What makes a good website?

Companies and/or people seeking a website usually fall into two categories. The first is concerned with having a website for an online presence when searched for by name; the second is concerned with being found using more abstract terms that relate to their pursuits. Regardless of the intent behind a website, there are a few rules that every website must follow to be useful. The website business is inundated with companies that offer quick templates and simplified tools aimed at decreasing the amount of knowledge required to create a website. Some of these tools are great and offer reasonable quality and excellent value; however, these tools and services typically do not address the four tenants of a great website.

What makes a great website?

Google Basic Principles are a great place to start when considering what to expect a well-designed website. The keystone of any great website ultimately comes down to:

  1. How quickly it responds to user interaction
  2. How native the website appears on the device it is viewed on (of which there are hundreds now)
  3. Having excellent uptime (99.99% or higher)
  4. Well written and useful content that is updated regularly

We all know that people are impatient when websites load slowly. In fact, there has been research to determine the thresholds at which people disengage and become disenchanted with a task. For websites, the magic number is between 50 - 100 milliseconds, but can permissible up about two seconds, depending on how eager someone is to read or view content on your website. Anything above 7-10 seconds will almost guarantee your viewer/customer will look elsewhere. To achieve these important response times, your website must have a strong technical foundation.

What is a Strong Technical Foundation?

  1. Mobile friendly, multi-device responsive design
  2. Properly structured HTML
  3. Properly referenced tags for search engines and robots
  4. Optimized and compressed multimedia
  5. SSL/TLS Encryption
  6. Human readable URLs that are descriptive
  7. Up to date sitemap
  8. Directory services that maintain accurate information unanimously

The single most important decision a website designer can make in 2018 – yes, the singular decision – is to have a responsive multi-device website. According to Google, over 70% of user-agents (your browser that your device runs) originate from smartphones, tablets, and non-desktop devices. Websites that have not been updated in several years will still load on smartphones and may even do so quickly due to a well optimized site; however, they often load miniscule text, have unclickable links with our meaty fingertips, and require you to scroll or swipe around the page to find material.

Properly structured code that is easy and fast to load is important. Web browsers like Google Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, or Opera must download, render, and display the data sent by the webserver. There are established standards that your website will be ranked against, regardless of its content. Google published an excellent tool that can help identify how well a website functions from a technical stand point at https://testmysite.thinkwithgoogle.com/.

If you read multiple articles from us, you may pick up on a common thread in much of our material: the importance of encryption. You will find that we are not alone in this pursuit, as Google (and other search engines) give better rankings to websites with SSL/TLS – “the green lock” – because they are more secure, typically more genuine, and promote best practice. Regardless of the stance that a search engine may take, SSL/TLS encryption is critical to ensure that a website is sent from the webserver without the opportunity for tampering by a third party. It is also a mandatory requirement for websites that collect sensitive information, such as financial, medical, proprietary, or other information that is intended for specific eyes only.

Website owners that want to be found online easily (which should be every website owner?) need to be concerned with how other websites display and offer information about their website and/or business. Multi-million-dollar businesses, known as directories, maintain information about your business that is disseminated across the Internet to help search engines and users find your website. If this information is incorrect or partially inaccurate, this harms your chances at being viewed as a legitimate website on search engines. It is imperative that this information is unanimously correct across all directories to create a single point of truth for search engines to find. Whatever a marketing company may tell or sell you, this typically comes down to boring, monotonous, and manual entry and re-entry into these directories.

It is also wise to view websites as a living document that breathes, evolves, and changes over time. This does not necessitate massive and frequent redesigns (and is infact discouraged because you will infuriate your viewers), but requires consistent careful management and experienced attention. Much like a campfire, which just about anyone can build, websites need strong bases that allow viewers to get to the content easily so that they are informed, equally passionate (or at least interested in yours), and have the ability to make bright decisions.

We (Beyond the Geek, based in Katy TX) are pleased to offer services to help make your website, make it great, and help you achieve your goals. Regardless of its goal, a website is an always-on advertisement for you and/or your business that is a requirement in the digital age. If you would like to learn more about the topic or the services that Beyond the Geek offers, please reach out to us any time. You may wish to read more on techniques and suggestions for websites, or have a conversation with us. We are eager to discuss how we can help you, your business, or your community!