This article is for really anybody that is looking for the key building blocks to a successful website foundation. Regardless if you’re a one man band or an established brand online I guarantee if you check mark these 5 things every website should have you’ll set yourself up for lasting success and avoid the expensive pitfalls I’ve seen time and time again.
1. Establish your main website goals
This should be the number one priority. Forget about the aesthetics and stuff like if the website is mobile friendly for a minute and think what you need the website to actually do. Write your goals down from the most important downward. Then sticky note those goals in front of anyone involved in the creation or management of your website. Everything you do from pages to graphics should support those goals from most important down. Refer to them often and frequently as it will keep you on track investing energy into the stuff that matters.
2. Give customers as many ways as possible to see your work
This is simple in theory yet businesses miss on this ALL the time. Go beyond just writing content and stock photography and think reality television levels of documentation. Get in the habit of documenting every project, success even failures and showing this through photos and video. The authenticity will separate you from the average. If you don’t have a camera that has video capability, invest in one or in the meantime use your smartphone camera to the best of its abilities.
3. Agility to add whatever you want
There are countless platforms to build your website and depending on the scale of your business you may require certain environments to support your primary goals. For instance an eCommerce business driving thousands of products might require more resources than a coffee shop website. Regardless of your development environment, you need to be able to make changes easily. I’m taking less than 5 minutes fast. When it comes to a full webpage change, think less than one hour. This level of agility will provide you with the foundation to push massive amounts of content you can test to success.
4. Install and review your Analytics constantly
This last year I had a CEO of a digital marketing agency hire me to deploy our analytics on his website redesign they had just launched. His team had spent the better part of a year building a state-of-the-art website. He believed this new design was far superior to his competitors in his local market which would result in more sales than ever before.
Two weeks after the redesign was launched the CEO and I jumped on a call to review the analytics activity. Everything except the traffic was way down and he was puzzled how this could happen. In frustration he asked that my team check to make sure the tracking codes were setup properly and to reconvene in a few weeks.
My team reviewed our tracking codes to ensure they were firing correctly. We even took it a step further and tested the website url redirects, Google and Facebook Ads were all going to the new pages. It’s common after a redesign launch to overlook redirects and ad urls and have them pointed to 404s – web urls that no longer exist on the new site.
On the next call the CEO had his creative, marketing and sales heads on the call. In preparation, my team had created a simplified analytics dashboard so that the most important metrics so easy to see a 3rd grader could read the report.
The data was interesting. Despite getting an increase of 17% of traffic to the main service pages we saw a 28% higher bounce rate than the old page. The argument could be made that more people visiting would naturally result in more people bouncing so we looked into it further. One of the tools we used in this particular project was an analytics tool called Hotjar which records videos of the user on your webpage. It’s a great tool to better understand user behavior and improve your page experience.
I asked if we could do a split test with the same content from the old page. For those not familiar with a split test, it’s where you take a webpage and serve two versions of it to see which performs better. The creative and marketing heads quickly went into defense mode about how they had spent months creating this webpage and all of the graphics followed by a line of excuses like we need to give it more time and we need to increase ad spending to see real results.
The lesson here is don’t invest too heavily in one version of anything when it comes to your website. Test variations and use analytics to test until you nail it. If you aren’t familiar with Google Analytics their YouTube channel is a great resource. Get in the habit of reviewing your analytics constantly and adjust accordingly.
5. Serve the right amount of content according to device type
This should be a no brainer but I’ll say it anyway, your website needs to be accessible on mobile phone and every other device. Most people have a mobile phone today so I won’t get into mobile website usage statistics. With that said, what you deliver across these devices I believe is paramount. Marketers view this topic vary and I want to highlight there is no one way to approach this.
Regardless of what device you should be able to see a consistent theme in your branding. Avoid such inconsistencies from your desktop experience to mobile that people can’t tell if it’s the same company. Remember users Google your company name and all too often your competitors show up right next to your links. Have consistent graphics, titles, colors and call to actions so there’s no question people are at the right place.
Beyond brand consistency I’ve developed a rule that I deploy in all of my web design projects called 531. The 531 rule means users absorb 5 seconds of information on a desktop device, 3 seconds on a tablet and 1 second on a mobile device for every page they look at.
The simple logic behind 531 is the screen size is larger on desktops compared to mobile. The first thing people see when visitors pull up your webpage on mobile better grab their attention and be clear as day. This means On desktop it’s a bit more forgiving as you can show more on the screen.
There’s plenty of other factors which I’d love for people to share and argue when thinking of the 5 most important things every CEO needs to have to create massive success with their website. In 15 years it’s always boiled down to these 5 must haves for me.