The question keeps looming on webmaster forums all over the world – What makes a great website? The answer, according to common ‘web’ sense (which is, unfortunately, not so common on the Internet) is presented here. It’s based on tips from the experience of webmasters, who have created highly popular web pages and seen the Internet grow over the years, right from its birth. Once the answer to this question used to be very simple – ‘Good and Original Content’. Even today, in Web 2.0 times, that remains the gist of the answer, but many more things need to be done and incorporated into your web pages, to make it popular. There are no absolutes on the web. It is an ever-changing and dynamic medium, which keeps on evolving but there are certain guidelines, which will remain the same, even in the future. Let us look at the key elements of a good website.
Elements of Good Website Design
Here are the qualities that describe the anatomy of a great website. These tips have been garnered from my own understanding and from many wise webmaster souls, who have gladly shared their wisdom with me. Read and gather what you can.
Original and Trustworthy Content
Original content is the soul of a good website. Website content development is the single most important task you must focus on. You need to offer something new or original, if you want people to visit your site. Internet is a sea of data, information, and opinions. People come to the Internet for various reasons and a primary one is information.
So, if you offer the viewers, ready and credible information or specialized knowledge of any kind, they are going to visit your site and also probably bookmark it, to come back later. If your information is specialized and detailed, there is more probability of search engines taking notice of your site. The content should be well presented and the quality of your articles should be good. Bad grammar and typos are big turnoffs. Updating information and content is also very important. Users like to have up-to-date information. The bottom line is- ‘Original Content is the King!‘ Original and regularly updated specialized content, makes a great website.
Decide A Target Audience For Your Site
Before even beginning the website design, decide who your target audience or viewers are. That will help you in creating and presenting your content accordingly. If you give what your target users want and make it presentable, the likelihood of getting viewers, will definitely increase. Create your own ‘Specialized Niche’ in the Internet landscape and your site will thrive. See the demand in the market and fulfill it.
Let Your Content be Browser Independent
If you stick to standard HTML code, your site will have uniform appearance in all web browsers. If you use HTML features provided by any specific browser, chances are that your site will not look good in other browsers. So make your site browser independent. With the advent of 3G technology, Internet surfing on mobile phones is a reality. You need to design a site, which can be easily viewed even on a mobile phone browser. Test your site on various browsers and especially Lynx, before making it live.
Minimal Loading Time
An extended loading time is a big turnoff for most users. Your site will be viewed by many around the world, who have varying Internet bandwidths. Design your site in such a way, that it takes minimum loading time. Users prefer fast-loading sites.
A Catchy Domain Name
Register for a domain name, which is catchy and easy to remember. Let it be short and be such that it captures the idea behind your site. Think big when you are designing your site. Who knows? One day the domain name may become a brand.
Interlinking Among Pages is Important
More the interlinking between pages on your site, and linking from other sites to your pages, more is the possibility of your web page getting ranked on the first page of the Google search engine and other ones.
Use Minimal Graphics
The web crawlers make search engine submissions of your site, for indexing them in their database. The crawlers that visit your site, once in a while, with the purpose of indexing, give more importance to the text, than the graphics. High usage of graphics prolongs the loading time of pages.
Have a Site Map and Internal Search Facility
Organize your site well and let there be a site map, which helps the user to get an outline of all the available information. When the data on your site in enormous, it’s a good idea to have a search facility to look for specific content.
User-Friendly, Interactive, and Easily Navigable
The site should have a pleasing graphic feel. Take care that you choose colors, which are not too harsh on the eyes. Let the webpage design and access features be user-friendly and most importantly, simple. A user must be able to navigate easily from one page of a site to the other. Users like an interactive environment on the site. Let there be a facility for commenting on articles and other features that get the user involved in the site.
Use a Secure Server and Analyze Your Traffic
Use a secure web server, with a capacity to handle large traffic on your site. Let the site design have room for expansion, in the future. Make sure that you make a backup of all your site data. Do not compromise your site’s security for low-cost web hosting. Take no chances in making your site secure, from crackers. Obtain and analyze the web traffic to your site, taking help from sites that offer web analytics. Think about strategies that can increase website traffic and make the necessary programmatic changes in your site.
Place Advertisements Sparingly
Internet advertising has provided many people, with an extra source of income, from sites. Everyone wants revenue from their web pages and placing advertisements is essential but take care that the advertisements are not the only things on your site. Let the ads be relevant and be subtly placed around the content. The advertisements should be around the content and not the other way round.
Search Engine Optimization
The last but the most important and often underestimated part is search engine optimization (SEO). Even if your site is extremely good, if search engines do not take a notice of it and it does not get a ranking in search results, it is of no use.
Search engine optimization is a bunch of intricate techniques that help in making your content more visible to search engines (read Google) and help in getting a good ranking in search results. It also includes marketing of your site, so that it reaches a wider audience. Study and follow these optimization techniques, without compromising in any way, on the quality of your content. Refer Google webmaster guidelines for the same.
A combination of all the factors implemented here, will lead to a good website. Even if you include all these factors in your site, bringing in traffic and getting hits will take time. Understand how Internet search engines work and apply the knowledge to improve your site ranking. Keep putting in good content. Have faith and a lot of patience.