Scour the web, and you’ll find all kinds of advice for what to do and what not to do on your website. We often get asked: what do successful websites have in common? This is what we tell our clients:
Think about a time you were out in public, and you needed to do something on your smartphone quickly. An example might be the time you had to find a restaurant and make a reservation fast—which meant you needed to find a restaurant near you, in your price range, that served a specific type of food and got great reviews. Then you had to find and book a reservation time. Another example might be that time you were in Best Buy considering buying a product, but wanted to see if Target or Amazon sold it at a better price. Then you might have purchased that product online via your smartphone while standing in the store.
And you only had 3 minutes to do any of this because your family was in the car waiting for you.
This is how the web works today. People want to know, go, buy and do in the moment. So we turn to our smartphones to search websites, apps, social networks and search engines during these critical micro-moments. If we can’t find or do what we need quickly, we lose patience and move on to another site or app.
With this in mind, the most successful websites have the following in common:
1. Clear, easy, simple navigation. Successful websites make it easy for visitors to find what they’re looking for quickly. They also make it easy for search engines to crawl their pages, categories and tags so that the site can be more easily indexed and returned in visitors’ search results. Consider how your website is organized and how content flows from and links to each other. Consider how well you’re using categories and tags. Consider your site’s search function, how well it works, and when you look in Google Analytics, look at what people search for. Do people find what they’re searching for, or are they leaving your site all together?
2. Mobile first. Because more and more people are using their smartphones to find information and do things while they’re on the go, I’m a believer in designing for mobile first, then desktop. Consider how your mobile website behaves. The first priority is to make sure it loads in 3 seconds or less. Second priority is to make sure it’s crazy easy to navigate, and get people to what they’re looking for quickly. Third priority is to make sure nothing is broken about how people search and “do” on your mobile site (“do” being buy/learn/donate/register/whatever it is you’re asking of them). Fourth priority is to make sure the design is appealing.
3. Lots of new content. Successful websites are frequently adding new content. New content keeps websites updated, and this makes both visitors and search engines happy. Consider your site’s content. Are you adding content frequently (or at least consistently) that gives your visitors tons of value they’d have a hard time finding elsewhere?
4. Clear call to action. Successful websites make it crystal clear to visitors what they want them to do. By eliminating many choices, successful websites stand a better chance of getting visitors to complete one task that is most important. Consider your website’s call to action. Is it clear to visitors what the next logical step is once they land on your site?
5. Clear, simple, consistent message. By the same token, successful websites make their message crystal clear to visitors. It’s simple, easily understood and consistent throughout the site.
6. Optimized images. Successful websites optimize their images. This means that not only are they compressed (large photo files bog down sites and make loading time much slower), but they also contain appropriate ALT text (search engines can’t read photos, but they can read their associated ALT text). In addition, images that are poor quality (for example, cheesy stock photos and low-resolution photos) can make an entire site look poor quality. Images are important.
Having a great website matters. When your audience—your customer—has an immediate want or need, and they turn to their mobile device for answers, they need to find your Christian business or ministry immediately, ready with the information, connections, hope they are trying to find.