What Makes a Good Website? Six Guidelines for Effective Websites

The Internet has evolved to become an essential tool for marketing products and services. In today’s marketplace, having a professional looking website is almost a prerequisite for doing business. But the sheer volume of sites on the web makes it harder to stand out from the crowd.

How do you ensure that your site will be an effective vehicle for communicating your message to clients or customers? Start by focusing on these six guidelines:

1. Usable

First and foremost, your site must be usable — clear, logical, and easy to navigate. The site’s structure must be coherent, you must organise pages, and links must be consistent. Your site will not be effective if a visitor gets lost or confused.

2. Accessible

Your website is more effective if more people can use it in more situations. Many people with disabilities and functional limitations have increasingly rely on the Web to access information and buy goods and services. If your site is designed to minimize access barriers, not only will it generate goodwill for your brand, but it likely will generate more customers.

3. Standards-compliant

Why spend money to design your site today, only to have it be obsolete tomorrow? Why design it for one computing platform or one browser when your customers and potential customers use an array of browsers on different platforms and devices? If your website is designed to comply with recognized web standards, you are designing for the widest audience possible today and ensuring that your site will work well into the future.

4. Web-readable

Many websites that are otherwise well-designed lose credibility because they are poorly written or edited, or they are not written in a style suitable for reading on the Web. Studies show that most readers scan pages and understand information more readily if presented clearly and in small units. Your site is not successful if your message is not being read. Ensure effectiveness with a well-written, Web-readable website.

5. Visually compelling

Your website’s visual design plays a large part in attracting Web users to the site and retaining their interest. Graphics and images support the message. They must be appropriate to the brand: a glitzy look will not support a conservative professional image any more than a subdued design will work for a hip brand. If your website looks good and the look supports your brand, your brand looks good.

6. Search engine friendly

Your website has no chance to enhance your brand if no one finds it. Most visits to websites — at least most initial visits — originate from the user’s search for information. Be sure that your site is found by optimizing your copy and design for Google and other search engines.

Ask yourself whether your website follows these six guidelines and brings you the results you want. If not, focus on one or more of the guidelines to improve your site. Sometimes small changes will go a long way. Alternatively, consider contacting a Web design professional to give your site a makeover.