We’ve all seen some good websites, plenty of bad ones, and some that are just plain ugly. Some of them we frequent often; others leave us with a bad taste in our mouths that causes us to never return. Did you ever think exactly what is it that determines whether a website is good or bad?
We each have our own opinions and we’ll never completely agree on which websites are best or worst, but most of us will base our feelings on similar factors. Here a few common facts that influence our likes and dislikes for websites:
A website needs a well-defined purpose. Website owners who have a solid understanding of what they expect to get out of their site will be able to work backwards in order to determine how the site should be managed. They discuss hat content should be included, what messages should be communicated to visitors, and anything else involved with developing and running a website.
Unfortunately, it’s pretty common for site owners to rush through the process of setting up a website and the true purpose is sometimes overlooked. Without knowing specifically what you hope to achieve, you will lack direction, your efforts will be unfocused, and your chances of making a positive impact on your intended audience will be poor or non-existent.
A purpose should be specific. Instead of saying “I want to improve my business by having a stronger web presence,” consider something like “My website will become the most consistent source of leads for my services and it will help me to improve communication with potential clients.” With the second purpose, you now know specifically what you want to achieve with your website, it’s just a matter of finding ways to make that happen.
The purpose of a website functions in essentially the same manner that a mission statement aids a business. It sets the tone for all of the activities and it gives a context that should be used to help in decision making. If your business already has a mission statement, I suggest also developing a separate purpose for your website. The website’s purpose should serve to support the mission and make the business more effective in achieving that mission.
Your website may have a purpose, but is it clear to your website visitors? You don’t need a complex site that can sometimes produce a jumbled message to visitors that produces confusion.
One goal of a website should be to achieve clarity that will show web visitors what they can get out of your website and why they should care. Clarity applies to all different types of websites. E-commerce sites need to clearly communicate to visitors what can be purchased and why it should be done through their particular website. Blogs need to communicate to new visitors what the blog is all about and what types of content they will receive if they subscribe. Service providers need clarity when they are communicating the details of their services to visitors.
One way clarity can be achieved is through simplicity itself. Cut through the noise and the clutter on a website to make the primary message more easily understood by your web visitors. One of the reasons for using a minimalistic design is to assist in the level of clarity.
For any website to be successful, web visitors need to be able to use it. Design and appearance will never replace the need for usability. The usability needs of a site may partially depend on the nature of the site. For example, a large e-commerce site needs to have an effective search function, logical categorization of products for browsing, a user- friendly shopping cart, etc. A blog or any type of website with lots of text will need to provide excellent readability, good navigation between articles, etc.
Any site that lacks usability will struggle to keep visitors on the site and to encourage repeat visits. Most of us internet users are impatient and if we find something that makes us work too hard, we’ll simply leave.
We all know that web visitors ultimately determine the success of a website. Since this is so, shouldn’t they should be the focus the website?
Unfortunately, sometimes designers or website owners get distracted by their own needs for the website or only looking as far as the info provided to them by the customers; then, the users are forgotten.
Your user-focused website should be both usable and accessible, but it should be much more. A website that is focused on users will build content that interests and helps users, and the desires of visitors will always be important in any decision involving the development of the site. A poor website will do the opposite, it will focus on the needs of the owner and attempt to force visitors to fit in the same box.
Website navigation affects both usability, but it is important enough to secure its own spot on this list. When developing a new website or working on a redesign, navigation should be a primary concern. Web visitors need to have the navigation as easy as possible to help them find what they are looking for.
Most websites and blogs today use common navigational techniques that are expected by the average visitor. Typically, the site will have a primary navigation menu that will link to the most important pages on the site, and other links will be added to the body of
the page wherever appropriate. Sitemaps, sitewide searches and FAQ pages are all very common and visitors will look for them when they don’t know where else to turn.
Blogs also have their own unique navigational trends that blog readers tend to appreciate, such as a list of categories, links to the most recent posts, links to the most popular posts, and links to related posts.
In addition to providing visitors with an easy way to move through the site, navigation is often used by designers to create more visually-appealing websites (see 45 Photoshop Tutorials for Better Navigation). Although navigation provides designers with a great opportunity to improve the look of the site, attractiveness should not come at the expense of usability and accessibility.
When developing the navigation for your website, think about what pages are most likely to be wanted by visitors, which pages are most critical for the purposes of your website, how visitors will want to move from one page to the next, what visitors will expect in terms of link location and pages linked, and how many clicks it will take visitors to get from your homepage to any other specific page.
Last but not least, the appearance of a website will be a determining factor in its success. Not every website needs to be an award-winning design in order to achieve it’s goals, but it should appeal to it’s specific audience and it should present a positive, professional image.
Trends in web design are constantly changing, and chances are if your site hasn’t been redesigned since 1999 it’s painfully obvious to your visitors. Most website owners prefer to freshen up their design or completely change it every couple of years to avoid this type of situation.
The design of the site should complement the content of the site, not overpower it. The design should also match stylistically with the message and the purpose of the site.
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