This digital era that we live in demands that serious businesses develop and secure an online presence that bridges the gap between the company and its customers. While there are many avenues a company can pursue while building that presence, your website is the glue that connects all of those efforts and strategies into one cohesive experience. Here are nine things you should be looking for and asking about when building or updating your company’s website:

Responsive Design

A seamless experience across all devices in non-negotiable.

We live in a time where browsing the internet on our phones is more commonplace than browsing from our desktops. From shopping, ordering delivery of meals, reading and sharing with our friends and family, our lives have evolved into a digital-first existence. With the massive, nearly unquantifiable variety of device types and screen sizes, it is more critical than ever before to ensure your website is viewable across as many of those devices as possible.

Having a fully responsive website not only enhances the experience for your customers but also contributes to a better SEO ranking with search engines. Lighthouse, Google’s open-source, automated tool for improving the quality of web pages, is a tool that allows you to audit for responsiveness, performance, accessibility, SEO, and more. It scores each category from 0-100 and how your website scores in each of those categories contributes either positively or negatively to your overall search ranking.

You should be able to visit your favorite restaurant’s website and have a similar experience regardless of whether you are placing an order for delivery using your phone, laptop, tablet, or even your television or refrigerator in some instances.

Responsive, accessible web design is fundamental to your company’s online success.

Fast Loading Times

A speedy website keeps visitors engaged.

Unless you live in a rural community limited to dial-up connections or low-quality mobile networks, you expect a website to load quickly, if not instantaneously. The longer it takes for your website to load, even if the delay is only a second or two, the higher risk you are in of having lost visitors and a high bounce rate. Many of us no longer have the patience to wait and we will most often lose interest and move on if we are forced to do so.

Fortunately, the modern web allows for the implementation of techniques such as image compression, code minification, lazy-loading of assets, and progressive enhancements like loading animations that are displayed while data is streaming to your browser in order to make the page feel like something is happening.

If I were to visit a large retail website and its product images are not loading promptly and the content keeps shifting as new content is being loaded I am probably going to get annoyed and visit a different retail website to find what I am looking for.

Speed is synonymous with efficiency, and busy consumers expect websites to load promptly.

SEO Optimization

Optimizing keywords, titles, and descriptions is essential for search engine results.

How can someone visit your website and become a lead or convert to a paying customer if they can’t find it? Being able to type some terms or keywords into a search engine and find what we are looking for in the top 10-20 results is a default expected behavior of the digital age. Optimizing your website for discovery in search engines is crucial for attracting organic traffic to your website.

This involves using relevant keywords in your content, optimizing your titles, descriptions, and other meta data, and ensuring the structure of your pages and your overall website matches up with search engine standards. Doing this will allow Google, Yahoo, Bing, and other search engines to easily crawl your website and allow your potential visitors to more easily find you.

If someone searches Google for ‘best organic beef in my area’ and your butcher shop’s website isn’t in the top five results, you may need to optimize your SEO.

Visibility in search results drives visitors to your website and contributes to your online success.

Effective Navigation

Keep this simple and intuitive for easy browsing.

You’ve optimized your SEO, ensured your website loads blazingly fast, and you’re getting some decent traffic but your bounce rate is still higher than you’d like. Your visitors were able to find your website but they couldn’t find what they were looking for once they arrived. If they can’t find the information they are seeking then they’re not going to stick around very long.

Your website’s navigation should be able to guide your visitors through your website with ease. A well-structured and thought out menu with clear categories and hierarchy can mean the difference between a sale and a bounce. If you have an online store, you should be categorizing your products in a way that customers can effortlessly find the items they are intent on purchasing.

Clear, intuitive navigation will enhance user experience and allow them to find what they are looking for.

Quality Content

Ensure your content is engaging, informative, and relevant to your audience.

"Content is king" is a phrase almost anyone with marketing experience has likely heard. However, I would suggest a slight modification: 'The RIGHT content is king.' The right content attracts and retains visitors. The wrong content or too much content results in the opposite. If I don’t care about the products or services you are offering then why should I visit your website? What are you going to do to change my mind?

High-quality, well-written, and relevant content establishes your authority in your niche and engages your audience. Your website acts as a sales pitch to your customers. Can you convince them to buy your product right from the home page? Can you persuade a visitor to sign up to your newsletter? Are you able to establish and build trust with potential customers through the use of solid case studies, testimonials, and good reviews that highlight the value you provide?

Companies cannot afford to compromise when it comes to quality content.

Visual Appeal

Make a strong first impression with professional, brand-aligned aesthetics.

A combination of good content and appealing visuals makes a powerful first impression. However, it goes deeper than that. Your website needs to be able to reflect and reinforce your company’s brand identity and resonate with your target audience. It also needs to be able to guide your visitors along the path of least resistance toward their end goal: giving you money for your product or service.

If someone familiar with your company doesn’t immediately recognize your brand when the home page loads, they might already be having second thoughts. If someone who is unfamiliar with your brand visits your website and it doesn’t capture their attention long enough to set the hook, you may have just lost a sale.

There are many things to consider here such as white space, balance, contrast, use of color, consistency, typography, and so much more that I can’t touch on in a single blog post. The short version is this: We’ve all seen good websites and we’ve all seen bad websites. The good ones make looking at and browsing your website more enjoyable for your visitors.

While looks may not be everything, well-crafted and intentional design is.

Security Features

Build trust with your customers by ensuring their data is protected.

In a digital world where cyber attacks, phishing attempts, email spam, hacked social accounts, and the myriad of other security threats we face every day, ensuring your website is safe and secure is extremely important. If your website isn’t properly guarding against these threats your company and your customers are at risk of having critical pieces of data stolen. Addresses, passwords, credit card information, phone numbers, and so much more sensitive information pass through contact forms, e-commerce checkouts, and more.

You must ensure your website is shielded behind valid SSL Certificates and is served over secure HTTPS protocols in addition to regularly checking security updates to ensure your customers feel safe and trust that their information won’t be compromised while visiting.

Build trust by building a solid and secure foundation.

Contact information

Make your contact information easy to find and clearly displayed.

Accessible contact information is crucial for encouraging communication with your customers. Having multiple options available, whether that is having social media links and a phone number above your navigation, location details and email addresses in the footer, or even a dedicated contact page with a form to fill out, ensuring your audience can reach out to you for support or information is essential.

A website for a local business should prominently feature the phone number and physical address. A large e-commerce website should have options for support in some combination of interactive chat, phone support numbers, email addresses, or forums. I would also argue that having other avenues of communication such as Twitter/X, Facebook Messenger, Slack or Discord channels and so on are also valid and important additions that allow your consumers to talk directly to you, your team, and even each other to build a strong community around your products and services.

Availability builds and fosters connections.

Analytics Tools

Continuously improve your website by understanding the behavior of your visitors.

Analytics provides insights into your website’s performance, from visitor behaviors to traffic sources to demographics and so on. This data is invaluable for making informed decisions and optimizing your website for better engagement and higher conversion rates.

Being able to look at charts and graphs that depict traffic, bounce rates, age groups, purchasing habits, and what pages are viewed and interacted with the most is a powerful tool that can help you develop solid strategies over time.

Regularly reviewing and analyzing this data can reveal trends and areas of improvement that will ultimately lead to a stronger online presence and these insights drive growth and stability.

All of the talking points highlighted above play a crucial role in the success of your business’s online presence. When you demand these essential features for your new website, you set a solid foundation for engaging with your audience and achieving your digital marketing goals.

Your website can be more than just a lonely digital brochure drowning in a sea of other mediocre digital brochures OR it can be an extremely effective tool for growth and engagement.

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