While modern websites are increasingly sophisticated, it is important not to lose focus on the fundamental elements that make them successful. In this post, we are going to go back to basics to look at the features that can be so easily overlooked but which are essential for all websites.
When a website’s spelling, punctuation and grammar are poor, it immediately raises suspicion. The expectation is that a professional business would present content that is well-written and accurate. Badly written, inaccurate language gives a negative impression and reduces trust in the company. If it cannot write accurately, what faith can customers have that it can carry out its services effectively? Some may even wonder if the website belongs to a legitimate business: after all, the easiest way to spot a scam email is to spot the English mistakes.
With tools like Grammarly freely available and software like Word having built-in editor features (which have improved a great deal recently), most website owners should be able to eradicate spelling, punctuation and grammar errors in their content so that they present themselves in a professional and trustable way.
Successful websites make it easy for visitors to find the information they are looking for. However, as sites become bigger and more complicated, maintaining simple navigation can become more challenging. The key to success starts not with creating good menus, but in organising content effectively into clearly defined and well-labelled categories. Only once this is established should the menu be created.
Menus, whether in the header, sidebar or footer, need to be as simple as possible, easy to use and with everything clearly signposted. For more complex websites, especially eCommerce sites, search bars should also be installed so that users have an alternative way to find exactly what they are seeking.
Another important element to great navigation is the number of clicks people need to do to land on the page they are looking for. The fewer clicks, the better, as the more clicks required, the more people will abandon a website.
Images play several roles on a website. They can make your site attractive, present your business in a professional way, provide a portfolio of your past work and show visitors the products you are selling. Poor quality images don’t do a great job at any of these and can result in site abandonment and loss of business.
Great stock images can be found on sites like Shutterstock, while manufacturers of retail products will often provide professional product photos. If you shoot your own, take the time to make sure they look good or, even better, get them professionally taken. Once you have good images, make sure they are accurately sized on your website so that they don’t appear blurred or pixelated.
It’s also a good idea to curate the images so that they work in harmony with the website’s design and the content which they illustrate.
Modern customers are increasingly hesitant about buying a new product or shopping with a new business as they are unsure what they are going to get. While you can wax lyrical about how great your products or services are, visitors won’t take your marketing spin at face value. The best way to put their minds at rest and give them the confidence to buy is to provide independent evidence from other customers. For this reason, reviews and ratings of your business and of your products are essential. Over 80% of online shoppers now make use of them and companies that don’t have reviews often miss out.
Customers need reassurance that you are a genuine business and that, if an issue arises, they can easily reach you. For this reason, every website should, as a basic minimum, provide details such as their registered name, address, telephone number, email address and, if applicable, their company registration and VAT numbers. This way, they know you have a physical location and how to get in touch. Importantly, trust is generated because you are being transparent about these things. Some companies don’t share these details, so those that do are trusted more.
For enhanced trustworthiness, make sure you have an SSL certificate so that when visitors land on your website, their browser displays the padlock icon that tells them your website is secure.
Speed and reliability
What today’s internet users expect is that websites are always online when they search for them and that they load and respond swiftly. When this doesn’t happen, visitors abandon sites, often never to return. These sites can also be downranked by search engines so that they don’t appear as high in search results, leading to even fewer visitors.
Site speed and reliability are dependent upon the quality of your web hosting. It is important that you choose a reliable host that offers uptime guarantees and that the hosting type (e.g., shared, VPS, dedicated server or cloud) is right for your website and its traffic. With the right host and plan in place, you can be assured of a site that stays online and always loads quickly, regardless of how many visitors you have.
While there are many new and exciting features you can add to your website, you need the important building blocks in place first. These are accurately written content, easy navigation, great images, social proof, trustworthiness and fast and reliable hosting. With these in place, you are already on your way to providing the great customer experiences today’s visitors expect.
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