What makes an absolutely awesome website? It can be a hard question to answer and everyones opinion is different, in fact every business needs something different. For small and medium businesses though, there are some essential elements that make up the majority of awesome sites.
As the person responsible for business development, as well as company vision, I’ve got the job of being able to visit many different businesses. Actually, my job is like being a part of a different business every week, which is pretty cool. It means I hear a lot of different questions about web design, “can you do this? Will it have that? How does something like that work? We think this would work well for us, what do you think?” So I thought it’d be good to share the most common business needs that crop up and what, as a result, I reckon makes up an awesome website for a small or medium business.
So here goes!
1. Research, ideas and vision.
There are two sides to this, but it’s pretty simple. Come with an idea of what you want, approach your web design with ideas from other websites that you’ve seen before. Then encourage the person building it to do the same.
It’s only in the last few months we realised we needed more of this when we approach a new job and we’ve since learned how important this part of building a website is. We have a chat, get some ideas together, then go away and do research on a tonne of other websites, find out what works and why, then come back and cast vision between us and our clients until we’ve settled on something we’re both comfortable with and we know will work. That’s the best first step to a new site, or even a refresh of something you’ve already got.
2. Sweet design that works for your customers.
You know your customers best, you work with them every day and it’s your product or service being sold from the site, so what do your customers like? Awesome website design looks like something that your customers will love to see, love to use and feels natural to them.
What do you want to get across about yourself?
Are you bright, happy, friendly, refreshing? Great! Get lots of big bright images of your product, white backgrounds, clean space, smooth fonts. Your design says a lot about who you are and it make a huge amount of difference to your customers. Take HDM Tubes for example. Steel tube manufacturing certainly doesn’t have to be dark or boring!
3. Non generic, don’t be the same as everyone else.
This is a general principle to follow. If your website looks the same as every other website in your industry then you’re not going to stand out and, to put it bluntly, your customers just aren’t going to care.
Images have got a lot to do with this… How do you present yourself in your imagery? Have you got cheesy stock images of people who don’t even look like they’re from your country? Or have you got natural shots of real people delivering your service or great shots of the real products you sell? It all makes a big difference. When it comes to searching for a photographer, make sure you get hold of one that’s good with people, or works well with businesses. And when searching for stock photography think outside of the box; search for “casual business” rather than “business people” and you’ll get a very different result.
4. Functionality that actually works and serves a purpose.
It’s the classic web design story, it happens all the time… Client asks developer to build something and doesn’t want to pay much for it, so the developer feels under pressure to still do it, for less than they deserve, and as a result either don’t do a good job or don’t actually finish it. Or there’s the other classic story that the developer just isn’t as good as they think they are (sorry)!
Get real with your web design agency! “Is this functionality going to work the way I want it to? What do we need to do to make sure it’s right for the customers using our website?”
I always encourage our development team to be honest about their abilities when approaching a piece of functionality and they’re always really excited to have a go at building something that they’ve never tried before. But I make damn sure that it works before our client sees it and I’ll be honest with our clients about how much time it’s going to take to get right before we start. No half measures!
5. Destined for any device.
I’ve got no doubt you’ve heard this before, but it’s a super-important to include in this checklist… Your website needs to be responsive, it needs to work on any device; mobiles, tablets, laptops, desktops, TV screens – anything someone could use to view your website from.
I can’t believe that in 2016 some agencies are still building websites without considering building a mobile-friendly version. And when it comes to sales it shouldn’t even be a question, an optional extra. When we build a site it’s all included, there’s no extra cost for mobile. And it’s absolutely essential that your website isn’t just accessible on any device, but that it works well on any device, that it maintains ease-of-use and doesn’t blur up on high-quality screens like iPhone 6 or iPad Mini.
6. Something you can actually update.
What’s the point in having a great new website that only sits on the internet getting old from the day it has launched. The beauty of modern web design is that sites can be more flexible and updated more regularly.
This is why we love WordPress and why we chose to be WordPress development specialists. It’s such a flexible piece of software and, when used correctly, allows administrators and business staff to update websites with ease.
Even if it’s just your company blog, or latest news, keep your website updated and let your customers know that you’re still alive, still moving forward as a business and still accepting phone calls!
7. Someone you can trust to keep it moving.
This is something I’ve pushed since day one of Illustrate… We don’t just want to build an incredible site for someone and then just leave them to it. The internet, as well as your business market, changes every day and in some areas that’s a fast pace!
Your awesome new website needs regular backups, security checks, software updates.
What if your site got hacked tomorrow? Where would all your data be stored, how would you get it back, who would help you with it? All important questions!
Make sure there’s a great support team behind your website who are keeping it ticking on the internet… And more than that, get yourself a ‘thought-leading’ agency. One who will make suggestions on how to better your website over time. As I said, the internet changes every day, so don’t let your website fall behind with its design or its security.
8. Top notch hosting, nothing less than the best.
For me, this is an absolute must. It drives so many different factors:
- Faster hosting means happier customers… Nobody wants to have to sit in front of a site waiting for it to load, in fact not many people will. Especially in the world of mobile browsing, over 3G networks, your site speed it vital to user experience.
- Google loves a speedy website… The slower your website loads, the lower Google are likely to place you on their rankings.
- Your website host is responsible for your website security… How dedicated to security is your host and what’s their track record? Last thing any of us want is a hacked website. What are their safeguards against DDoS attacks?
At Illustrate it’s vitally important that your hosting is on the right kind of server for your website. WordPress websites require WordPress specialist hosting. So we make sure to take care of security, site speed and anything that changes about the software on a regular basis.
In fact we’re pretty cool when it comes to hosting, with a guaranteed 99.9% uptime. But I’m just bragging now.
So there you have it… My awesome web design checklist. I hope you found it helpful!
If it happens that you would like advice about any of the things I’ve scribbled down in this blog post, let’s have a chat. Just call the office on 02921 961661 or contact us here. I’ve got an incredible team of WordPress specialists and we’d love to help.