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5 Keys to a Great Business Site

by: | March 16, 2012

Let’s be honest, most sites on the web are terrible, and only some can be considered passable. There are few truly great websites. What makes these websites so great? It’s not about who spent the most, or the ones that look the best. Great websites convey information quickly and easily, with navigation and actions that are easy to use.

The less frustrated visitors are and the faster they can find what they’re looking for and be on their way, the better your website is. When you can continue to connect to them long after they’ve left, even better. So how can you ensure your website is great? Here’s a short guide to help you make sure your website is as functional and attractive as possible.

Usability

The most important aspect of any website is that it’s easy to use and navigate. It sounds obvious, but too many people forget this when they’re putting together their business site. Simply putting the content up doesn’t cut it; you need to make the important pages easy to discover and access.
Here are key attributes that make your site rate high in usability: 

  • Intuitive navigation
  • Consistent navigation across all pages
  • Include a homepage link on every page
  • Build a sitemap, especially if your site is large
  • Page titles at the top of every page— remember, the homepage isn’t always the first page users visit
  • A 404 page that gives other options for pages the visitor might have been looking for
  • Easy to read content— ensure there’s enough contrast between the colors of your content and your background
  • Clear, concise calls to action

Goal-oriented Content

Do you know why you have a website? It’s not just because every business has one; you actually need a goal for your visitors. If you’re not sure what that goal is, go back and read my previous post on discovering the goals of your website. Once you know what the goal is, it becomes easier to ensure that your content, calls to action, menus and information serve that goal.

This may be a short section to this article, but it’s an imperative step to making your site truly great.

Aesthetics

People like and respond more positively to pretty things. Customers generally associate a good looking website with trustworthiness. You could have the best content and the greatest product in the world, but if you have a terrible-looking website, your customers could consider your business second rate and not trust that you’ll provide the solutions they need.

If you have access to a designer, utilize him or her. If you have the budget for design services, pay for them. Regardless of your budget, there are a couple of things that can help your website be better looking:

  • Prominently placed logo— the top left is the usual place for it
  • Professional-looking graphics, including calls to action
  • Pleasing color palette
  • Good typography— easy-to-read font, plenty of spacing around the text
  • White space— your readers need a place for their eyes to rest
  • Readable menu that’s differentiated from the rest of the content

Legibility

It’s important, so I’ll ask again: is your content easy to read? Your potential customers want to get information quickly without having to work for it. Legibility of your content goes a long way to delivering your customer to what they need fast. Besides writing your information in a way that’s easy to understand, visitors also need and want to be able to read through it quickly.

Avoid using a ton of industry jargon, and leave plenty of space around the content. Also, choose a color palette that provides a good contrast between your copy and the background color. Red on black, for example, is a terrible idea for legibility.

Hierarchy

Menu

If you have 20+ pages on your website and list all of them in your menu, how will your visitors know which are the important pages? It’s safe to assume that no one is going to bother to read all of them right away to get all of your information immediately. If you have lots of pages, instead of having 10-20 menu options lined up at the top of your site, only list four or five, and use submenus or dropdowns.

Think of it as thought your site was a roadmap. Your visitor is going to go down one road that will lead him or her to intersections with options to travel other roads. Those intersections represent your menus and submenus. When you’re traveling, you’re never presented with 20 roads at once; you’re only presented with a few, so follow this logic to establish the hierarchy of your site.

Content

Most online readers scan pages to get the meat of the content. You have no choice but to cater to how short your audience’s attention span is. Be brief when possible, and use headers to split up long paragraphs of copy. As an example, what’s easier to read, this:

Curabitizzle et diam sheezy nisi fo shizzle mollizzle. Away potenti. Go to hizzle odio. the bizzle. Cras orci. Cras mauris gangsta, pimpin’ you son of a bizzle, feugiat sit ass, shizzle my nizzle crocodizzle bling bling, stuff. Pellentesque gravida. Vestibulizzle fo shizzle my nizzle crocodizzle, volutpat in, tellivizzle sizzle, get down get down sempizzle, velit. Pot izzle ipsizzle. Bling bling dope away ma nizzle yo. Crizzle yippiyo justo izzle purizzle cool ornare. Gizzle venenatizzle da bomb izzle bow wow wow. Nunc fo. Suspendisse yo mamma sheezy lacus. Curabitur eu ante. Shizznit i’m in the shizzle, leo daahng dawg fo shizzle hendrerizzle, ipsizzle felizzle break it down sizzle, ma nizzle pimpin’ magna felizzle uhuh … yih! pede. Shizznit a nisl. Class for sure ghetto boofron litora torquent pimpin’ conubia check it out, check it out inceptos fo shizzle. Black interdizzle, neque hizzle elementizzle nonummy, phat orci fo shizzle leo, things semper risus arcu i’m in the shizzle sizzle.

Or this:

Curabitizzle et diam sheezy
Nisi fo shizzle mollizzle. Away potenti. Go to hizzle odio. the bizzle. Cras orci. Cras mauris gangsta, pimpin’ you son of a bizzle, feugiat sit ass, shizzle my nizzle crocodizzle bling bling, stuff. Pellentesque gravida. Vestibulizzle fo shizzle my nizzle crocodizzle, volutpat in, tellivizzle sizzle, get down get down sempizzle, velit. Pot izzle ipsizzle.

Bling bling dope away ma nizzle yo. 
Crizzle yippiyo justo izzle purizzle cool ornare. Gizzle venenatizzle da bomb izzle bow wow wow. Nunc fo. Suspendisse yo mamma sheezy lacus. Curabitur eu ante. Shizznit i’m in the shizzle, leo daahng dawg fo shizzle hendrerizzle, ipsizzle felizzle break it down sizzle, ma nizzle pimpin’ magna felizzle uhuh … yih! pede. Shizznit a nisl. Class for sure ghetto boofron litora torquent pimpin’ conubia check it out, check it out inceptos fo shizzle. Black interdizzle, neque hizzle elementizzle nonummy, phat orci fo shizzle leo, things semper risus arcu i’m in the shizzle sizzle.

With a little attention and intention, your website can join the ranks of those considered to be great. This isn’t an exhaustive list of essential website attributes, but it represents the important frontward-facing qualities that make a website great and likable in the eyes of your visitors.

Can you think of any key components to building better business sites that I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments!Marketing Zeus

Posted in: B2C, Content, E-Commerce, Engage!, Link Building, Usability

About the Writer:

Born in England and raised in the U.S., Charles Forster is the marketing director and partner at Vine & Grain, a company that creates management technologies for bars and restaurants. Prior to that position, he ran a graphic design company, Call Me Chaz, in Philadelphia, PA and Orlando, FL. He focused on branding, websites, print, video and marketing for small business clients up and down the east coast. He's a self-prescribed car nut and foodie. He's also the curator for This Is Visceral, a site devoted to poster art.

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