6 often forgotten key ingredients for a great website

Most websites on the Internet are functional, but very few are good. When it comes to distinguishing a great website from a decent one, there are 6 key things to consider that are often forgotten. If you are thinking of a website redesign or are currently working on a new website, you should remember to address the following points.

Loading time can be a site killer

The first thing that is often looked over is a site’s loading time. Even a few seconds might be long enough to turn people away. Perhaps the most important reason for fast load times are search engines. Load times are used in the equation to calculate where in search engine result pages your website will be. Even if your SEO is perfect, poor loading times will tank your site in the results.

If you aren’t sure what your loading time is, you can use Pingdom’s tool to check it.

If your site has a slow load time, there can be a number of culprits. Some sites use images that are too large in size. When someone loads the page, the site has to scale these images to the correct size according to the styling but it still needs to load the entire full-size image. This slows down the load speed unnecessarily.

To solve this, you either need to make sure the images you use are sized correctly for their space on the site or you can install a plugin (on Wordpress) that will optimize the images for you. Certain CMS’s, such as Hubspot, do this automatically.

Another common problem is the amount of scripts that need to get loaded on a page. Usually, this is a result of some special functionality such as a custom made app but can also be caused by too many additional features on a page. To help reduce high loading time caused by scripts, you can reduce the overall number of them (remove less important ones),relegating as many as possible to the end of the page. That is to say, have the browser run the scripts after a page is loaded.

One last place you might want to look is where you host your site. Depending on how your hosting provider organizes their sites, and how their infrastructure is set up, it may negatively affect your site’s page load times.

How does it look on mobile?

Even though most people access websites from their mobile devices, truly mobile compatible sites are still rare. When making your site, make sure that the styling takes into account smaller screens by rearranging the content in a neat way as the screen gets smaller. What you should not do is to create a separate mobile version of your site. Unless your business is running a web application, redirecting mobile users to a secondary site is not always a good idea unless you really have to.

While it might not hurt your SEO, it generally provides for a worse user experience and may incur additional costs during development.

The purpose of a great website

Every website has a purpose – to serve as your business’s 24/7 salesperson and information distributor. However, not ever website makes full use of that purpose because at the end of the day, it is not enough. We know why every business should have a website. The real question is, what do you want people to do when they get there?

The easiest answer is to give visitors an easy way to contact or purchase from you. But what about those who are not sure, or are not ready but still interested, in your business’s offerings?

Think of actions or items that give value, something for the on-the-fence visitor to do to keep in touch with your business.

Clean navigation is essential

The spinal cord of any great website is its navigation. It is from here that visitors will see what information your site has and how to get to it. Unfortunately, sometimes this information is left out of the navigation.

First, it needs to display the most important pages (but not all pages) of your site. The best navigation bars are sleek, minimal, and clear in what they have to offer.

If your site is a behemoth of pages, implementing a second navigation is a better idea than cluttering up the main navigation. A secondary navigation is just that, a smaller, perhaps more specific, navigation for the website.

Layout matters

The great website layouts are minimal, clean, and clear with no extra stock photos with a tenuous connection to the content. No superfluous animations. Well, if you are a design agency, go wild. It is your brand after all. But for most businesses, it just adds to the load time and confusion.

Make sure the content is correctly styled with uniform fonts, sizes, and design. Arrange the content into blocks and grids for legibility. Keep your color use low, uniform, and pleasing to the eye.

System Pages (the forgotten ones)

Then there are the pages that are often overlooked when making websites. These pages are not fun, not sexy, not full of great sales content. As unappealing as they are, they are absolutely necessary. Not including them may have major consequences.

For lack of a better term, we call them ”system pages” – web pages that are almost universally required for any website. These include, but are not limited to, 404 error page “not found” page, privacy policy, terms of service, cookies policy, email subscription settings page, and website login page. These pages are important for a few reasons.

First, they are often overlooked and left bare, sometimes to detriment. A 404 page can be a clever canvas to show off company culture. The login page for WordPress and other CMSs is not usually branded, which can throw off new members.

A 404 page can be a clever canvas to show off company culture.

From a legal standpoint, under GDPR, your site will need a comprehensive Privacy Policy and a Cookies Policy page if you are doing any sort of tracking at all (which most websites do). Skipping out on these might open your business to risk from fines and potential lost business as Internet users are becoming more mindful about the ways the Internet tracks them.

If your website is part of any email marketing campaigns, you will also need to have an email subscription service page and an unsubscribe page. These are pages where leads that have opted in to your emails can manage their settings and a page where they can unsubscribe.

The last system page that often gets overlooked is the sitemap. There are plugins for sitemaps, and some platforms even generate sitemaps automatically. However, for some reason, when we look at the website of potential clients, the sitemap links are usually broken. No sitemap to be found!

The sitemap has two advantages. The first is that when you want to tell Google what pages on your site are important, you do so by submitting a sitemap to Google Search Console. This helps Google decide what pages on your site are important and which to be indexed. Needless to say, this helps with SEO and ranking.

The second reason why a sitemap is important is organization. Often when we talk with business owners about their websites we find out that they are not sure what they actually want on the site. By organizing the information they want to convey in a sitemap structure, not only do we get to see how the site will be organized, the client can also make sure that all the information they want has been considered and included on the new site.

This is not a comprehensive list of everything that separates a decent site from a great one, but it is a list of the most common overlooked things we have encountered. There are a lot of additional things that can be done to really elevate your website.

If you want to find out what they are, get in touch and we will take a look at what you have, and how it can be better.