The 10 essential features you need to have for a successful website – whether you’re building your own or not.
What are the essential features of a website? What does it really mean for a small business website to be successful?
Well, a successful website is one that functions as a valuable business tool – one that attracts and efficiently converts your visitors into clients, which then adds to your bottom line.
Whether you’ve gone the DIY route, or worked with a professional web designer, there’s no getting away from the fact that you really need to know the qualities of a successful website in order to keep growing your small business. I am not anti people DIYing their own websites, in fact I offer support to business owners who want to learn to build and edit their own websites. But it’s important to know that there’s a lot of expertise that goes into making sure a website is an efficient business tool.
Here is my take on the 10 crucial elements and features you need to have for your small business website – in order for it to be successful.
- Create a concise and compelling Hero Section
- Good design and visual brand consistency
- Have effective and strategic calls to action on your website
- Write useful content which is easy to read
- Make good use of relevant images and graphics
- Make sure you have fast loading website pages
- Is your website mobile responsive?
- Search engine optimisation (SEO)
- Make sure you have clear navigation and a logical site structure (UX Design)
- Make sure your website is secure and backed up regularly
1. Create a concise and compelling hero section
The hero section is the first part of your website or landing page that people see. Your potential clients are looking for a solution to a problem they are having and will be looking for answers to the following questions:
Your potential clients are looking for a solution to a problem they are having and want answers to the following questions:
- What do you do?
- How do you make people’s lives better?
- Why should they do business with you instead of someone else?
This information should be in what is called ‘above the fold’. This is a reference to the old large format newspapers, which were folded in half when on display on newsstands, with only the top half of the page visible. In the digital world, it is the area of the screen that you see before you start scrolling.
2. Good design and visual brand consistency
If you have a well-designed brand and website it reassures potential clients that they are more likely to get a good service or product from you because you have taken time and effort to create and apply a consistent visual brand identity.
Your logo, colours, fonts, style of images and graphics need to be applied in the same manner, across all your social media, packaging, stationery and any other visual collateral your business uses. If this is not the case, then your target audience is liable to be confused about who they are communicating with.
3. Have effective and strategic calls to action on your website
Another essential features of a website is that most website pages should include at least one strategic call to action (CTA). You can have primary and secondary Calls to Action (CTA) – a primary CTA might be to ask a user to book a call and your secondary CTA could be to sign up to your email list or follow you on social media. CTAs should be highly visible, and use active language, such as SIGN UP HERE, FOLLOW US, BOOK A CALL etc.
4. Write useful content which is easy to read
Valuable content is content that educates, helps or inspires your users. As you now know, they are coming to you to solve a problem, and you want to make sure it’s easy for them to take action — such as make a purchase, subscribe to your blog, or join your mailing list.
Break up blocks of text with headings, subheadings, bulleted lists and quotes. Users who prefer to skim through a page should be able to understand the gist of your article just by reading the headings and subheadings. This may then persuade them to read the page in more detail and follow through on a CTA (Call to Action).
5. Make good use of relevant images and graphics
Using images throughout your website should be an important component of your marketing strategy. Images and graphics make your content more interesting and enjoyable to consume.
It’s ideal to have a professional photographer do a shoot for you, but if you don’t have the budget for that, then there are plenty of free and reasonably priced image libraries to choose from. Make sure you choose images that have a similar style and colour palette to create visual harmony and pay attention to the expressions of the people in the photographs – some of the people in stock photography can sometimes be heavily photoshopped and they lack authentic emotion.
Free Stock Image Libraries
Paid Stock Photography sites
6. Make sure you have fast loading website pages
The speed at which your website loads is an important factor. You know from your own experience that a delay of more than a few seconds means that you will go elsewhere. Images need to be properly optimised for your website in order to load fast, and speed is also a key factor for your website to rank well on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
7. Is your website is mobile responsive?
A mobile responsive website is one that has been optimised for all screen sizes. A responsive design puts users first, making it easy for them to engage with your site independent of screen size. Mobile responsive sites have lower bounce rates and higher conversion rates on average, since users enjoy their experience and spend less time waiting for the page to load. A mobile responsive website also means that your website will rank higher with search engines.
8. Search engine optimisation (SEO)
There are 3 main types of SEO, all of which work together for a common purpose. They include:
On-page or on-site SEO
This refers to practices that take place on your website, such as publishing relevant content, optimising headlines and HTML tags and images in order to rank better on search engines. Websites frequently make use of plug-ins which help them optimise their on–page SEO, such as Yoast and RankMath. There are free and paid versions of both of these plug-ins, and they offer fantastic educational resources.
Off-Page or Off-Site SEO
This includes a multitude of marketing activities that take place off your website to improve your SERP ranking. These are some examples:
- link building/backlinks
these are genuine links from authoritative websites in your industry
- brand building and brand mentions
- citation building
this is the act of maintaining and sending out consistent, accurate and relevant information about your business to listing directories so that search engines and consumers know when, how and where to find your local business
- content marketing
such as newsletters, podcasts, social media posts, and videos, which provide useful and relevant information and help to create brand awareness and drive traffic to your website.
On Google, local SEO helps any business with a physical location appear on Google’s first page for local features and Google My Business profiles, as well as Google Maps.
Three main factors feed into local SEO: distance, relevance, and prominence. Local SEO efforts focus on optimising for search relevance and prominence, as distance isn’t something you can change. Relevance is self-explanatory, and prominence includes factors such as business citations, reviews and position in search results.
9. Make sure you have clear navigation and a logical site structure (UX Design)
Having your website structured in a logical manner with clear navigation means that your users will have a great User eXperience (this is known as UX Design).
An example of good UX is that your logo and menus are at the top of your website because that’s where we expect to find them.
Great UX is what makes your website work.
Design your website so that users can to easily find key information, such as your contact details, and give them an easy path towards being converted into a warm lead (someone interested in your product or service) and future client.
Most people will leave a website if they can’t find what they are looking for in about 5-8 seconds.
10. Website security
You will have either paid someone to build you a website, or have spent hours building it yourself. It’s a valuable asset that you can’t afford to lose. Small business websites can be an attractive target for hackers because their owners may not have the time and expertise to protect themselves. There a many small easy steps that can be taken to protect yourself from being attacked:
Install a SSL (Secure Socket Layer) Certificate
An SSL certificate is standard technology which establishes an encrypted connection between a web server (host) and a web browser (client). You will know that a website has an SSL certificate when you see a locked padlock symbol in your browser address bar. The url will also have an extra ‘s’ at the start ie https://, instead of http://.
You can buy an SSL certificate, but most hosting providers offer them for free.
Force HTTPS redirection: once you have installed an SSL certificate, you should then use a plugin to force HTTPS redirection, which activates the encrypted connection.
Use strong passwords
Strong passwords are essential, but so many of us don’t take the necessary steps to ensure we are minimising the risk of being hacked.
A strong password should be
- 16 characters or more
- a combination of letters, numbers, and characters.
This tool is a free password checker and has some useful information about how to have excellent password security.
Use or Add Two Factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication technique requires users to log in by using a two-step authentication method. The first one is the username and password, and the second step requires you to authenticate using a separate device or app.
Make sure your website software is kept up to date
Keeping your website software up to date at all times is critical to maintaining the security and stability of your site. This includes WordPress, your Theme software and your plugins. This is something you can learn to do yourself, or you can outsource these tasks to your web designer/developer.
Use a security plugin
Backup, backup and backup again
Backups are an essential part of keeping your website secure. If you have good hosting, such as Cloudways, which I use, then they will offer backups. The security plugins I mentioned above also offer scheduled automatic backups.