Fun Fact: There are nearly 2 billion websites in the world today.
With so many websites, it can be difficult – seemingly impossible – to stand out.
Getting traffic to your site is hard enough on its own, and getting those people to stay and actually do something is still harder. But, uh …
What’s a good website, anyway?
Screw good; what makes a great website like that?
Your website is sometimes the only thing your customers can see. You want that sucker to be so eye-popping awesome that it attracts backlinks, case studies like this, media attention, and wazoo customers.
And you’re lucky enough. Because in this post, I’m going to teach you all we know about what makes a great website.
You don’t even need to be a designer, either. It’s Yippee!
What Makes a Good Website?
Okay, so this is a pretty big subject to deal with. There are thousands of books and courses written in web design.
Before I start spitting out the lessons, I want to make sure that you can take something away and implement it today.
So, here are the four basic principles of what makes a good website to keep in mind before you redesign/launch:
- Purpose. Great design begins with a goal in mind. Ask yourself, “What do I want to do with this page? “If the page has no clear purpose, consider getting rid of it.
- Esthetically pleasing. I’m going to take a closer look at this in section one on visual design, but your site needs to look good. If your site looks like it was built in the ‘90s, it’s time to update it.
- Relevant and original contents. Your site should show content that is relevant to your target market and that is original. Plagiarism is illegal and is penalized by Google. In addition, it’s better to be a first-rate version of yourself than a second-rate version of someone else.
- Clear navigation of the site. I’m going to discuss this further in section two on technical aspects, but I know navigation matters. Any page on your site should be placed within three clicks of any other page on your site. Your navigation should be simple and intuitive. This helps both Google for SEO and your browser visitors.
Now that you have the major principles in mind, let’s dive a little deeper.
1. Visual Website Design (AKA “Prettiness”)
Just think of a scenario for a moment.
You’re looking for a birthday present for your sister. You notice a tweet from someone you follow sharing a new clothes shop with your friend. You’re clicking.
Then you can see this.
Haha, no. You’re gone now.
Is this an extreme example of this? Yes.
Does the design of the website still matter a lot? Yeah.
Will I tell you what you’re supposed to do to make your site look great? You’re betcha.
You see, visuals affect everything from conversion rate to page time, trustworthiness, and organic backlinks (which help you rank your site on Google+).
So the equation is like this:
Great site design = More trust = Better conversion
How do you make your site look great? Start with your brand.
Branding by Site Design
Your brand is your own image. Everything from the colors that you use to the fonts that you choose affects people’s perception of who you are.
In her Branding Guide, Sonia Gregory says that “as a small business, you can compete against big brands with dedicated customers. That’s why you’ve got to find ways to differentiate – with a solid brand building process of your own.
What do you want people to think about when they see your site?
Edgy, modern, satirical, professional, something different?
You can convey that stuff through your design. Just take a look at color psychology – different colors convey different emotions.
In fact, a study entitled “Impact of Color on Marketing” found that up to 90 percent of the snap judgments made on products can be based on color alone, depending on the product.
Beyond color, you also have the choice of font. And yes, there’s also a psychology behind the choice of font. Ted Hunt from Crazy Egg has made this cool infographic about it:
Irrespective of the font you choose for your logo and branding efforts, you should always choose readability over emotional feel for your main body font. Typically, that means the sans serif fonts that read the best on the web.
One last tip on the choice of font: do not use more than two fonts in your design. Pick two of them that complement each other and stick with those for your entire brand.
Key Takeaway: Choose not more than three colors and two fonts to represent your brand. Write down fonts and color codes and use them consistently across your entire site and marketing effort.
Finding, Designing, and Using Images
Imagery is a major part of the design of the website. And yet so many people are wrong.
Great images add value to your visitor. They’re helping to explain a key point and give the eyes a break. They’re even helping you sell your products and services.
For example, if you’re an eCommerce site, you want your product photos to be of high quality and show tonnes of different angles.
Which of these flowers would you prefer to buy?
If you even saw the picture on the right, you’d probably leave and never come back. The middle image is better, but it’s still not great. The one on the left will make you trust the website.
Just be careful, because bad images actually reduce your readership.
Remember Design Principle # 1: Great design has a goal in mind.
Any image that has no purpose is a bad image. Period. Period.
If you need more incentive, the page load speed (which I discuss in section two) is extremely important for SEO and usability. Having too many large images slows down your site.
So, how are you going to find, design, and use images on your website?
But to give you some inspiration, here are a few examples of good images that you can use:
- Datapoint charts and graphs
- High-quality stock photography (choose wisely)
- Custom design and vector graphics
- Professional (or at least well done) photography.
- Key Takeaway: Use images, but do this with a purpose in mind.
2. Technical Website Design (AKA “Geeky Stuff”)
Technical web design includes such things as:
- Responsive design and mobile-friendliness
- Fast loading speeds
- Optimization of Search Engine (SEO)
- Encryption of SSL
- The architecture of the site & navigation
If one of these things made you say, “What? “Don’t worry about it. I’m going to explain all of them in laymen’s terms.
Responsive Design and Mobile-Friendliness
“Responsive Web design is the approach that suggests that design and development should respond to the user’s behavior and environment based on screen size, platform, and orientation.”
In other words, the responsive site is one that plays well on all your screens and devices. It’s mobile-friendly and caters to the device you’re watching.
If you think that sounds complicated, that’s it.
But this is important. In fact, smartphones now account for more than 51 percent of all online traffic, and tablets accounted for just over 12 percent. And the number is growing.
Google also cares a lot about mobile-friendliness. In fact, they are now giving priority to ranking mobile-friendly sites (an update called “Mobilegeddon”).
Last but not least, mobile-friendly makes for better user experience. And in the end, it’s all about the user. They’re the ones who open their wallets to keep your business afloat.
So what’s a non-designer to do?
First, see if your site is considered to be mobile-friendly by Google with a mobile-friendly test. It’s also a good idea to check it out on your own by going to your phone site. If it’s not going to score well or look good, you’ve got some work to do.
Yay, we’re mobile-friendly!
Fast Website Load Speed
According to surveys conducted by Akamai and Gomez.com, almost half of web users expect the site to load in 2 seconds or less and tend to abandon the site that is not loaded in 3 seconds!
It doesn’t give you a lot of wiggle room. But if you’re still not convinced, get the following:
Approximately 79 percent of online shoppers who have trouble with website performance say they won’t go back to the site to buy again, and about 44 percent of them would tell a friend if they had a poor online shopping experience.
In other words, if the speed of your site sucks, you lose. It’s big time.
So how do you ensure a fast speed of loading? Try this one:
All three of them will give you an idea of what hurts your loading speed, with suggestions for improvement.
As you can see, there are a lot of ways to improve your site load speed, such as browser caching and uploading content first (the content you see without scrolling down the page).
However, one of the easiest ways is to optimize and compress your images. As I said in the visual section, there is a lot of bandwidth in the images. That’s why it’s important to use only very valuable images.
You can use a Compressor.io tool to compress your images for free.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO means that you can optimize your site to show up in search engines like Google. It’s the bread and the butter that makes a good website.
Don’t worry, you can drive thousands of people to your site every month without any extra effort.
Done badly, you’re not going to find a soul on Google.
There are four steps to SEO, according to Jon Rognerud. Here are some of Jon’s actionable moves:
- Know who you are targeting and carry out keyword research.
- Optimize your site pages with SEO on-page targeting these keywords.
- Create a powerful sitemap for Google and Bing to index your site.
This is highly simplified and there are a lot of other SEO factors, but these three tactics will get you on the right track to show up in the search results.
This next piece of web design advice helps both SEO and build trust with your visitors.
Securing Your Site with SSL Encryption (Secure sockets layer)
You probably saw a little green lock in your address bar next to the website.
It’s called the SSL encryption.
Google gives encrypted sites a small boost to SEO. But perhaps more important than that is the trust factor that gives your visitors.
This is especially true if you’re selling something on your website. People want to know that their information is safe before they open their wallets.
Migration to SSL is a delicate process. Here’s a guide to migrate your site to SSL without damaging your search rankings.
Site Architecture & Navigation
Remember design principle #4: Have clear site navigation.
Navigation is important for two main reasons:
- Better SEO (because it makes it easier for Google to index your site).
- Better usability (because it’s easier for visitors to find their way around).
Remember to use the “three-click rule”: every page on your site should be within three clicks of any other page on your site. To help you do this, consider mapping your website. You can do it with a tool like Slickplan, or you can just use a pen and paper. They’re looking like this:
Creating a physical map helps you see where you’re missing when you link pages together and keeps things organized.
You should also keep your most important call-to-action at the top of the page. This is where most people see, so it’s a great spot for the “Shop Now” button, the “Contact Us” tab, or the “Learn More” button.
3. Website Tools (AKA “Useful Stuff to Make Your Website Better”)
The Analytics of Google
What’s free, easy to install, and very beneficial? This is Google Analytics.
Google Analytics can give you so much insight into where your traffic is coming from, going, and stopping. And because it’s free, there’s no excuse not to use it.
We’ve come to the end of the journey. Give yourself a pat on your back.
So, what have we learned?
Your website is basically your business card. It’s the thing that everyone – your customers, shareholders, friends, family, and cat – sees when they’re thinking about doing business with you.
By keeping your website sharp, you ensure that anyone who visits it considers you to be trustworthy, professional, and worthy of doing business with.
Plus, a strong website pulls traffic through Google, gets links from authoritative sites, and is shared more often than not.
We’re here in 2020. A great website isn’t a “nice to have” anymore. This is an absolute must.