The Applecado blog
Ten Things Every Website Should Have
Whether you’re starting from scratch with a brand new venture, or redesigning and developing an existing website, there are some important things every site must have.
There are probably a few more things to add to your list that are relevant to your industry, but for now – here’s our list of the top 10 things we think all sites need.
1. Clear, consistent navigation
This one is crucial, organising your sitemap is probably the first important step when planning a new website.
You should start with your content; what content do you or will you have to share? You can group similar content or topics together, you’ll need to try and strike a balance here. Don’t try to cram too much onto one page to make every bit of information available within that ‘2 clicks rule’ - you’ll run the risk of diluting your content, making topics hard to find from navigation alone, and putting up a wall of text will put off some of your audience.
You can use intuitive subnavigation, think about what your readers or customers are looking for and consider a hierarchy to present your pages.
Your pages should be named clearly, don’t make your readers guess where to find the information they want. As much as it is tempting to use clever names for areas on your website, going with convention will do you favours because it’s easier for people to understand what they’re looking at.
When designing and building the site, bear in mind that visitors don’t just arrive at your site on the homepage, your reader should be able to land on any page and understand where they are on your site and where to go next. Breadcrumbs can help with this, clearly defining pages or areas on the menu will also help people understand where they are in relation to other areas.
We always link the site’s logo to the homepage, another convention, but something like 50% of web users expected the logo to redirect them to the site’s homepage if clicked. It’s something that can reassure your readers that it’s worth staying on your site if they can find their way around easily, according to NNGroup, “Going back to the homepage is a common task. People often go to the homepage when they’re disoriented, they have gone too deep into a site, or they’re ready to start a new task.”
This is slightly related to number 1, so we’re adding a sitemap as another important thing to add to your website build.
An XML sitemap is important for search engines optimisation. Most search engines are extremely complex, they are able to crawl a site quickly and determine the content and structure if it is well linked and clearly labelled, however adding a sitemap will most likely be a benefit and not disadvantageous to your search engine results. In addition, an XML sitemap will effectively keep a log of when content was published which can help with content duplication or ownership.
HTML sitemaps can be helpful to your (human) readers if you’re managing a site with lots of pages and information to display, however, it’s not strictly necessary to all sites and a brochure site with few pages should be fine with a clearly presented navigation.
3. Call to Action
All sites need a call to action, whether your website is used for eCommerce, lead generation or sharing information.
While you may have more than one call to action, your preferred or most important goal for your visitors should be given a strong priority. Any call to action should clearly labelled, it’s important to use common language on your call to action and using verbs or see higher conversion rates too – we try to avoid using buttons or links labelled ‘go’ or ‘here’ for example, and prefer to replace them with concise and clear action inspiring labels like ‘join now’, ‘book now’ or ‘show me my results’. These examples help encourage someone to take action immediately, and add a feeling of personalisation as well.
4. Contact Information
Now this may seem like a no-brainer but it’s essential. If you’re a restaurant and you’ve not added your address and phone number, how will your customers a) know where you are and b) know who to call to book?
Some companies don’t make it easy to phone them. They’ll direct you to FAQ pages, a live chat with a bot or email addresses before they give you a number. As a consumer this can be infuriating, so consider your user experience, in addition, including contact details and an address will add to your perceived legitimacy or trustworthiness.
Mobile traffic has increased overwhelmingly over the last few years, make sure your phone numbers and contact email addresses are linked correctly so they can be used quickly and don’t rely on the reader copying and pasting.
There is a good argument for including an email address and a contact form on your contact page. For a start, some people prefer to use an online form while others will prefer to email an address instead. However, not everyone is on their own computer/device or have an email client installed. For these people, providing a contact form is really helpful.
If you’re worried about bots inundating your contact form with spam messages, use a honeypot or similar Captcha methods.
5. Responsive Design
The importance of responsive design will vary between industries and companies, we see large variations between the percentages of different devices used to access our clients’ sites. Take a look at your analytics to see the devices that people use to get to your site. Whether or not you have a bias towards mobile use, a responsive site is just expected these days.
Google has made it clear it takes mobile friendliness into account when ranking results, most of the time this is limited to searches that have been made on mobile devices.
We feel it’s important to add that a responsive website design isn’t just one that reads well on your phone without having to pinch/zoom. A responsive approach should be considered for your navigation, optimising images and videos and keeping loading times and filesizes down where possible.
6. SSL Certification
An SSL certificate enables your site to have the prefix https instead of http. Read more about SSL certificates on our blog post, this article will tell you what they are, their benefits and how to get one.
For a while, SSL was recommended for any site that stored information from its users, so any log-in areas or methods of sharing information with a website. However, it’s recommended for all sites these days, even a contact form should be treated with the trust that the name and contact details you provide as a customer, are going to where the site suggests it will.
Whether or not you take any information from your visitors, you’ll want an SSL certificate these days as Chrome now marks any website without one as unsafe. That mark will be off putting to any new customer, so it’s best to jump on board.
7. Relevant Content
When you start thinking about planning a site you might start to think of all the interesting things you can have like video, music, images, blog posts etc. This is all great, but of no use if you forget crucial business information like your products (and the presentation of the products), your locations or client testimonials.
Your content will depend on your customers and your business, make sure that whatever is on your site is relevant – having a whole section dedicated to your mission statement or every member of your team might not be important to your audience, and you should be careful to avoid overload.
8. A plan!
Also related to your relevant content, you won’t get very far without a strategy for producing and uploading content, and sharing it. You’ll need a marketing or SEO plan, you can find more about content marketing on our blog and here are some SEO Tips you can do yourself too.
Social media offers easy and cheap access to huge audiences, however, don’t feel that you have to have a profile on every platform – pick the ones your customers are more likely to be using.
9. Testimonials, Reviews or Case Studies
Don’t just let your customers take your word for how great you are. Having the recommendations from other customers may help them make a final buying decision.
Depending on your industry, it can also be a great idea to have case studies. This shows the problems previous clients have had and how you solved them. A new client may relate to these issues and see that you’re able to help.
Testimonials and Case Studies are an area of your site that will benefit from having a bespoke CMS, we put a lot of effort into making out content management systems as easy to use as possible. Each CMS is different, and designed around the site’s design and content, adding a testimonial or case study should be really quick and simple for you, but even more importantly, it should be engaging and compelling to your customers.
Having a frequently asked questions page might not be essential, but it can really help with your customer service. It can potentially answer any questions your visitors might have, relieving pressure on your customer service team and getting the answers to your customers quicker.
When producing an FAQ page, make sure you liaise with those who deal with customer service in your
organisation as they will know first-hand the common questions asked by customers.
Get in touch
If you’ve read through these must haves and realise that your website may be lacking one or two, why not give us a call to discuss how we can help you.