The Successful Website Design Checklist

Do you want a successful website?

We all want our brand to impress people. So when you’re shopping around for a new website, it’s easy to get distracted by flashy offerings with all the bells and whistles. But when it comes to usability, those fancy flourishes may be costing you more than just your design budget.

The checklist below will explain common pitfalls, and help you evaluate your priorities for your new website. If this sounds like the success you want from your website, contact IT Wollongong to get started today!

Don't be slowed down by bad web design ideas

Clean design, clutter-free

We all want our site to look unique, but that “wow” factor isn’t worth much if it makes your site too difficult to use! It may be fun to play around with a site that acts more like a video game or a virtual reality space, but it’s rarely the best way to find what we’re looking for.

In the end, the most effective business websites are still those with clean, competent and easy-to-use design. Visitors have the best experience when they can easily find what they came for, especially those who don’t enjoy using computers. Therefore, clear and obvious design is still the best choice for a successful website.

Pop-outs, floating panels and animations

Do these seem like a great way to draw attention? Perhaps, but they’re a huge irritation to many people. This is especially true on mobile devices, where fly-out panels can cover significant areas of the screen, hiding important information or even keeping your visitors from scrolling!

Some visitors may stick it out, but many of them won’t waste time dealing with a frustrating website. Users who press the “back” button to escape your website are signalling that the page was no good, so losing them will also hurt your search rankings over time.

Real content, right up front

Minimalism is great, but your visitors aren’t here to look at an empty page! If your website doesn’t provide sufficient information right away, they will probably go elsewhere. Successful websites provide substantial, quality information that’s available right on the front page. Other pages should expand on that information, without repeating any content.

Endless “more” loading, collapsible panels

Search engines don’t like hidden content, and neither do visitors. So don’t hide it behind a “load more” link or a collapsible panel! Let visitors see your content up-front and send the right signals to the search engines for optimal ranking.

Empty pages, “thin” content

Every page you add to your site should have a significant amount of useful and relevant information, including the homepage. If there’s not enough to fill a page, consider moving it to a sub-section of an existing page.

Clearly organised content

Content is more accessible when it’s easy to to skim and easy to navigate. That means organising it into logical sections with clear headings. When a visitor can see at a glance that you have a heading matching their search, they know they’ve come to the right place.

Cluttered layout, unstructured text blocks

Content that’s presented without headings is tough to process and tough to navigate. Similarly, if you use a cluttered layout that draws the eye in many directions at once, you can drive away visitors looking for quick solutions. In short, if there’s no logical structure to your content, your website will suffer!

Minimal CMS add-ons

A leaner website is a faster website. A modern content management system (CMS) offers heaps of opportunities through add-ons and plugins, but they all increase overhead and reduce speed in return. We keep our plugin usage minimal in order to streamline your site, for both editing and viewing.

A plugin for every problem

It’s tempting to solve every problem with a plugin, but is that really necessary? Many problems can be solved without installing extra add-ons if your developer has a proper understanding of the code. Plugin fixes are quick and easy, but add to code bloat that slows down your website.

Clean code, standardised structure

The best business websites have a clean, predictable layout built on clean, predictable code. The more fancy functionality you include, the more complicated the code behind your website becomes. This may not seem like a problem since visitors won’t see it, but code bloat can significantly increase load times. Using a complex layout or fancy gimmicks usually means code bloat, especially when adapting to all screen sizes and browsers.

For a highly effective website, we believe that offering well-designed content within a standardised template is the way to go. Using the intended editor tools, without adding anything too fancy, offers the best mix of control, aesthetics and practicality. It also helps your visitors feel comfortable while browsing, as a predictable layout means they know where to find core information and basic functions on every page.

Page builders and premade layouts

In exchange for their visual design functionality, most page builders generate a lot of code clutter. This is true of page builder plugins for WordPress, and also for builder-based CMS platforms like Weebly and Wix. If a designer creates your site using one of these, that code bloat will be slowing your site down for as long as it lasts.

Even worse can occur when a designer uses a premium plugin or service. You might find yourself with an outdated tool, that can only be updated by paying a subscription fee. Too often, we see site owners stuck with a pricey page builder they didn’t ask for or want, all because of an earlier designer’s choice. Your WordPress designer should be able to create a great-looking theme that doesn’t require the use of a page builder or premium plugin—and if they can’t, we can!

Sensible content structure

If your site has multiple pages, they need to be arranged in a way that makes sense to both humans and search engines. A good designer can help you structure content into a logical hierarchy, from the very general (the home page) to more specific (like category pages), to the very specialised (an in-depth look at a single topic). Search engines favour websites with sensible structure, and it’s also easier for your visitors to find what they’re looking for.

Arbitrary content structure

A lack of content structure confuses search engines and visitors alike. It’s difficult to find what’s important, which often leaves your message lost in the confusion.

Image optimisation

Images are a valuable form of web content because they create excitement and engage visitors. A good web designer knows how to get the most out of your images by optimising their file size and display quality for fast, efficient loading times.

They also understand the value of descriptive “alt” text to provide proper context for images, even when they don’t load or can’t be seen. This helps vision-impaired visitors understand image content, and search engines too—so it’s valuable in search engine indexing.

Large images that take forever to load

High-resolution images look great, but if they are added without optimisation, they cause long delays to your load times. Many people will not wait for non-optimised images to load, and may leave your site to seek a faster solution.

Images without proper context

Images slapped on a website without proper labelling will be confusing for both search engines and vision-impaired visitors.

Most web browsing today is performed on mobile devices

Life moves fast. Your website should too.

In this time of mobile broadband and smartphone browsing, nobody wants to waste time waiting for what they’re after. Slow, user-hostile websites drive away visitors and may push down your search engine rankings. It is important your web designer understands website construction as it relates to search engine optimisation. If you want to compete, you need to keep up!

Don’t be fooled by a pretty face. If your website can’t deliver on speed, information and user experience, you won’t get the results you need!

At IT Wollongong, we specialise in websites that are sleek, attractive, and blazingly fast! With clean code and minimal plugin clutter, our WordPress websites ace page speed tests for top-ranking results. See for yourself!

Ready to move to the fast lane?

Test your existing site using Google’s Page Speed Insights tool. Does the speed score prove your website is stuck in slow gear? If so, it’s time to drop us a line. Call IT Wollongong today to get on track with a cleaner, faster, more successful website.

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