes, it wasn’t a term that that many developers used until services such as Google Web Fonts launched. It is now easy to add attractive fonts to your website. The days of only system (read “boring”) fonts is long over.
But also, what is important, is that you have consistent content styling. Make sure to check out that link, as it demonstrates what I’m talking about. You could be annoying (and losing) visitors/customers with poorly styled content.
10. Your Website Needs To Leave Your Visitor With the Impression That It Is THE Place To Go For Their Needs
This is the most general of all of this list’s “what your website should do” requirements.
This is where you really need to take a good hard look at your ideal “buyer persona” and figure out every single thing that they need, and make sure it is easily accessible to them. That you have the appropriate product FAQs displayed on the right page. That testimonials are not buried. That instructions are linked from the products and support pages. That photos are well presented with captions that convince your visitor that your website is what they NEED.
And that all of their friends should know about your site.
It isn’t acceptable to rest on your laurels to think that “I’ve built a website, it’s ok, maybe it will do something for me”. You have to make it THE place that your target customer will rave about.
High quality, interactive and engaging content and a great user experience (UX). These are characteristics of a website that will be endorsed and recommended.
If You Earn It
So, as I’ve said a earlier in this article, if you feel that your website needs some work, we can help you.
If not, then I would love to hear about it, and what niche it fills. We’re always looking for great examples of successful websites.
If you’re not sure, you can give us a call and we can do a free site assessment to help you determine whether you need to re-invest in your online presence.
Huh, you’re at the end of the article, and you just want the list. If you just skipped to the bottom to get the juicy cliff-notes, you should probably read through the entire article. Just saying.
- Capture your visitors attention in under three seconds
- Load quickly
- Have logical and clearly understood navigation
- Answer your customer’s needs easily
- Support and promote your brand
- Indexable by search engines
- Updated with fresh content on a regular basis
- Is mobile friendly
- Have great typography and content styling
- Leave your visitor with the impression that it is THE place to go for their specific needs