What Makes a Great Website

I was thinking here this evening about a post that would lay-it-all-on-the-table, that would speak to both devs, and non-devs, both creators of websites, and those about to possibly go through the process of developing a new website, about what I’ve learned in my 15 years in this industry… and I think “what makes a great website” is that post.

This is not necessarily a best-practices post. For that see anything else online.

No, this is something different. It is about what it TAKES to create a great website. And, it’s one simple, thing – one tiny answer, and it’s something I’ve struggled with for years, personally as well as with dozens upon dozens of people to cultivate, cajole, and communicate – detail.

A great website requires DETAIL.

That’s it.

The forms that take, as the name implies, are always unique. The time it takes, as the name implies, is always long(er). And, the results and impact that can have on any business – is always profound.

Web design, and now more recently a few other forms of development (app development) is very unique in that the medium influences the market. What I mean by that is the way a site is coded, influences how many others will see it. If we code a website to be “search engine friendly,” if we account for the keywords that both make sense – and are searched for by that end-companies’ audience, it will be seen. If we don’t – it won’t. It’s simple.

But, it’s not.

And I have a feeling that this will only grow – see my post about search engine optimization – see Neil Patel’s post on Internet marketing. I’ve said it before, and will say it again, in our industry the medium influences distribution. Unlike a magazine, where distribution is negotiated ahead of time – where the racks, and shelves, and areas the magazine appear HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THE PRODUCTION OF THE MAGAZINE ITSELF – websites (and now apps) DO. In that – search engines are that rack. They are how 90%+ of people find and buy the things they want to find… and buy. So catering to Google, and Bing, and the handful of other search engines out there is important.

But, we’re only talking about a small part of the process.

So, far I’ve only been reciting what I’ve been saying for the last 5+ years. You want more business? Then you need a website, because search engines are how people make buying decisions, and to do that you need a developer that understands search engines.

But many times they don’t.

They don’t care. Even at Atilus cultivating this has been difficult. I think we finally made a breakthrough about 7 years ago when our lead developer started a side business with his partner and we worked as a team to show him how the site he developed could influence its ability to provide an income for his new family. And, for a time, it did. But it took work.

And code is only part of the answer. In addition to detail in coding what else does it take?

What makes a great website? Detail – in design.

I think design is best described in context. For the intended audience, is this thing “attractive,” “does this thing make sense,” “does this thing speak to me?”

A great website will do this. A great web designer will ask themselves these questions – regardless of whether the company had the budget to do user stories. A great design is minorly selfish – includes only the most modest nods to the designer that developed it – and instead worries about the client – their needs, desires, and wants – and marries them – sometimes aggressively with the needs of the audience.

What makes a great website? Detail – in copy (content writing).

See there… see that I’ve now repeated “what makes a great website” multiple times, and then I went on to say “copy” and then re-adjust my wording as “content writing?” That’s what it takes. My mind over the years has adapted to the needs of this medium, to the needs of our audience, and our clients’ audience – where I inherently write a post, and edit it, based on what I think (and then research) the topics of interest to our audience – as well as the keywords they might search, and I would argue this is what a great website takes.

Copy is important.

But, as I explained above, copy-alone, is like a tree-falling in a forest without anyone to listen. It makes a noise, but it’s pointless without great design and usability.

Hosting… More Detail.

Hosting is important, and has become more important as Google and the other search engines have erred on the side of usability Sites that are stable, and fast-loading are rewarded with higher ranking. A design and development company that understands hosting is essential to a successful project. Understanding hosting is one of the most mis-understood aspects of web development, but often one of the most important.

What makes a great website? Detail – in usability.

Usability is both the trickiest to define, and the easiest to spot. Can you “use the thing?” This is almost the culmination of everything. Can you use the website you’re on? Can you find the page you’re looking for? Does it load correctly, promptly, in your particular browser, etc. if not it means we as devs have failed you – and you’re either missing out on business (if you’re a business) or you’re moving on – if you’re a visitor.

You Business Details

Finally, what makes a great website (or maybe it’s more appropriate to file this under Internet marketing – or even general marketing) – detail in your business. The other day a client with an excellent track record messed up. One of their 15 employees ordered something incorrectly and it led to delays for a customer project. Said customer got on Yelp and decided to let their frustrations fly. Since reviews are few and far between – it now looks like they have a terrible reputation and overall rating online.

They have thousands of happy customers.

This one bad situation might have hurt for years to come if it isn’t rectified. They solved the problem, went overboard to provide an even better experience for the customer – and the customer updated his review.

What’s the point of all of this? With one of Google’s latest and largest updates, they made it clear they’re looking to review sites, including the 50+ or so we monitor and update as a part of our Local SEO service, for helping them determine rank. In addition they’re giving these services preference. So when someone searches for your industry, your company, etc. they’re going to both see your reviews, you may actually compete or be outranked by these services, and these reviews will influence how well you do.

Long story short, your customers have more power than ever to harm or help your business. You have more power than ever to – in the real world, in the real day-to-day of operating your business – improve your internet marketing. Just be great. Just be kind. Just do your job well and treat your customers, clients, etc. phenomenally and provide a great product or service.

So what does a great website and Internet marketing take?

Detail.

(and a little bit of Monica Bellucci)

Kristen Bachmeier
Kristen Bachmeier
Kristen Bachmeier is Atilus' Director of Operations and helps to oversee all client accounts and day-to-day operations. Additionally, Kristen has worked in digital marketing for 5+ years and has helped create digital marketing plans for hundreds of clients.

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