What makes a successful website?

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Posted on : 24-10-2011 | By : Chris | In : Design, Website

Introduction

Before we start you should know that this post is the first of a series of posts that document my approach to building the ultimate website. It makes sense to start at the beginning and for me that’s the notion of success. Why? Because I want it!

‘Ultimate website’ I say, well isn’t ‘ultimate’ a subjective word? In so much that one person’s ‘ultimate’ is probably another’s person’s ‘mediocre’ and isn’t the same true for the word ‘success’? There’s a saying that suggests (something like) ‘success is measured by what you have sacrificed to achieve it’ – cryptic, I know, but I kind of agree. For me an ultimately successful website is one that excels at all I believe to be good whilst fulfilling the goals I define for it.

This was a hard post to write. Predominantly because I believe all posts should be succinct and to-the-point. It is impossible within a single post to create a list of do’s and don’ts for a successful website. Instead I wanted to take a more considered approach based on the question – for I believe the answer lays within the question itself.

Now, on to the post…

The post!

I’m about to build a website that’ll ultimately (there’s that word again) make me a millionaire…

Want to know how I’m going to do it? Me too!

Actually, I do have some pretty good ideas and some realistic expectations. In fact, in reality it is not the million pounds that’ll signify the website’s success – it’s a bunch of other things. One thing for sure, the more I satisfy my success criteria, the greater the chance of reaching that rewarding pot of gold!

So what does make a website successful?

I think we should establish a few ground rules first!

It is essential that a good, accessible and aesthetically pleasing design is achieved – that’s a given! Poorly designed, shabby websites are as inviting (and give the same impression) as a rundown junkyard of an office block. So don’t skimp, design well! Those of you who think you have great design skills (but probably don’t) be honest with yourself – you’re the one that’ll lose out if your site is ugly, badly laid-out and unusable!

Now the rant is out of the way, let’s get back to the question…

A website is successful when…

…and the answer is…it depends!

What kind of answer is that?!!┬áIt’s an honest one. Let’s consider a few scenarios.

1. I want a creds website!

If you are not fussed about gaining new business via the website and simply require a web presence that establishes your credibility then a successful website may involve a few pages about you and your company, the services you offer, some testimonials from happy clients and a mechanism to contact you. You publish your web URL on all of your literature and use word of mouth to encourage prospective clients to ‘check you out’. When they do, WOW you look professional, and you, hopefully, gain a new client. If you pick up any new business as you go it’s a bonus!

2. I want to support my existing business

Here, you may require the website to:
a. offer all of the features of the creds website
b. offer useful information to existing and potential clients (perhaps by way of an extranet) to complement (perhaps ease) existing methods
c. help generate new business.

Innocent looking scenario 2c places us into a complex and dark world of web sales and marketing which is taken to the ultimate level in scenario 3 below.

3. Make me a millionaire website!

In this scenario your website IS your business and all of the above points apply with a massive focus on the generation of new business. To be successful in this arena all the principles of good business apply and more! The obvious stuff is the tip of the iceberg and the foundations go far deeper.

This post is not about the complexities of Internet sales and marketing so I’ll bring it back to the original question.

What makes a successful website?

The answer could be “Achieving whatever you define as success criteria!”

Earlier I suggested I wouldn’t be listing do’s and don’ts. That was a half truth for at its simplest (although I appreciate ‘the devil is in the detail’) here’s a few must do’s (I couldn’t help myself):

  1. Ensure you have absolute clarity as to role your website must fulfil – nothing more, nothing less
  2. Set yourself modest, achievable goals – this is not easy so be sensible
  3. Whatever its role, build it well (good accessible design) to outshine your competition
  4. Ensure you have the tools to monitor your website visitors and viewing trends (get yourself over to Google and sign up for their Google Analytics) activity or you’ll never be able to determine your success
  5. Review and re-plan regularly in a bid to achieve your goals
  6. Unless you have loads of money – in which case you can pay a company to do all this – never stop researching, learning, trying new things and evaluating their success.

Did I mention I’m about to build a website that’ll make me a millionaire (sure I did)?

In the next post I’ll consider my modest and achievable goals for the next 2 years!

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