What makes a good website?
The definition of what makes a good website depends partly on its purpose. A personal page, a company's website, and a school site all need to meet very different characteristics to be considered of quality.
This is not an exact science - the web world is full of myths and theories - we are just giving our opinion based on our experience as web designers and optimisers for over 7 years.
There are, however, 10 elements on what constitutes a good website.
1. Domain Name
A good website is usually one that people can remember off the top of their head. A complicated domain name containing too many hyphens like your-name-business-type-area.com will not be remembered has good as yourname.com.
We recommend using a .com or .co.uk domain extension and even .net, .info and .org - There are other extensions like .uk.com but then you are starting to complicate the name again.
If you want UK traffic then it always better to be have your website hosted on a UK Server. We use Curtis Consulting's UK WEB Hosting for most of our clients.
We strongly suggest that hosting a commercial website on free web space offered by your ISP does not convey the best image - which would you use www.greatbuilders.co.uk or smallbuilders.freewebspace.com
3. Design - Overall Look
Simplicity is key to a good website and there is nothing worse than lots of unnecessary graphics and lots of bright colours. Many an amateur website is stuffed full of music, animated gifs, scrolling text and mis matched colours for that 'jackson pollack' look. Moving cursors and cute cartoon characters are out of place on a business page.
Use graphics sparingly, colours that work with each other (no more than 2 or 3 main colours but tones of these is okay) and if you want to use music or animation then be careful as they can also be a sign of an amateur website.
You only have seconds to make a good impression on your web visitors. What happens if you don't make a good impression - they click away and that could have been a sale.
4. Design - Images cover Graphics and Photographs
Use graphics,images and photographs sparingly to convey information - use graphics for graphics and text for text, not graphic text - which can't be read by Search Engines.
Images can theme your site with logos, sales banners, offers, animation and product images. Photographs can help a website but bad quality photos can portray the wrong image.
Provide text alternatives to graphics for low-bandwidth users, the blind, and for speed. ALTernate text tags or ALT Tags for images should be functional, not descriptive. If the graphic has no function, use ALT="" (i.e., <IMG SRC="images/imagename.jpg" ALT="">). These are commonly used as part of website optimisation.
5. Design - Text and CSS styling
Use graphics sparingly to convey information - use graphics for graphics and text for text, not graphic text - which can't be read by Search Engines.
Make your pages as easy to read as possible. Black or dark text on a white background is always the easiest to read. Pale text on a busy background will get lost and the site visitor will give up and click to another site.
With CSS you can do alot of elements that give a graphical look but uses CSS styles to create rollover navigation and much more leading to a far more spiderable website.
6. Credible and Original Content
Content is King - No matter what the purpose of the site, information contained in it should be useful to the visitors. If the material is outdated, poorly edited, or incomplete, readers will feel cheated and will most likely look for an alternative source of information next time they are reading about the topic.
Original content is the most important trait of a great Web site and sites containing information that's useful to the user stand out and will be revisited.
Web sites should be updated regularly. Stale Web sites say "been there, done that." For the information to be valuable it should be well-edited. For external links include only the best sites with concise descriptions. For internal content be like a magazine editor, don't rush to publish mediocre or incomplete articles. Typos are unacceptable
7. Page Titles and Meta Tags
All sites should have relevant Page Titles, meta descriptions and meta keywords although less emphasis is put on keywords by some of the major search engines. These give search engines and site visitors signs that they are on the right course to fulfil their search goals.
For an example of failing to put in a page title - type Untitled Document into Google and see the millions of results
8. Accessibility and Usability
Ensuring that your website is easy to use and accessible by all visitors – including visitors browsing on mobile devices and visitors with disabilities – is not just important for sales. It is a legal requirement. The disability discrimination act requires all business owners to ensure that their website is accessible to all, regardless of disability. An accessible and usable website will always convert more users and produce more online sales than one which is hard to use or inaccessible.
Websites should also aim to be W3C compliant using correct html and css code which will also lead to your site being seen correctly in all browsers.
Be interactive; good interactivity engages the user and makes your site memorable.
After original content, the second most important trait a Web site should have is interactivity. The Web is an interactive hypermedia communications medium that your Web site should reflect. Sites that involve the user and have a sense of fun or adventure will get more hits, and can charge more for ad space.
Another advantage of interactivity is self-generating content. By allowing your visitors to interact with your site they actually create content for you. Script-driven user surveys and forums allow visitors to share information with others and can help shape your site to better serve their needs. Forum or chat software is a great way to do this.
10. Fill a niche
Dominate a subject area; become the authoritative site for that subject. Original content is important. Users may come to your site once, but to keep them coming back you've got to have fresh original content.
Don't duplicate a list when you can point to it. Leverage other people's work to reduce your workload. Let others who specialize in a particular topic keep their list up to date for you. On the other hand, don't make lists that point to lists ad infinitum, seek out the meat of the site and point directly to the article or resource. Many sites on the Web are just lists that someone else has already done.
The Web is an interactive, dynamic, and rapidly changing new communications medium that your Web site should reflect. Well-organized, edited, and timely original content set in an attractive, interactive, and consistent format are some traits of great Web sites.