Design: A website’s design must flow from the content and purpose of the site. When people visit your site, within the first 3 seconds, they will consider the design. If the design of your site does not match its purpose/function, then you may lose your visitors before they read what you have to offer. For example, the DrudgeReport has a simple three column, courier-font based design. It gives it the appearance of a newsletter, which is entirely its purpose. A landscaping website should be a portfolio-based site showing the work with high-quality photos.
Usability: This is one of the most important aspects of your website. Are people able to easily navigate your site. Is your menu structure descriptive? Is your text easy to read? These are all questions that need to be addressed.
Fast Loading: Many people still only have access to dial-up. As broadband services have provided much faster speeds, these increased speeds have enticed many people to load their websites with a lot of animation, videos and background music. If your site is loaded with a lot of flash and video, it will not load quickly. The dial-up user will rarely wait for a site to load unless they absolutely want the information. Don’t eliminate a significant part of the “surfing” population by having a site that loads slowly.
Calls to Action: If your website sells a product or a service, then use “calls to action” throughout. For example, “contact us today” and “don’t miss this opportunity” are common phrases used to call the reader to act on purchasing a product or calling for more information. If you do not ask them to do something, don’t expect them to contact you.
Easy-to-Find: Can your site be found on the search engines? This is important for a majority of sites. Websites are the perfect tool to bring traffic to your product or service. It used to be that people would begin their businesses with “Acme” or “AAA” so their information would be at the top of the alphabetical yellow page listings. Search engines do not organize websites alphabetically. A website that can be found in various ways is powerful.
Contact Information: If someone lands on a deeply embedded webpage on your site, can they easily find your contact information? Don’t embed your contact information into an insignificant hyperlink at the bottom of the page. Keep it prominent.
Custom: Branding is very important for a business. Each business should have a unique feel and identity. If you have a business that uses a common template from a well-known software program, it will cause your business to lose an amount of credibility. If templates are used, then they should be modified so that they are unique enough to capture your business’ identity.
Reliable Hosting: Look for 99% or better up-time. Did you realize that even with 99% uptime, there is about 6 hours during each month that your site is down for maintenance or rebooting at the server. That is a substantial amount of time. Reliable hosting is important, not only so that your visitors do not get frustrated, search engines will penalize you if they are unable to spider your site.
Compatibility: Brand new computers are outfitted with Internet Explorer (PCs) or Safari (Macs). Many use FireFox. Did you know that FireFox is the oldest browser? There are many people who use it. You can design a website that looks perfect in Internet Explorer, but loses all functionality in FireFox. Compatibility is extremely important. Chrome rocks… install it and let the others go! 😀
Search Engine Friendly. You may wonder why this is at the bottom of the list. The truth is, many poorly constructed, unattractive websites do well in the search engines. Many website developers are now using CSS-based layouts, instead of tables, to layout their sites. CSS layouts do carry some SEO advantages over tables. CSS helps pages load more quickly and enable you to code your page so the main content is at the top of your page even if your design does not appear that way.