I still can’t believe it is 2017, and I’m approaching my 5th full year in business (perhaps a party is due come August 1?!). So much has changed in the web industry since I started this company back in 2012. Recently, Nic and I were looking at the current website of a new client (which was built back in 2010). I wanted to change the background color, so I went into the code and edited the bgcolor=“#F1F1F1” Nic, looking over my shoulder goes “That’s not real code, it’s not going to do anything” and as the background color changed, he marveled something along the lines of, “I’ve never seen that before, good thing we have you around to know ancient code.”

So, I’m ancient (my knowledge-base goes wayyy back to 2003/2004) when it comes to coding websites. But, seeing, and being a part of the industry for all this time, has allowed me to understand how websites are built, how they’ve changed and how to design them to look good and work for their intended audience.

5 Things that Make a Great Website

And that brings me to today, and what you need to have a great website.

1. Clean Code.

This is extremely important for one big reason: Search Engines. What is a great website design without anyone to look at it? It’s important when you build your website, that it the back-end  structure of it is clean, and easy for the robots of Google & Bing (and all the others) to read and  understand importance, so they can appropriately serve your website in search results, and send traffic your way. This is also important from a mobile perspective, as your code should look at the device your user is on, and serve up the appropriate site (mobile vs. desktop). Clean code also means faster loading, and we know Google is really looking at that.

2. Good Content.

Great, your code is clean, so the robots of search can understand and read the structure of your website. Now it’s time to create the content targeted to the audience you want to visit your website. There are a couple of good rules to follow when it comes to creating website content. I like to recommend clients to start with a content calendar. Open up Excel and lay out the months across the top of your sheet. Then add the title of the article you want to write each month. Keep in mind timing (don’t write about summer in November), but know it takes a little while for search engines to pick-up your new content (so writing about summer in April or May could actually be the perfect time).

Your goal should be to at least write 1 article (aka blog) per month, although the more the better. I also like to set aside “writing days” in my calendar where I write about numerous topics in one day (maybe for the first quarter, or first half of the year). This way you don’t have to stress over it each month. Remember to keep your topics simple, your message clear, and provide a call-to-action (see number 3) at the end of each posting, so that you give something for your readers to do. Still struggling with creating content? Hire a copywriter to help! (we can help you with that, just ask!)

3. Clear Goals.

Yes! You have clean code, and are creating content that rocks. But, are you getting the leads you want? This is a key component of a website, that many designers often don’t talk about. When a client first comes to me with a new website request, I always ask the same question: “What is the goal of your website?” Why do I ask that question? Because believe it or not, there are many different layouts that you can use on a website. And some, work much better than others for certain things.

So, when I get an answer of: “I want more leads” I know I’m designing a certain type of website, where the goal of the website is to get a visitor to fill out the form, or pick up the phone. Whereas, I may get the answer of: “A brochure, to help validate us as a company.” In that case, the focus is not as much on contacting them, as it is on viewing their work – so we want to make sure to lead the visitor to their portfolio. The differences may be subtle, but they are important to take note of. And, that brings us to #4.

4. Intentional Design.

Clean Code, check. Good Content, check. Clear Goals, check. Now, comes intentional design. What does that mean? That every piece of the website is designed with your goal in mind. From the colors, to the fonts, from the imagery to the text, it’s done to lead your website visitor to complete the goal you want them to do. This is the downfall of many templates, I believe.

You are stuck in their parameters. And, although they may be beautiful, you may find your website never works for you, because they aren’t intentionally aimed at your goal. I think this piece of the puzzle is so important that I am working to revamp my own website, to better lay out and explain many of the websites we’ve created, the goals of those websites and how we’ve achieved them. It’s so important to look at a website for what it does. Not just whether or not it’s pretty (remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder).

5. Maintenance Package.

Yes! You’ve launched your website, it’s attracting visitors, it’s bringing you leads, it looks great, and works great, at least for now. As I said earlier, the web industry is constantly changing and updating. What is new today is old tomorrow. If you don’t have a package where a professional web developer can monitor and maintain your website, you are at a loss. And, you will be at a major disadvantage in 2 years when you’re told the amount of hours to update your website will cost as much as it did to set it up! The key is keeping up with it! We learned this quickly, and offer a variety of different packages for our clients to meet their needs, but to ensure that their website is always up-to-date and working for them.

You probably started reading this, thinking I was going to lay out 5 design tricks, since I’m a website designer, but in reality, great design is what works. Just like any art, what one person likes, another may hate. As much as a website is a work of art, it’s also a tool for your business, and it needs to work for yours. So make sure you hire a website design firm (like us!) to help you create a website that works for your business — not just a website that looks pretty.

Ready to revamp your website? Contact us today.