1. Beautiful, modern design
As I mentioned, this is where many people stop, but it still needs to be said as there are plenty of outdated sites lost in the catacombs of the interweb that are not doing anyone a favor by their existence. If you set out to design a website, you’ll want to do it with the customer (I can’t bring myself to call them “users,” sorry) in mind. It should attract and engage them. As humans we are all naturally drawn to things that are beautiful; whether it inspires us toward something or just sparks joy within us, we will gravitate toward beauty, either knowingly or unknowingly.
Now, I know some of you may be thinking, “that’s all fine for the small businesses that are selling a product and have to promote their merch (it’s what the cool kids call it) to the consumer in a positive manner in order to engage them, but surely it’s not the case with businesses like…hmmm…a septic and sewer company.”
While it’s true there is likely nothing pretty about pumping sewage from a septic tank, I would say all the more reason for their website to be attractive and engaging—they have nothing going for them at the outset. And with the immense amount of data available at the fingertips of the consumer, what’s to stop them from moving on to the next company in the area? There are likely 10 other companies nearby that provide the same service. As impractical as it is, we’ve all done it—we make a judgement about the business solely based on how their website looks. If it looks outdated, then perhaps the company is outdated. And that’s it, no follow up phone call, no chance to prove that your customer service is better than all the other companies. They’ve moved on.
2. Well-written, intentional content
In the world of marketing, “Content is King.” The same is true of digital marketing—but for even more reasons. The words you use to communicate your message to the consumer may directly impact their buying decision, and additionally, it may directly impact whether your site is even seen by them. The “google minions” favor the relevant content that your audience is seeking. The content on your site should be concise, informative, and rich with specific keywords that your customers will use to find your product or service. If it lacks concision, your audience will get lost in the sea of words; on the other hand, if it lacks valuable information, your audience will become bored and quickly move on to another website to find what they are looking for.
3. An SSL Certificate
Having an SSL certificate installed is essential for protecting your customer’s data and building their trust. SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, which, I know, doesn’t mean a whole lot to most people. The long and short of it is this: an SSL certificate creates a secure connection between a website and the server making it very difficult for cybercriminals to access information. Anytime you put in your credit card information online, you likely look for the little padlock symbol next to URL, or "https" as opposed to "http," indicating that you information is safe—meaning the website contains an SSL certificate.
And it’s not just for e-commerce sites. Even if your website only collects email addresses, consumers want to know their data is secure. Furthermore, instead of a padlock, the browser will indicate that the site is “not secure”, and some will go as far as informing the consumer that, “hackers may be attempting to steal your information.” This will inevitably lead to less visits to your website.
4. Mobile Responsive
Let’s face it, in the world of today the cell phone has become almost an extension of one’s body. Few people rarely leave the house without it, and even in the home it is generally within reaching distance. If your site does not look wonderful on a 5-inch screen, it doesn’t look wonderful at all. For many people, this is the only device they will use to look up a business meaning this may be the only opportunity to make a good impression.
A good mobile site is more than size restructuring; it should have added features like tap-to-call or tap-to-message as well as a map integration that pulls up directions directly from the website—because nobody wants to copy and paste your address or type your number in their phone—they just don’t. So, do your customers a favor and ensure that your site is both pretty and functional on that small device we call a cell phone.
5. Easy Navigation
And finally, for content to be useful, it needs to be accessible and organized in such a way that the customer inherently knows how to find what he or she is looking for. The navigation bar at the top should also be at the bottom of the page and should consist of main pages and subpages or drop-down menus if the site has more than 5 to 7 pages. Example: If you provide several services, you could have an Our Services page that briefly lists all your services and have a separate page for each service that contains more information about the individual service (this is best practice for SEO purposes). The individual service pages should then be listed in the navigation bar as a drop-down from the Our Services page. Additionally, they should also have direct links from within the Our Services page itself.
Contact information should be easy to locate and listed throughout the site so that it doesn’t have to be searched for. It’s also a good idea to incorporate your contact information on the footer, which is at the bottom of the page (hence the name, “footer”) so that it is visible from any and every page. If you have a brick and mortar, put a map on the footer so your customers can find you easily.
One final thought on navigation: many consumers may only visit the homepage of a site before moving on to something else. Thus, your homepage should contain a concise version of all the important information. The consumer should leave the homepage knowing, at the very least, who your company is, what you offer (products and/or services) and how to contact you.