The 5 secrets behind all successful websites

Why do some websites fail to deliver? And how can you make sure yours doesn’t fall into the same trap?

The 5 secrets behind all successful websites

James Wood
James Wood
Author, web designer, lover of future things.
James Wood
James Wood
Author, web designer, lover of future things.

As with all things, knowledge is power in the world of web design. And web design means so much more than making your pages look pretty. 

In the modern marketing world, designing a website means constructing an online platform that gives your business the power to attract visitors, deliver the right content to the right people, measure your performance intelligently and keep growing organically as your business needs change. This is the power of results-driven design.

It takes longer and costs more to make a poor website. The value of lost opportunity to your competitors by having a sub-standard web experience can be incredibly high.

A tortuous design process usually comes from not knowing the following 5 things before you start:

1. Know what you want it to do

It sounds massively obvious, but most businesses start without a clear enough idea of what they actually want to achieve with their website. There are vague notions of getting people to know about the products. We’ll need a contact form and our phone number on there. Oh and we’ll need a news page. And we’ve got loads of blogs on our current site, so we’ll need those on there. And all those product tech spec PDFs our CTO put together, he’ll want those there somewhere.

To get a better start, you need to shelve preconceptions

And so, already, your new site has lost focus and visitors will end up with a collection of barely-connected content and no strong journey to follow. To get a better start, you need to shelve preconceptions and start from the first principle: what do you want your website to do?

  • Generate leads?
  • Make online sales?
  • Increase customer loyalty?
  • Boost your credibility?
  • Provide support for your customers?

Once you know your goals, deciding what content to put on your site becomes simpler: does this help us reach our goal?

2. Know your audience

This is something that gets overlooked all the time. Not because companies don’t think that knowing their customers is important, but because they presume that everyone knows them already.

Too much effort to find out what they need to know and they’ll give up.

Taking some time to identify the different types of visitor your website will get is a vital step in designing compelling journeys for them to take. The age, career, industry and objective of each customer type help to form their persona, and designing your site around these personas is the only way to ensure success. People are always in a rush on the web, so you need to present the minimum effective amount of content to achieve your goal. Too much effort to find out what they need to know and they’ll give up.

You need to know:

  • Who will be coming to your site?
  • What are they wanting to find?
  • How can you make finding that information as easy as possible?

3. Know your online strategy

What is a website?

Everyone involved in the design process of your new site really needs to be clear on this, because the web has changed a lot over the past 10 years and people who still think your site is an online brochure will greatly hinder your progress.

Each page you end up creating on your site should convert visitors

A modern website is a machine. It converts visitors of one type into another type.

For example:

  • Visitor who’s never heard of your company > visitor who knows you as an established, credible business
  • Visitor who’s not sure if they need your product > visitor convinced your product would improve their lives
  • Visitor looking for companies to research > visitor eager to recommend you to their company
  • Visitor just looking for information on a topic > visitor willing to give you their contact details

Each page you end up creating on your site should convert visitors. Any content that doesn’t is wasting your potential customers’ time.

You can use what you’ve discovered up to this point to create your GACS strategy:

GOAL - what you want your website to achieve

AUDIENCE - who’ll be coming to your website

COMPETITORS - what are similar companies doing on the web?

SOURCES - where will your visitors be coming from? (Search, social, print marketing etc.)

4. Know what to measure

Most companies don’t make the most of their analytics because they haven’t worked out their site’s goals beforehand. Without knowing what you need to measure, you end up reporting on vanity metrics like page hits and bounce rates. But these are just stats; they are not insights.

Your site measurements should report on your site’s goals

Your site measurements should report on your site’s goals, which in turn should be your business goals. If you need your site to generate leads, then your analytics need to report on how effective your pages are at generating leads. Which pages are converting most visitors into leads? Which pages are causing people to leave? Which traffic source is ending up with most people contacting you?

Keeping your reporting focussed on site goals means that you always know what to improve next, which prevents site sprawl from ruining your visitors’ experience.

5. Know what’s next

The results-driven design process helps keep your site on track, performing well and constantly improving.

This is our results-driven design approach to web development.

By launching with the simplest site that meets your goals, all future improvements will be chosen and tested based on real user data, not guesswork.

This process is precisely how the world’s most successful websites perform so well. Changes are rolled out, tested and measured. If they improve the site’s performance at converting visitors then they stay. If not, they redesign and try another approach.

This also keeps your website agile. The traditional 3-year lifespan of a site presumes that you’ll know all of your business needs and priorities years in advance. Continual improvement lets you keep up with any change in circumstances and make the most of unexpected opportunities.

How do you actually get all this done?

If you want your website to continuously improve, you need to have a web partner who’ll always be there to advise, suggest and implement changes. It’s difficult to cultivate enough web expertise in-house to make sure you’re always making the most of your website. When it comes to web trends and technology, you don’t know what you don’t know.

This is what drove us to create our monthly subscription model for development. Rather than have a hefty upfront development cost there’s a predictable, consistent monthly charge that covers everything from the design and build of the website to hosting and technical support. Every month we hold an improvement call to look at how well the website is hitting your business goals and suggest ways to develop the site to make it perform better, all included in the monthly fee.

Get in touch if you’d like to have a talk about how our Onward Starter, Professional or Enterprise plans could help your business thrive online.

Further reading:

For some great insights into how the design process is moving into the browser, take a look at this from the chaps over at Toptal:

Approaching the Website Design Process from the Browser >