What separates an average website from a great one? Are there any sure-fire tools and technologies to ensure high click-through rates and strong engagement?
The answer is: it depends.
But that’s so cliche!
I know, I know. But bear with me.
Each website has different needs and different demands. For instance, an e-commerce site may have requirements that blogs, informational sites, or photo-sharing sites don’t necessarily need. The same goes for landing pages, web-based apps, and all other kinds of online platforms.
That said, one principle remains consistent across all types of websites: the easier a site is to find through search, use, and navigate, the better.
Not sure if you absolutely need something?
Here are some requirements and design principles that no modern website can live without.
Responsive Web Design
Not too long ago, having a mobile website meant creating multiple iterations of similar pages to suit different devices and platforms. Although this approach did prove effective at the time, it was extremely expensive and impractical, requiring the same time and effort as running two or more websites.
Fortunately, we no longer encounter this problem.
Thanks to Ethan Marcotte in 2010, we now enjoy something called responsive web design.
What is responsive web design?
In a nutshell, responsive web design is “an approach to web page creation that makes use of flexible layouts, flexible images and cascading stylesheet (CSS) media queries” (TechTarget).
The ultimate goal of responsive web design is to build web pages that interact (read adapt and evolve) with all kinds of devices. In today’s world, where nearly everyone owns a smartphone, having a responsive, mobile-friendly website should be a top priority.
That 40% of mobile users will abandon a search result on a site that isn’t mobile-friendly should be reason enough to reconsider your mobile strategy.
It doesn’t matter what kind of site you’re running. Mobile-friendliness is imperative in today’s smartphone-driven future.
Content Delivery Network
Does website speed make that big a difference?
According to Kissmetrics, 40% of people will abandon a website that takes over 3 seconds to load. That’s tens of thousands of customers down the drain.
If your website is anywhere past the three-second mark, some reworking is definitely in order. You may want to consider optimizing your images, enabling browser caching, or even getting a Content Delivery Network (or CDN).
It really doesn’t take much to boost your website speed. Just download a speed test tool and perform a comprehensive audit of your digital assets. Chances are, you’ll be able to pinpoint key areas to improve on.
Search Engine Optimization
How come some websites receive millions of visitors while others close to none?
The answer lies in Search Engine Optimization or SEO.
SEO is a method of driving traffic to a website via organic (read: free, non-sponsored) search results. It usually involves paying attention to over two hundred page ranking factors including keyword research, image optimization, meta text, meta tags, blogging, and many others.
Looks like a lot of work…
Skeptics may disagree but SEO is well worth the effort. Reports show that over 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine.
Image source: ninestats.com
To further illustrate the importance of SEO, consider this: 75% of users never scroll past the first page (HubSpot); the figure increases to 95% after the second page and even more dramatically thereafter.
No matter how well-designed and well-intentioned your website is, none of that matters unless you can be found on Google.
Why not just pay for the top spot?
Turns out that close to 80% of Internet users ignored paid ads, opting instead for pages listed as organic search results.
Tailor your content to fit your audience’s search behaviors. Ask yourself: What do my customers look for online? What topics interest them? How can I give them what they’re looking for?
Once you have that figured out, it’s only a matter of time until you win Google and, hopefully, your customers over.
Conversion Rate Optimization
Like any asset, a website should be measured by what it brings to the table. Does it generate income? Increase exposure? Entice investors? Create fans?
If the answer is “none of the above” or, worse, “I don’t know”, it’s time to rethink your strategy and consider Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO).
CRO, as defined by Tim Ash, the CEO of SiteTurners, “is the art and science of getting people to act once they arrive on your website”. It’s basically coming up with a website structure and design that encourages people to perform a specific action.
Whether your goal is to gain more subscribers, sell more products, or promote a cause, CRO can definitely help you get your website off the ground.
Looking to kick it up a notch?
Invest in a CRO tool that allows you to track your conversions and increase ROI.
Back to the original premise: What are the things a website needs?
It really depends on what you’re looking to achieve. However, as we discussed above, there are certain requirements and tools that no website can live without.