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At some point, you’ve probably encountered a poorly-designed website and been frustrated by not being able to find what you’re looking for. But with the number of websites worldwide topping one billion (and growing at one per second) there are more options for dissatisfied users to find their information elsewhere, so the importance of a good website has never been greater.
Website guru Cinthya Goliopoulos, who has worked on website design and development for more than 10 years and is currently leading the launch of Deakin University’s new public-facing website, sums it up well: ‘A good website will ensure users do what you want them to do in a simple and easy manner – whether it be to gather information, buy something, sign up to something or contact you. It’s critical to any business’ success.’
Whether you’ve got your own website for a business or blog, or you’re just a regular website user, here are seven things every great website should have to hit the mark.
Too often, content on websites comes from what owners think should be included without considering who they are talking to. A great website understands who its audience is, what it wants to know and how it wants to be communicated with. ‘Designing a website, its features and its content with an audience focus will result in better user experience and a more successful product overall,’ says Ms Goliopoulos. ‘To be effective, you must use language that transcends your own perspective and consider the needs and interests of your customers. This will help you focus your message, making you more likely to achieve business objectives.’
It seems simple – make sure your website visitors can find what they’re looking for. But many website developers get this wrong. A good user experience enables visitors to obtain the information they want in the quickest and easiest way possible. ‘To design a solid navigation structure for a website, you need to understand what your primary audiences are looking for,’ says Ms Goliopoulos. ‘The more contextual the information is, the easier it will be for users to find. Navigation needs to be simple and consistent throughout the site. Try to make decision making simple for your audiences.’
Human beings have short attention spans and if they have to read too much on a website, they’re likely to get bored and leave. Keep text short, uncomplicated and to the point, and consider ways to make the text more enticing to read at a glance. ‘Research shows that people tend to skim read online, so bullet points, sub headings and short paragraphs are an effective way to communicate your message,’ says Ms Goliopoulos. ‘Where possible, infographics and iconography are great for simplifying and visualising decisions and outcomes.’
'Designing a website, its features and its content with an audience focus will result in better user experience and a more successful product overall.'
If your website looks dated or boring, your business will appear that way. First impressions count and there is an increasing focus on websites providing a memorable visual experience for users. ‘A great website is highly interactive, immersing the user into a visual and engaging rich-media experience,’ says Ms Goliopoulos. ‘There needs to be consistency of typography, imagery and colour palette.’ She adds that consistent visual cues, navigational aids and pages that follow a narrative are also integral to a visually appealing website.
If people want to contact you, your website is probably where they will look first. So it’s important to ensure your contact details are clear. Ms Goliopoulos says it’s a good idea to provide multiple contact methods so users can choose how they get in touch with you. ‘Depending on the area of the site and where the user is on their journey, multiple contact methods should be offered. Phone numbers, email, contact us forms and live chat all have a place on a website. The goal is to catch the user at the moment of decision making or enquiry and to channel that enquiry in the most targeted and effective way possible.’
You might have the best website going around but it’s useless if no one knows about it. Implementing basic SEO principles will make it easier for people to find your website and give it a higher ranking by search engines. Ms Goliopoulos advises: ‘Ensure editorial content (e.g. headings and body copy) are textual, not in image form; create one page per topic wherever possible; ensure the main (H1) header reflects your page topic; fix broken links; avoid spelling and grammatical errors; ensure content is as original as possible; and use keywords throughout the text but use them wisely, not widely.’
With the boom in mobile devices like laptops, smartphones and tablets, we’re no longer relying on desktops to browse the internet. A good website must respond, giving audiences a seamless and intelligent experience across devices. ‘There are different ways to achieve this, including responsive design or adaptive design,’ says Ms Goliopoulos. ‘The idea of “mobile first” is an approach to tackling the challenge of designing a responsive website, dealing with the smallest screens first. This helps focus on the information that is critical. As the screen real estate expands, content and features can be added progressively.’
Deakin University is launching its new public-facing website in May 2016.
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