Understanding how to make a successful website is like many things in life – it boils down to good planning and the successful implementation of core concepts.
Whilst there are certain key elements essential to almost any website, you will find that most web design companies have their own preferences and will favour certain elements over others when defining the structure and layout of your site.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as the ever-changing requirements of search engines and the rapid developments in digital technology mean that web design is not an exact science.
Nevertheless, when asking how to create a good website design, you should remember the following 10 essential considerations that will improve content, boost traffic and increase customer satisfaction.
The first question to ask before starting any website design process is “what’s the purpose of my website?” Knowing and defining your purpose, or what you want to achieve with your site, will determine the technical requirements and on-page elements available to you.
Some sites are purely informational, some are for eCommerce, and some might be a combination of both. Others are forums for the engagement and participation of niche communities. Purpose dictates scale, target market, tone of voice and a whole host of other factors – technical and non-technical – that may crop up further down the line.
Brand identity should also be another of your initial design considerations. Your brand voice and image should be consistent with the existing marketing assets you already have (unless you are seeking a rebrand, of course.)
Online, your branding primarily relates to the ‘feel’ of your website: how does it look to visitors and what sort of response does it generate? Is it consistent with the image you want to portray and the relationship you have with existing customers, or does it need to target new audiences, whilst maintaining existing customers?
Take the following two examples:
The Nike website embraces its branding with a clean and simple homepage that utilises out of this world imagery to tap into their customers’ aspirational mentality.
Whereas the LEGO homepage is a brighter, more colourful and filled with a lot more content that is not only reminiscent of LEGO blocks covering the floor, but is also designed to catch the attention of younger children, the brand’s target market.
When it comes to branding, you can expect close collaboration between you and your chosen designers in order for them to deliver a website that meets your business objectives. Each and every one of the web design elements listed in this article should maintain consistency with your existing branding strategy.
Choice of host, template or architecture will be dictated by the plans you have for your business and its future growth. Smaller, more niche sites might not need to scale in the future, but websites for larger enterprises and businesses, particularly news sites and eCommerce sites, will require more flexible hosting and a level of scalability that allows future growth to occur.
Scalability includes the capacity for faster loading pages, which are also important in terms of bounce rates, i.e. loss of visitors who quickly click away from your site when they lose patience. This is a particular risk for websites that take too long to load on mobile devices, where visitors increasingly tend to do their browsing.
Once you know the purpose of your website, you can make an informed decision on website scalability by looking at your company’s offline performance. Are you seeing growth in your sector? Are profits increasing month on month? If so, you should definitely consider the future scalability of any website you have created for your company.
User Experience (abbreviated to UX) design is a term that defines how easy-to-use and intuitive your website is for visitors. A clean interface with clear navigation helps visitors take action quicker and more smoothly, which is crucial in ensuring visitors start and complete their journey through the sales funnel. A design that embraces UX can minimise bounce rates, improve pages per session and attract a whole host of new traffic.
An efficient use of space is important in UX design as it not only makes websites more pleasing on the eye but also helps visitors process information faster. Ease of will ensure a better experience for visitors, making your site more memorable and improving the likelihood of repeat custom.
A recent addition to UX design is mobile responsiveness, which is now a necessity for any serious website and affects accessibility through mobile browsing. A website not optimised for both desktop and mobile screens will quickly see traffic start to dry up.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a huge subject and one we cannot deal with in its entirety here. As a web design specialism in its own right, SEO is a fundamental consideration when asking how to create a good website design that performs well in search engine results pages (SERPs).
SEO falls into two main divisions: on-site and off-site optimisation. A few key SEO on-site web design elements include: key word research, key word density, image alt tags, backlinks and hierarchical page structure. Off-site elements can include links to your site from other sources and the outreaching of your content across the web.
Content and Copy
Content and copy play a key part in how a brand expresses its voice. Quality is crucial in terms of establishing your brand as a market leader and the ‘go to people’ for expertise. Ensuring both written copy and multimedia content are as good as possible will help to make your website visually and intellectually stimulating.
The importance of good quality content is an on-going trend in the world of web design, as search engines are placing an increasing focus on content that engages readers, keeping them interested and on your website.
This means that written copy should be crafted with both online visitors and search engines in mind. It should make for memorable and informative reading, and not simply be stuffed with random keywords. Instead key words should inform the focus of the content you are creating, instead of defining exactly what you write. This will make your website easier to index for search engines and help boost your results page ranking.
Security against external attacks and spamming is important for minimising downtime as well as protecting your site visitors from having their information taken. Ensuring the right security measures are in place can also reduce any potential impact to your search engine ranking caused by bots that to link your site to a spam one trying to boost its own ranking.
Hosting plays an important in website security and can determine the options available to your website infrastructure as well as to other software and plugins your site may utilise.
You should consult with your designers about the relative merits of websites hosted on internal servers versus virtual servers in the cloud.
When building your website, your developer’s may encourage the use of different software and plugins, such as a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, an integrated email client or social media plugin. Your choice of platform will inform the plugins and software you can use and integrate into your site. By ensuring everything is compatible, you’ll minimise any potential development bugs and maintain a smooth browsing experience for your visitors.
For larger companies it is important to plan ahead with regards to the integration of technologies, as different departments within your business may need to use different plugins – e.g. Sales team need a Leads Platform, SEO need analytics, Business Development need a CRM. Solid planning will mean smoother cross-collaboration across the business as well as a practical and functional back-end that will benefit the whole business.
Websites are no longer a one way communication channel. A well designed website will offer opportunities to engage with the people behind it, either by linking to social media or by displaying a contact email address.
Keeping your visitors interested and engaged is the challenge of all websites. We’ve mentioned content and design, but a third way to increase repeat custom is to value your customers. Consider offering bonuses for loyal visitors, e.g. free giveaways, discount offers, competitions, votes, feedback options, etc.
All of these will show visitors that you care about them and raise your profile in their estimation, increasing the likelihood of return visits, more conversions and hopefully increased traffic through word-of-mouth recommendations.
Impressive metrics are proof of good web design. The question of how to make a successful website ends with the analytics that provide evidence of your site being used and interacted with. You should consider how your website stats are being tracked and start researching analytics engines that could track them for you.
The most common tool used is Google’s own Analytics site, which allows for easy reporting on page use, customer conversions, engagement and a whole slew of other data. In fact the drill-downability of Google Analytics is second to none and can be a potent tool in your arsenal. The site-wide data can help you track individual pages and identify new opportunities in almost real-time.
No two websites are the same, just as no two web design agencies are the same.
The above list should act as a jumping off point for your website and if given due consideration, they can go a long way to ensuring a prosperous future for your website.
To get started today, why not check out some of the top web design agencies working in the UK?