Posted on June 27, 2016
If you are about to have a new website created, or even if you currently have a website, you'll need to know what elements it must have. So here nine absolute essentials for any website. If your website is missing any of these, it may be hurting your business by driving prospective customers to your competitors.
This is arguably one of the most important aspects of your website. Nothing else about your website will even be seen if your visitor leaves while waiting for it to come up.
According to one study by the company Akamai, 40 percent of consumers will wait no more than three seconds for a web page to render before abandoning the site. And that was in 2009 – and your visitors aren't any more patient today.
Slow page loading also affects your search engine ranking. Keeping your site load time under the two seconds, as Google recommends, will improve rankings significantly.
You can check the speed of your website for free here.
Your Website Must Be Mobile-Friendly
If I'm sitting on my sofa and want to look up some service online, I'm not getting up off my butt to go to my desktop computer to find it. I'll use my smartphone or tablet. And if I get a site that I have to squint to read or pinch to enlarge the screen, I'm going to lose patience pretty fast. If there's another site – one that was made for smaller screens – I'll go to that one instead.
And so will your visitors if your site is not mobile-friendly.
Responsive Web Design (RWD) is what enables your website to be completely usable on mobile devices. With RWD, your site is built with sections that resize and rearrange in response to the screen size it's viewed on. It's a really cool effect! If you are viewing this page on a desktop browser, go and grab the bottom right corner of the browser and make it narrower by pulling it to the left. You'll get a feel for what RWD is all about.
Your Website's Purpose Must Be Obvious
Your website doesn't have much time to make its point. A man from Mars should to be able to understand what your website is all about in four seconds or less.
A well placed headline should help do just that. And, it should be "above the fold," that is, it should be visible without having to scroll down the page to see it.
It's important to use a good typeface for your website. Google Fonts has many popular choices available, and there is no cost for this. Open Sans, Roboto, or Lato are three good choices.
Your text shouldn't be too big or too small, and the leading (distance between each line) must be correct. There is a tool called the Golden Ratio Typography Calculator that can help optimize your website's typography.
Your text needs to have enough contrast from the background to be readable.
Scannable text is always a good idea - using subheads and bullet points helps your visitor get the general idea without having to read every word.
Your visitors form an opinion about your site in a fraction of a second. In that amount of time they'll decide whether they like your website or not, and if they'll stay or leave. A website with a professional, up-to-date appearance immediately builds trust.
An important factor in appearance is good photography. If you have product images they have to be great, so get rid of those photos you snapped with your phone and hire a professional photographer to make some terrific photos of what you sell.
If you use stock photography, there are many sites with great stock photos that are free, but those tend to be seen repeatedly on different sites and you may be better off spending a few bucks to get some paid images.
A Call-to-Action (CTA)
What do you want your visitor do do? Do you even know? Then how is your visitor supposed to know?
Do you want them to browse your products? Read about your services? Sign up for a mailing list?
A correctly-sized, colorful button with a link to your intent is the thing to use. It will direct visitors, get them to take the action you want them to, improve conversion rates, and help achieve your website's objective.
Your telephone number should be at the top of every page of your website. When the prospective client finally is convinced they want to speak with you, it has to be as easy as possible to do so. Having your email address up there wouldn't hurt either.
Besides, when I want a phone number, my first action is to go to that company's website. Even if I have the number in my contact info. It's just so much faster. Your visitors, clients and prospects will expect the same.
Different clients prefer different ways to contact you. On your contact page, you need to clearly display the phone numbers of the proper contacts at your company, as well as their email addresses.
Also include a contact form that has a minimum of input fields – again, you have to make it easy!
It's reassuring for me to read the comments of others when I am selecting a product or a service. Your visitors will appreciate the feedback of others and it will help build a level of trust.
It is important where you place your testimonials – featuring them prominently will yield best results.
The navigation on your site must be clear and obvious. The upper-right hand corner seems to be the place more most sites put their navigation, so most visitors will expect to find it there. This is good usability.
If your website has deep layers of pages, it would be a good idea to have breadcrumbs so your visitor knows where they are. Breadcrumbs are usually above the page content and look like this – Home » Products » Widgets » Gadgets
The color of your hyperlinks is also important – they must be consistent styled in such a way that they are links. Non-link text should never be the same color as the links as this will create a usability issue by confusing your visitor.
Never underline text that is not a hyperlink – underlined text is universally understood to be a link on a web page.
Hopefully this has will hope you understand the what and why of essential elements of web design. Does your website have all of them? Are there other things that you have on your website that you think are essential? We'd love to hear your thoughts!