4 Secrets to Creating a Great Website
A simple cheat sheet to get your brand noticed
With more than one billion (yes, really) active websites worldwide, it can seem daunting to try and create The Next Great Website but it doesn’t have to be. Well, creating The Next Great Website does seem pretty challenging to me but if your goal is to just have a great website that your dream clients would want to spend time perusing, then that’s totally achievable! Today I’m going to share some of the characteristics of a great website so you can start implementing them on your own website.
1. Ease of navigation
If you want to make people stay on your website for longer than a second (check your bounce rate in Google Analytics), you need to make sure that your website is easy to navigate and that visitors don’t get frustrated and leave because they cannot get to your contact page or blog.
Use a simple and clear navigation. Even if you want to stand out and be creative with the layout of your website, make sure the navigation bar/menu is clearly visible and not at the bottom of your website. People are used to some level of design convention when it comes to websites so they expect the navigation menu to be at the top of the page. Make sure that your navigation bar is kept simple and uncluttered; don’t crowd more than 6 navigation links. If you need more than that, make use of drop down menus instead. Keep only the important navigation links on the main navigation menu. It is really not necessary to put a link to your curated gallery of your cat’s photoshoot pictures. Especially if that has nothing to do with the content (or audience) of your website.
Remember, the number one job of the navigation bar is to make navigating the website really easy. Take advantage of that and use a visual hierarchy; important things first and foremost and less important last. You know, like things in the footer bar.
2. Faster load times
Time how long it takes your website to load in its entirety. If it’s more than 10 seconds, you need to fix it asap. You should be valuing your visitors time and many won’t want to sit waiting for your website to load, especially if there’s another website they can check instead.
Make sure your website is hosted with a reputable host. Some hosting services host so many websites when they do not even have the required server space and thus results in your website taking aeons to load. If your website is content heavy, you may need to go with a host who can support the amount of data your website stores. Here a few tips on how you can get faster load times for your website:
- Optimise your images
Optimise your images for websites before uploading them on your website. The easiest way to do this is to load them in Photoshop or Illustrator and Save For Web and Devices. This optimises the images for faster load times. Before uploading images, also be certain that you are uploading the correct images. PNG files are typically larger than JPEG files and are much more commonly used to maintain background transparency. Do research to find out which image files are better suited for the different uses on your website.
- Keep background images to a minimum
I have visited plenty websites where the websites takes ages to load because there’s a large HD background image that is loading pixel by pixel. That can be a hindrance and will often cause visitors to leave your website faster than they can see the amazing styled background photo anyway.
If you absolutely need to have a background image for branding purposes, keep it to one page and optimise it before uploading.
A lot of the great websites that I have seen are well-designed; they have pleasing colours that are kind on the eyes with great contrast, legible fonts and are not too visually rich. Websites with a lot of graphics and illustrations all over can cause headaches and are distracting from the content you have spent time creating, hoping for people to read.
You really don’t need animation that takes up half of your page to have a great website nor do you need to have different types of music playing on each webpage. Imagine how embarrassing it would be for an unsuspecting visitor once your website loads Gangnam Style plays really loudly…and she is at a library. All the cringes! Yikes!
Keep your website design consistent and on-brand (develop a brand style guide) and make sure you keep your dream clients in mind for a pleasant and engaging user experience. Your website doesn’t have to be all the fixings that only you like because chances are most people will not have the same tastes as you do and will find your website a turn-off. That is, unless it’s your personal website with everything that is all you and you want your family and school mates seeing it. That’s why defining your dream client is important when designing a website.
If you’re really not sure about what should go into a well-designed website, don’t be afraid to invest in a professional web or graphic designer who knows what they are doing.
4. Clear, attractive graphics and photos
If anything, your photos and graphics are what will attract visitors and make them stay, adventuring through your site. The graphics you share on social media, like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest will also aid you in attracting more visitors to your website so it’s vital that you make sure the graphics you use are of a high quality and branded together with your website for strong brand recognition.
If you pride yourself in delivering content of the high quality, ensure that the graphics you also share are of the same high quality. Stay away from blurry, badly lit photographs and, if you're on the hunt for some photos to include in your website design, shop around for stock photos that encapsulate the core of your brand or even check out free stock photos from websites like Death to the Stock Photo or Unsplash.
Having a great website that is easy to use will help you get and retain more readers. Do your best to keep the user experience in mind when designing a website. For example, take a look at your favourite website or websites with a lot of viewers (some bloggers publish their website reader stats on their media packs which can be found on their website). Ask yourself; are the websites easy to navigate? Can you get from Point A to Point B easily and without your eyes moving around the whole page to figure out how to get somewhere? What makes this website attractive to so many viewers? Doing adequate research will more than help you create a great website and you will have clearer, concise goals for what you want your website to be that is aligned with your dream clients.
Now it's your turn! I want to hear from you, in your opinion, which are some great websites? What other characteristics do you think great websites have? What characteristics do you think you should implement on your own website?
Isabella Maake is a graphic designer and entrepreneur who helps creative entrepreneurs create the brand of their dreams through web and branding design. When she’s not designing she’s reading copious amounts of novels and looking forward to the next Marvel movie.