We design a lot of websites. It’s not the only thing we do, but it’s one of the most common requests we get from clients and potential clients.

People know that having a great website is important to their business. But they’re usually unsure of what that looks like, or how to get there.

As with everything in life, the definition of a “great website” is constantly evolving. A great website in 1997 looks laughably archaic by 2017 standards. Even a website that was last updated in 2010 looks pretty outdated by now. It’s a lot like fashion. One day you’re wearing blue eye shadow and a hemp choker and getting invited to hang out with the popular kids, and the next day you get laughed right out of Pizza Hut for being a double-decker lame-oid chicken sandwich.

So what does a great website look like? When we’re designing brand new websites for our clients, there are a few things we consistently recommend in order to get the most out of your site.

1) Cut the crap. You know how frustrating it is to visit the website of a company and after spending ten minutes on the page, you’re still struggling to figure out what it is exactly that they do? It’s easy to recognize this. Unless you work for that company. While we understand that every single detail about what you do is special and unique and sets you apart for the other companies that do those same things (but you do them better!), your website visitors are really only interested in a few of those things. Figure out what they are, and focus on those. Then get rid of the rest.

2) Your homepage is too complicated. They almost always are. Develop a rock-solid value proposition statement. Develop your homepage around that. That’s all.

3) Talk to people, not businesses. One of the most prolific trends of the last few years is for business communication to take on a more personable, conversational tone. Business-speak, industry jargon and an ultra-professional tone were once the gold-standard in convincing your audience that you were the experts. But (those damn) millennials have changed the game. They want to engage with companies. They develop intense brand loyalty based on a connection with the business, not a lofty perception of expertise.

4) Don’t design your website for Magellan. Think about your navigation from an outsider’s perspective. Don’t try to get too clever with your page names. Make sure there’s always an exit plan if they click on a page they didn’t want. Don’t include pages that people won’t actually look at. Navigation should be simple, clear and consistent. We’re not trying to circumnavigate the globe, here. Just looking for some basic information.

5) Tell me who you are. If you include an About Us page, tell us a story. Too often, those pages are used to feature a bio of the CEO, and nothing else. Use your homepage for the value proposition, and the About Us page for the interesting, compelling story of why you do what you do, what you offer to me, and who can help me with it.

6) Tell me what to do. Should I sign up to start my free trial? Should I call to schedule my event? Should I visit a store to buy something from you? Or start shopping right now on your site? Fill out this form for a quote or call back? Show up at your home and demand a home-cooked meal? Have a clear, visible call to action. Otherwise, what am I on your site for?

7) Your contact us page is important. Like, really important. Don’t bury it in the footer, or at the bottom of another page, or hidden in a side menu. Yup, it’s annoying to field inquiries from people about things they could have learned on your website. It’s not as annoying as losing a ton of customers because your competitors were easier to get in touch with.

8) This world belongs to the smartphones, we just live in it. Make sure your website is responsive and optimized for mobile users. You will look incredibly outdated if you don’t. This is no longer optional (it’s also not difficult with modern development tools).

9) Design and content, sitting in a tree. They go hand in hand. Don’t ruin your content with a cluttered or underwhelming design. Don’t ruin a clean, appealing design with too much content or poorly written content.

Every company is different, like a snowflake, and every website is different, also like a snowflake. But at the end of the day, you want your website to stand out, to achieve a purpose and to engage your audience. As long as you accomplish those things, you’ve created a successful site.

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