Most websites are already a failed project before they are built. This is simply because no one planned for its success before going about building it. But I bet you are smarter than that and would instead plan for success upfront. So lets look at the fundamental components that makes websites successful.
What You Will Learn
- Why beautiful and professional designs are important but not critical to a website's success
- The two critical things your website must have to become successful
Why Beautiful and Professional Designs are Not so Important
Most web professionals will tell you that a beautiful and professional design is a must have for a successful website. But I beg to differ. My opinion is that while a beautiful and professional design is important to a website, it is not critical to its success.
One of the arguments for beauty and professionalism has been that first impression matters. That a poor interface design would drive away potential customers. This arguments may seem sound, but the truth is that a beautiful and professional design can only take you so far. Beautiful and professional designs are not necessary for a website's success.
I can give you a long list of websites that are lacking in 'beauty and professional' designs but are still wildly successful. Their successes are derived from no other than the two essential factors this article is all about.
Number one in this list would be the most popular website in the world, Google. Its search pages are anything but beautiful and professional looking. Yet it still manages to stay ahead of every other site on the Internet.
A few others examples includes Craiglist, Wikipedia, StackExchange, Reddit, and so on. These are among the most visited websites on the net despite having one of the ugliest interfaces you can imagine.
It is important to make this distinction here. This is because most website clients would judge the success of their website project based on the interface alone. For this reason most amateur web developers would focus most on this aspect of the website. They would neglect other more important areas. After all that's what most clients would focus on to judge the success of the project. So as long as their clients are 'impressed' with their works, they believe they are delivering the best value. As a result, you, the website owner, get left with a website that is destined for failure right from the start without you even knowing it.
More seasoned web developers or agencies know better. They know that there are much more to a website than a pretty interface, even if their clients do not appreciate it at first. As a result they would devote more time and effort on these aspects of the website that is most important. This is even when these are not immediately obvious to the client.
As a potential website owner, you should become better informed of the critical factors that makes a website a success. You should learn to look beyond the visual interface alone. This will put you well above majority of website owners who do not know any better. This will also make you more critical of the website project works delivered to you by any developer.
My point here is that a pretty and professional interface designs are important to a website, but they are NOT critical to its success. There are more fundamental things that makes for a successful website. As a result I am leaving these out of my list of basic things that defines a successful website.
The Two Critical Things That Defines A Successful Website
So what are these two important things that makes a website a success? They are
- Business objectives or goals
- A group of related website characteristics that I call 'fundamental website success components'
I must point out here that having these two things for your website is not a guarantee for success. But they are the necessary first step towards having a successful website project. And both of them are required. Having only one without the other will not do.
Now lets explore what these two things are, and why they are important to your website success.
Business Objectives Or Goals
This point should be evident, but its often under-emphasized. Most times both website clients and their developers assume they understand enough about what they are trying to achieve with a website. And they just jump right ahead into building it. But just like every other undertaking in life you must have a clear goal to have any chance of succeeding. Without a clear goal there will be no clear sense of direction. You must know where you are going to in the first place, so you can know when you get there.
You should not put up a website if you have poor or no idea what you intend to gain with it. The goal doesn't have to be financial or big to qualify as a veritable goal. But whatever it is just be sure that it is thoroughly understood and clearly stated.
The importance of having a clear business goal before creating your website is that, its your goals that should determine the nature of website you should build. It is what determines the website strategy you should adopt.
It will also enable you to articulate your website requirements more clearly to your developer. A website developer would advice you on the kind of website most suitable for your business. But it's your responsibility to describe exactly what you want to achieve with it.
When your goals are clear, it becomes much easier for the developer to build you a website that would enable you realize those goals.
Common goals and strategies for business websites:
This implies direct sales from the website. Examples here are eCommerce websites. You put in place some kind of online payment system to enable you take orders directly from the website. What you sell here could be physical or virtual products/services. For digital goods your customers can download them from your website right after making payment. For physical goods or services you would have some kind of delivery system in place.
Here you promote your products or services on your website. Then you encourage your potential customers to visit your physical location to make purchases. An example type of website here are product catalouge websites. You showcase information about what you offer to potential customer. This enables them make purchasing decisions and then complete the transaction offline.
Information and corporate websites fall under this category. The goal here is to create buzz or awareness about your products, services or organization. Here you don't intend to sell anything over your website. Your sole purpose is to provide relevant information so the right audience can connect with your business. You let your potential customers know about you or what you offer online, and then you interact with them offline.
The goal here is like awareness above, but it goes much deeper. Here you still aim to create awareness for your products, services or brand. But your real goal is to collect contact details from your website visitors. With these information you have the potentials and permission to promote any kind of information you want to them. These include product/services updates or information, discounts, educating materials, business deals and so on.
This is a powerful long-term marketing strategy for a website. It is the most difficult kind of website to create and manage. This is because it involves running a website that is constantly improving and evolving. It involves constant measurement, analysis, decision-making and iterations.
The goal here is to drive registration to your website. This is most suitable for membership and cloud-based products websites. Here, the success of your website is directly related to the number of users you have. As a result you would want to create a website optimized to encourage massive user registrations.
The above are just a few of the common types of website goals/strategy possible. There are many more. The idea here is to sample the kind of website goals and objectives you might want to consider for your business website project.
The Fundamental Website Success Components
A website goals/objectives are what you must establish first before you start building a website. They are the responsibilities of the website owner. The 'fundamental website success components' are what you do during and after the website development process. These are the responsibilities of your website developer or agency. Together they form the foundation upon which the success of any website lies. One without the other will not lead to success, you need both.
So, what are these 'fundamental website success factors'? They are security, performance, search optimization, social media integration, mobile and analytics.
Your website must be protected from unauthorized tampering. A perfect security for a website is not presently possible. But your website's security must be strong enough to withstand at least the average hacking attempts. Trying to achieve any kind of goal with an insecure website is like playing with a live bomb. Sooner or later it will blow up in your face.
Most website developers are clueless when it comes to the issue of web security. So you would do well to hire a developer who understands security.
This is a measure of how fast your website loads. This directly affects the user experience and the usability of your website. A poor user experience would lead to website abandonment as well as kill all hopes of a future return visit. This factor alone could mean the difference between success or failure of your website.
No matter how valuable your website is, if it is frustrating to use, few will stick around long enough to discover those values. The end result would be loss of potential customers and any opportunities for success. So website optimization for speed is a must for any hope of a successful website goal.
Search engine optimization
SEO for short. This is a set of rules or recommendations that can be adopted on your website to improve its chances of ranking high in search results. Popular search engines of interest includes Google, Bing and Yahoo!
This is important to the success of your website because search engines are a major source of traffic. So a good ranking in the search results of major search engines would mean more relevant visitors to your website. This would significantly improve the chances of hitting your website goals or objectives. And this will put your website ahead of that of other similar websites competing for the same goals.
SEO is not about search engines only. It will also lead to improved user experiences of your website and hence more likelihood of success.
Social media integration
This means linking your website with social networking websites. Currently popular social media websites are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Pinterest, etc.
Second to SEO, this is an important means of attracting the right kinds of visitors to your website. As a result it is indispensable to its success. It will also mean an increased exposure of your business to a wider audience than otherwise possible.
Social networks offers a unique means of interacting with potential customers to your business. This would greatly improve your chances of reaching your website goals and ultimately success.
Statistics show that over 70% of Internet users are active on social networks. As a consequence serious online marketers consider social networks a major marketing force. So any list of website success factor would not be complete without social media consideration.
Reports show that the use of mobile devices to access the Internet exceeded that of computers sometime in 2014. This has many implications. One is that any website not built for mobile now is essentially loosing a sizable number of potential visitors. So this translates to a significant lost of revenue or whatever goal you have for your website. And this trend is projected to keep going up well into the future. So your website benefits will keep dwindling as long as you remain unrepentant to the call of mobile.
The influence of mobile on your business website is one factor you cannot afford to ignore right now. Else you risk becoming irrelevant on the web today.
Currently, most business websites are not built for mobile. So having a mobile-friendly website right now would give you a huge advantage.
So if you are thinking of creating a new website today, be sure to make mobile-friendliness a priority.
The importance of web analytics cannot be over-emphasized. Website analytics is defined as the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of web visitors data for the purposes of understanding and improving website usage. It is a website tool used to measure website traffic. It is also used for market research to improve the effectiveness of a website's marketing efforts.
These are important to the success of your website for several reasons. It gives you insight into how your website visitors are interacting with it. It enables you assess the effectiveness of your efforts to improve your website. It empowers you to make better informed decisions as it affects your business goals and objectives.
There are a lot of web analysis tools out there. Some are free while other are not. The most popular, Google Analytics, is free. It offers so much useful basic functionality that many considers it the tool of choice to get started with.
There you have it. The two indispensable components every business website needs to become a successful.
In summary. A beautiful and professional website design is important but not critical to it's success.
The two fundamental critical components for a business website's success are
- Business goals or objectives
- A group of related website characteristics (fundamental website success components). These includes security, performance, search engine optimization, social media integration, mobile-friendliness and web analytics.
Integrate these two things into your next website project and you have just scaled the first huddle. Congratulations! You are on the way to having a successful website for your business.