5 Things That Make a Site Go from ‘Okay’ to ‘Great’
I was asked a question today: “what makes a GREAT website?”
My brain filtered through a number of responses. Most of them were smart-ass remarks, but I thought about it honestly before I answered. If I had to make a short bullet point list for somebody, what would I tell them to aim for?
- Make it Speedy
- Make it Lean
- Keep it Clean
- The User Experience
- Be Memorable
Make it Speedy
Whether or not our attention spans have gotten shorter, we all know the feeling of being impatient. We’ve all missed a green light because the person in front of us was on their phone. We all know that feeling when you order Uber Eats and the delivery driver has to drop off food to someone else first. Or when you have fibre to the premises, yet you can’t watch Bozo Dubbed Over because YouTube is forever buffering.
I thought the NBN was meant to revolutionise Australia’s internet!
On top of our frustrations, Google does consider a site’s speed as a ranking factor for Search Engine Optimisation.
If you are building a new site, keep this in mind from the beginning. It’s much easier to build a site with speed in mind, than trying to optimise one that’s already built. But be warned, this can be a very costly exercise, creating a speedy website can require a lot of optimising, testing and tweaking.
Make it Lean
A common mistake I see with many professional websites, are those with a ton of bloating. What I mean by that is, a site with too many unnecessary features. Does your site need to autoplay a video upon loading? Does it need the sound on? Do you need a carousel with 6 slides? Does it need a groovy disco ball that users can spin with their mouse on the home page?
This includes CMS websites like WordPress, it might be tempting to just install a plugin to add a feature you want, but what toll does it take on the website overall?
Pick out the necessary features you need and try to avoid style over substance.
This actually ties into speed a little. With fewer features on your site you are more likely to reduce the number of scripts, styles and overall code on the site.
Keep it Clean
This also links to the above point, but what I really mean by “keep it clean” is, avoid clutter. Some sites try to impose every thought they have or try to cater for every person that goes to the homepage of a website.
It’s ok to have some people browse for information, especially if it’s something they are used to. If someone wants to know about your business they know to visit the About page. This will help reduce cognitive load and produce a better user experience.
The User Experience
To be honest, when I was first asked “what makes a GREAT website?” I immediately responded with “good UX”. But I felt like it was the laziest answer I could muster. Whilst it is true, I needed to be specific. Essentially all of the above points can live under the UX umbrella.
So what is UX or User Experience? Well, how does the journey of a customer resonate overall when using your site? The design, aesthetics, cues, navigation, direction, information, media, speed all have a role to play in the overall user experience. You could have a fantastic design, but the user has a hard time finding information that they are looking for. This would result in poor user experience. If the site takes too long to load, it could result in poor user experience.
Keep the focus centred around the user and their objectives. Take time to invest in your user’s journey and look at ways to improve it.
Good thing bookmarks exist because I don’t want to have to type this out each time.
Of course making the experience a memorable one is a great thing to achieve, but sometimes it is better to make the journey a.. non-memorable one. But what does that even mean?
Let’s look at the journey of completing a task like washing dishes by hand. There is no way to artificially inject fun into that scenario. Making it a memorable experience doesn’t make sense, but making it easier does make sense. Enter, the dishwashing machine! (Don’t enter the dishwasher though).
Simply put, the journey of using your site should be so easy, so intuitive, so seamless, that a user can complete their task (make a purchase, contact, find information etc) with minimal cognitive effort.
The feeling that you do want users to remember is your brand, its products and its services. This is what they will end up passing on and recommending to their friends and family.
If you use your website to make sales, to advertise your services or to educate, it is important to keep the points above in mind. Combine these principles with your site metrics to determine which areas of your site need improvement, and when you do make changes, observe what effect this has on the data.
What in fact makes a site great really, is a website that performs.