What makes a good website great in 2022 and beyond?
A website that acts like a long-form business card no longer captures the attention of your ideal customer.
Engaging design and robust technical development are the cornerstones of a good website. But a great website also attracts the right visitors, keeps them there and converts them to customers.
There are many essential aspects to good website development, however, I’ll concentrate on the top three things that will stop your visitors from clicking away within a few seconds. Then I’ll move onto the activities that keep your visitors on your site and make them come back again and again.
When you first land on any website, you’re window shopping. Imagine you’re walking down the main street. An attractive and engaging shop window will make you stop, presenting you with “the blink test”. If you can see what the shop is selling and it interests you, you’ll take the time to appreciate it. In website language, that’s the load time. At this point, chances are you’ll take a quick look around and that’s where well-thought out in-store navigation is essential.
Does your website pass the “blink test”?
Online browsers form an opinion of a website and the business it represents in less than ONE second. In fact, Hubspot research indicates that it’s somewhere between 0.5 and 0.62 seconds – the blink of an eye. This is the reality of our digital world…we’re all fickle.
Most of us process visual information first. If you want your prospect to engage with who you are and what your business can offer them, you’re going to have to get past “the blink test”.
The best way to do this is with good visual design. A website for an accountancy firm will have a different look and feel than a website for an adventure business. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. Just make sure that when your visitor lands on your website, it has a clean layout, engaging visuals and reflects their expectations and your industry.
A professional business website gives you legitimacy in an online world plagued with scams, security issues and false information.
If your website is more than 2 or 3 years old, it might be time for a make-over. If it’s older than five years, it’s probably time for an overhaul.
If your website doesn’t load quickly (within 2-3 seconds), your user will simply press the back button. Load times are dependent on many technical factors including the amount of content on your website, the file sizes of your images, videos and other resources and even your user’s distance from the web host’s server. Fast load times mean that your visitor is more likely to stay and look around.
There’s really nothing technically “simple” about “simple navigation”. But your site navigation should be as simple as possible so people can browse easily and establish that your offering interests them. As websites become larger, ensuring that your visitor can find what they’re looking for easily and quickly has become more complicated. Mapping out your website needs to be a well thought out affair with a keen focus on website functionality and user experience.
At this stage, if your customer is browsing your website easily and feels that they want to delve a little deeper into your business, you’ve done a good job. Now it’s time to turn your good website into a great customer experience.
While marketing activities seem unrelated to the nuts and bolts of building a website, the reality is that in the modern digital age, marketing activities simply don’t work unless they’re underpinned by robust technical development and good design.
Simple and established marketing activities like those listed below will keep your visitor on your site and keep them coming back for more. This translates into a healthy return on investment for your website and ensures that your marketing efforts are not simply an empty business activity.
Blogging is not dead
Blogging is the ideal space where you can differentiate yourself from your competitors, serve your customers and grow your prospects’ trust in you. The good news is that blogging platforms can be integrated into an existing site with relative ease.
Studies show that 70-80% of people research online before they visit or call a small business. While content marketing (including blogging) costs 62% less than outbound marketing (such as advertising or direct sales calls), it generates 3 times more leads. The most effective way to get to the first page of Google is to publish relevant content consistently, as Google reindexes your site every time you publish a blog post. That’s why blogging is not dead.
Hubspot’s “Not Another State of Marketing Report 2022” indicates that 60% of people read blogs. But why are they reading? They’re not reading about your new hires or how brilliant you are or even how great your product and services are. The top three reasons people read blogs are to learn something, to be entertained and to keep up with the news and trends in their job industry.
Know your customer’s problems and provide solutions. By having a laser focus on your audience’s questions, you’ll drive traffic and promote trust and legitimacy. All this by simply sharing your knowledge and expertise that you have at your fingertips.
An online hub for content creation
Websites epitomise design and creative freedom. Neil Patel calls a website your “connection centre”. I prefer to call it your “interconnection centre”. Simply put, all roads lead to your website. Like most businesses, at a minimum, you probably maintain a Facebook page or a LinkedIn page for your business as well.
The design of social media pages and the format of the content you produce is defined and limited by the platform. It’s hard to set yourself apart from your competitors and not just from a design perspective. They’re the most crowded places on the planet! Most importantly, you don’t own your social media account. It can be deleted and shut down at a moment’s notice. You own your website. It’s your asset where you can articulate your own message with complete control.
All your marketing actions, whether they be social media, advertising, PR, email marketing or any content publishing should draw your audience back to your website where they can spend more time with you and your business offering. It’s the place where the majority of your legitimacy and trust is built and it elevates the service levels you provide to your customer.
If you don’t currently have a blog or you’re redesigning your website, think about setting up a “content hub”. Built on a CMS framework (like WordPress), hubs supercharge the content on your website and provide links to all your resources. They use an effective site structure to host content that website visitors love. Portent provides a simple guide that gives you a more detailed overview and examples of what a content hub might look like for your business.
Content hubs are like magnets for search engine algorithms. They see tons of valuable information presented to visitors in an easily accessible format and they respond by making your website rank higher on search engines.
A hub for lead generation assets
Lead generation is a difficult task. If your business can produce templates, whitepapers, ebooks, e-guides and case studies, you should. Even the smallest business can provide simple checklists and templates to help guide your potential customer through a problem.
You cannot locate these assets on a social media page. They sit on your website and work inline with the content you produce. By providing free resources on key areas of your industry, your visitors see you as an expert in your field. It makes you memorable and builds trust in any business.
For businesses with long sales cycles, this is where the rubber meets the road. You’re slowly converting prospects to customers at low cost with a tool (your website) that is working 24/7.
Speaking plain English: UX writing
Whether you’re writing a blog post, hosting a podcast or sending a social media shout, the language and format you use will need to be friendly / professional, colloquial and easy to understand. That content strategy tends to be focused on leads and conversion goals.
Most small businesses operate in an offline world and use their digital presence to uplift their customer experience. Some businesses take this a step further and use their website as a technical membership site, as an onboarding tool for customers or have developed an app to support their offering to customers.
However, the language and formats used to communicate how to navigate these tools and apps have tended to be cumbersome and overly technical.
Enter UX writing or User Experience writing.
The underlying purpose of UX writing is to explain how to use your technical tool, your membership site or your app in plain language that ensures your customers keep moving through your product or widget so they can see how great it is. Otherwise, they’ll abandon it because they don’t understand it.
UX writers work closely with designers, developers and product managers. They have an eye on marketing but their focus is to reduce the friction between the digital product and the end-user.
While this is not something that will apply to every business, if you’ve developed a digital product or an online portal to elevate your customer’s experience, don’t blow it by expecting them to have a master’s degree in technology to understand how to use it.
Coming full circle: Analytics
It’s time to revisit the core reason why you have your website. It’s to attract visitors, keep them there long enough to build trust and convert them to customers.
Every paragraph, page and post on your website has a purpose and a place within the “interconnection centre”. But how do you know what works and what doesn’t? How do you know what to spend your time and energy on to improve?
You need to use an analytics platform to view your visitor traffic and their actions on your site. Three quarters of businesses have an analytics platform attached to their website. For a lot of small businesses, Google Analytics is a cost-effective solution (it’s free!).
But few small businesses deep dive into their visitors’ behaviour to determine their flow through the site, their traffic sources and where or why they’re leaving.
It takes time and energy to optimise a website for maximum ROI and maximum visitor satisfaction. If you’ve put the time into developing a blog, a content hub, built digital assets and updated your website design to be better than your competitors, take the time to analyse your visitor traffic.
Returning to your world
OK, it’s time to come full circle and return to your world. You live in a world of amazing widgets, beautiful bespoke stores, and professional services businesses.
You don’t live in a world where site structures, show-stopping design and intricate relationships between third-party tools can make or break your website. Trying to design your own one-page website when you’re bootstrapping your way to earning revenue is fine.
Once you get beyond this your website needs to reflect the complexity and brilliance of all that you do. It’s not your job to understand and apply “on-trend” design or robust technical development. But if you’re truly trying to make your website great in 2022 and beyond, you need to develop a website that reflects the interconnectedness of all your business assets.
Interconnectedness creates complexity. When complexity fails, so does your online presence and with it the trust and legitimacy that you have worked so hard to build.
A well-designed website plays like an orchestra. People will pay attention. A badly-designed website that breaks will make your visitor run away and never come back.