What makes a good website…good? The landscape of the web is constantly evolving, and the answer to that question is constantly changing. Here is a guide of minimum requirements for a “good” website in today’s web.
Minimum Requirement 1: A usefulness that is immediately apparent
A website is a tool. It can do many things: it can inform, it can entertain, it can sell products, it can make recommendations, it can schedule your day, it can increase productivity, it can waste time, or anything else practically. The question is: what is your website’s goal? Pick one and stay true to it. What is your website’s one business-critical mission? This goal will affect everything from design decisions, development paths, user interaction design, metrics tracking, everything.
Why do I care?
You care because your visitors care. You must immediately answer the visitor’s inherent question of “what’s in it for me?” That means your website’s usefulness must be immediately apparent. The first view that loads must inherently convey the gist of your site. You cannot rely on visitors scrolling down or even reading the copy!
Minimum Requirement 2: Simple, clear design
“Immediately apparent,” isn’t well defined. Exactly how much time do you get? Nature.com conducted a study of first impressions on the web, and they found that “impressions were made in the first 50 milliseconds of viewing.” That’s one-tenth of half a second! In the first 50 milliseconds, before there’s even a chance to read a sentence on the site, visitors will have decided whether they’re going to continue browsing or not. That’s why first impressions are so important.
What does this mean for me?
Your website must be simple and easy to understand. If your website is too cluttered, your visitor doesn’t know what to look at first. What if the first thing he sees doesn’t make a good first impression? You should aim for simplicity, and here’s how:
Save room for white space
The internet is a never ending canvas. Don’t feel the need to cram content together in tight quarters. It is no more expensive to add another 1000 pixels of height to a page.
Make use of headings
If someone scrolls through your site quickly, reading only the headings, does she understand what’s going on and why she should read more?
Avoid clutter and “walls of text”
Especially on the first screen the visitor sees. Emotionally, clutter makes the visitor feel claustrophobic, so give him some breathing room. Ads contribute to the feeling of clutter, so be careful with your ad placement.
Use simple navigation
Can the user easily get to any part of the site he wants to? Can the user easily get back to pages he’s previously been to? Is the navigation confusing or frustrating?
Minimum Requirement 3: Mobile-friendly
Picture someone in the passenger seat of a car on her way to dinner. She has her phone in her hand and the conversation turns to, “So do you know what you’re going to order?” The phone’s browser fires up, and she searches Google for your website. This is where things can go awry-the restaurant’s site isn’t mobile-friendly. The text is too small to read, the layout doesn’t make sense on a phone, and she’s left sitting there, zooming-in and zooming-out of your website with increasing frustration. Even before she has arrived to the restaurant, the business has suffered. The first impression has already been made on the car ride over, and it was a poor one.
Possibly the largest shift in the landscape of the web in the past five years is in mobile devices, namely smartphones and tablets.
According to research done by Cisco, by 2018, mobile web traffic will grow to 11-times 2013 levels.
Mobile traffic is increasingly critical to businesses. It’s incredibly easy to picture someone looking for an address and hours of operation or making a purchase on a smartphone, it happens everyday. Does your website allow people to find this critical information quickly and easily on mobile?
Mobile-friendly is a business necessity
According to a study conducted by Google, users have a true emotional connection to the issue of mobile friendliness, especially if a site is not mobile-friendly.
- 48% of users say they feel frustrated and annoyed when they get to a site that’s not mobile-friendly
- 36% said they felt like they’ve wasted their time by visiting those sites
- 52% of users said that a bad mobile experience made them less likely to engage with a company
- 48% said that if a site didn’t work well on their smartphones, it made them feel like the company didn’t care about their business
The connection is there for mobile-friendly sites as well, and it’s definitely positive.
- When they visited a mobile-friendly site, 74% of people say they’re more likely to return to that site in the future
- 67% of mobile users say that when they visit a mobile-friendly site, they’re more likely to buy a site’s product or service
Mobile-friendly is no longer a nicety or just a best-practice; it is now a business necessity. Not being mobile-friendly is akin to telling 50% or more of your potential users to simply not bother visiting your website.
The landscape of the web is constantly changing. The challenge is to know how to best portray yourself online. Know what your website’s purpose is, and design around it. Be aware that within a split second, users are judging your site, so be prepared to make the best impression possible. Understand that in the future, more and more traffic will be coming from mobile devices. Moving forward with these three minimum requirements will move your website towards world class.