There is no definitive, “one way” to make a successful website because, as with most things, it depends on what you want it to do. There are, however, several things you can look at that will help you get started. Here are 5 steps that I think will point you in the right direction.
The 5 Steps
1. Identify your site's purpose and who it's for.
First things first. Why do you have a website? What is it doing? Who is it for? Who will be using it, what for, and why should they come to your site instead of someone else’s?
With the rapid expansion of the internet, we can’t just rely on the idea that simply having a site is enough. There are so many sites offering a wide range of information, products and services. What makes yours worth visiting? What solutions can you offer?
If you can answer these questions then you’ll have made a good start on developing a clear mission and goal for your site. As an example, here’s Google’s:
2. Have a great, user friendly design.
Having an all-singing, all-dancing site is fab – hey, we need to capture attention, right?! But at the heart of all good design is a solution to a problem. Your site’s design should meet the goals you set for it. Your identity, goals and values need to be crystal clear within moments – and that’s clear to the user, not just to YOU!
As well as look of the site, you also need to consider the user’s experience of it. Check that your web developer will take into account how easy it is to navigate and use your site, how simple it is for the user to achieve their goal. Which means making them wait for pages to load or forcing them to navigate through multiple links is not the way to go!
3. Fill your site with useful, high-quality content.
One of Google’s key ranking factors is content. With so much information readily available across multiple platforms, the key to building trust and attracting users is quality content. It’s no good creating a whole host of blogs, videos or posts if they don’t add anything of value for your users.
Knowing who your users are and what solutions they’re looking for is essential for creating content that is useful for them. The ideal is content that solves their problem while keeping your own goals in mind. Do your research, see what original thought you can put in front of your users. Or, add something, a new thought or angle to older content.
It’s also a good idea to consider who is writing for your website. As business owners, we can often be a bit too close to communicate effectively what it is we’re doing. In a way, we simply know too much and therefore what goes without saying for us doesn’t for our clients – leaving them in the dark. It’s a good idea to look for a fantastic copywriter to help with communicating our expertise.
4. Make sure your site is safe, secure and accessible.
Let’s think about this: you’re walking down the high street, looking for a nice place for coffee. You have two options.
Option One is a dark, dingy place with a bit of plastic sheeting over the hole where a window should be. The tables aren’t clean and you can see a couple of broken chairs. There’s only one other customer, sitting at the back with a chipped mug.
Option Two is a well lit, welcoming place with families, couples and some remote-workers with laptops. There’s some gentle music and a good vibe. You can see a couple of security cameras and shutters.
Which one are you going for? It’s a no-brainer, right? I’m heading for option two! So how do we we make our sites the internet’s version of shop Number 2?
Firstly, let’s make our site safe. Check for the padlock at the left of the url in the browser bar. This signifies https – that the connection to the site is secure – key to building trust with both your users and search engines. If your site is missing the padlock, go check out Yoast.com’s guide on how to configure https.
Next, get your security in order by ensuring that your software is up to date and you have strong passwords and usernames (HINT: Admin is not a great username!).
Finally, make sure your site is inviting (and accessible!). Most internet users are working from mobile devices – make sure your site is just as awesome (if not more so!) on mobile as it is on desktop.
5. Ensure your site is technically sound.
You want your website to be found, which means that search engines need to be able to access it. Your site will need to be clearly indexed for what the crawlers (search engine bots that scan your site and add it to the engine) can and can’t access. Ask your web developer whether this is something they are able to help you with.
You also want your site to be fast. People won’t wait for sites to load. Make them wait too long and they’ll be on to the next. (You have less than 5 seconds – seriously!) Optimise those images, don’t self-host videos and get rid of anything (themes, plugins, old image) that is not actively in use on your website.
On the way to a successful site!
This is a bit of a whistle-stop tour of websites and is, of course, just a starting point to get you going. If you have any question or would like some specific help with your website, do feel free to get in touch – I’m always happy to help if I can.