SEF (Search Engine Friendly)
This one is usually overlooked, but a search engine friendly website allows people to discover you. An SEF website gets more pages indexed in search engines and is more likely to direct organic search engine or keyword driven traffic. Using as many inbound links as you can, will also help people to find you.
The content must be easy to read and easy to publish. If users cannot find the information they need, they will not stay on your site for long. Scheduling the content you publish is also a good idea. Publishing content on a different hour of the day or a different day of the week can make an impact on potential customers, especially when it is synchronised with other social media channels such as an email newsletter, Facebook or Twitter.
The content should be new and fresh so that it encourages people to come back to your site. Google also places high importance on the freshness of a link when determining PageRank and relevance. Make sure to tag your content and relevant articles wherever you can. Classifying and connecting your content is as important as the content itself.
At the end of the day what counts is the purpose of your website, so whether it be a cool flash game or original content make sure that you know what niche you are targeting!
Your website doesn’t have to be glitzy and glamorous but it should be appealing to look at. Many sites have rich content but the 1998 look really doesn’t do them any justice. The layout should make readers want to click on more links rather than look for a different site. Too many images can make it hard for search engines to fully understand what your site is about, but too few can also make it boring. When you use images always tag them properly to help out the search engines.
Your website should also have some structure and conformity, so set out the page elements where the user would expect to see them. Make sure that you have consistency in the colours and scheme. Consistency allows users to easily connect with your website and get a feel for it.
The usability and accessibility of your website is a very important feature as well. Take into consideration how your site would look to someone who suffers from varying degrees of colour blindness. Make sure that elements such as top navigation, side navigation, search and links are all in place and easy to spot. A user-focused site will also take into account a persona-based design whereby the use of the website by current and potential customers is taken into consideration for design recommendations.
The structure itself should be appealing and logical. The header comes first, followed by navigation, followed by content with any side bars or side-navigation, and followed by the footer of the page.
The speed of a website is often overlooked. No one likes to wait forever for a page to load; people will just click back and go to another site. Having a fast website will keep your audience interested.
While it is important to have great and relevant content, it is just as important to provide a space for feedback, comments and a contact section. By providing visitors with an interactive space you can turn them into regular visitors.
Tracking and reporting
Great websites learn from their mistakes. Use tools such as Google Analytics to determine which sections of your website are popular. A great webmaster will try to find out why certain pages are not so popular and fix the problem rather than merely deleting those pages. In fact, don’t delete old pages. Articles which may seem old and irrelevant could come back to life because something which was last year’s big news can be reignited.
(Post by Ivelina Dineva)
(Image by dannysullivan, CC by 2.0, via Flickr)