Success does not happen by accident, it comes from hard work, knowledge, insight and experimentation. In the case of websites there are almost a billion websites live (866k) in July 2014, the billion mark will probably be reached by the 4nd of 2014. This is from the first site, being put up by Tim Berners-Lee in August 1991.
This is a pretty useful universe from which to draw lessons, and we have learnt a lot about what works and what does not.
- Content that is Interesting and engaging and targeted for a specific group of people will attract their attention, rather than content that is more general in nature .
- Attractive, eye-catching design is essential. Humans are visual animals, design is fundamental to attracting and keeping attention. The more research we do in this area, the more we understand the basic rules, and they are rules that have applied from the dawn of human development. Disregard them at your peril.
- Simplicity. Also essential is a design that enables visitors to find the stuff they are looking for simply and quickly.
- Speed. Low loading speed is penalised by search engines, but more importantly, is penalised by casual viewers, who simply move on.
- SEO. At least basic search engine optimisation is both easy and essential, if you have a great site that cannot be found, nobody wins.
- Competitive. With almost a billion sites, the web is a competitive environment, and you need to be distinctive amongst your competitors. If you are selling machine tools, you need to look like you are the expert in machine tools, not real estate or life insurance, and the relative merits of your site to those of your competitors are important.
- Be there to help, rather than overtly flogging something. Your website is the front door to your business, make sure it invites people in, rather acting like a tout in a sideshow, and alienating almost all who pass.
What does not work, in a word, lots. Complicated, messy, poorly targeted, overtly sales driven sites that lack humanity. Just trawl through the sites of most of our federal governments agencies and departments to see some great examples of what not to do, while trying to be all things to all people. The easiest way to construct a list of “no no’s” is to do the opposite of the list above.
If you follow these simple guides, at least you will be on the right road.