10 Things Every Website Needs

by on April 12, 2010

There are many components to a successful website. Here is a list of ten essential components that every website should have.

1. Highly Visible Contact Information
You do want your prospective customers to be able to contact you, don’t you? The idea here is to make this as easy for them as possible. Ideally all possible forms of contact (phone number, physical address, email address, email forms) should appear somewhere on your site, but which one(s) you want to highlight will depend on what sort of business you have and how you primarily expect customers to contact you. There should at least be one form of contact in a prominent location (e.g. the header) on every page, along with a link to the full contact information.

2. Social Media Integration
Social media sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, have become increasingly popular not only as a means of communication between friends but as a powerful online marketing tool. It would be foolish to allow yourself to be left out of such communities. You can add links to and updates from your own social media sites, as well as add “share” buttons to allow your content to be shared with others.

3. Frequently Updated Content
Nobody likes a “dead” site – not your users and not search engines either. A “set it and forget it” approach is not going to work here. Frequent news and updates are important (an area on the homepage to display this works well) – they will increase your visitors’ confidence in your website and thus your company, and they will make your website more visible to search engines. A blog works well for this.

4. Good Organization
Easter egg hunts may be fun for children, but not so much for the unwary visitor trying to find information on a badly organized website. Make sure your site’s content is broken down into logical sections that are easy to find and navigate through. Ideally an outline of the site would be completed before the design process starts, so that the design of the site and its navigation fits the site’s structure correctly.

5. A Clear Purpose
So what’s the purpose of your website, exactly? Are you trying to sell something, to inform people, to get phone calls, to get people to stop by in person? Do you know? Do your visitors know? If your users can’t figure out what your site is all about in a very short about of time, they’re more likely to leave and go elsewhere than to dig for more information. You want to make this clear, with a succinct summary on the homepage and clear calls to action.

6. Consistency
You want your website to become familiar to users, and easily identifiable as yours. While homepages can sometimes differ significantly than interior pages, in general you want all of the pages to have the same major design elements, the same look and feel. Important items (logo, navigation) should be the same on every page.

7. Good Content
A site’s overall content is one of the most important things for search engine rankings, and it may be just a teensy bit important for your visitors as well. Make sure your content is well-written, relevant, free of grammatical and spelling errors, and keeps a consistent voice throughout the different pages. It should be easy to scan through – no super long paragraphs, and avoid very long pages in general (chances are people won’t read the entire thing).

8. Google Analytics
Google Analytics is an invaluable free tool that can be used to track all sorts of information about your site’s visitors and their actions on your site. You can see where they come from, what they’re looking for, where they go (or don’t go), and learn the weak points of your site so that you can correct them later.

9. User Searchability
Make sure your users have the ability to search through your site rather than having to read through every page to find what they’re looking for. The more content your site has, the more important this is. It’s also a good idea to have a site map that presents all the site’s content in an organized fashion on a single page.

10. Search Engine-Friendly Structure
Make sure your site can easily be scanned by search engines, regardless of whether you intend to do any SEO work with it. Standardized coding practices, proper URLs, informative title tags and meta information all help with this.

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