What is a good website?
Our customers and the people we meet during our visits often ask us the question: What is a good website?
It is very difficult to set a universal definition for a good website because it depends on your overall strategy, your communication objectives and finally, the alignment that you wish to have between these elements. But, let’s get back to basics by recalling what is a website is and by defining its different categories. Here is our definition of a website:
A website (from World Wide Web) is a content space on a server connected to the Internet which consists of web pages containing texts, images and other content multimedia whose purpose may be informational, marketing-orientated, technical, social or commercial.
At the origin of the creation of the Web is the invention of a protocol, http or hypertext protocol, which defines the Web as a spider web of links that connect web resources to each other. These links, dynamic or static, make the websites work.
The Role of a Website
There are different types of professional websites:
- Websites designed for informational purposes. In this category, we find the websites of press organizations and the online publishing and information sites including blogs (abbreviation of Web log, which are journals of opinion and analysis) and thematic internet sites or portals dedicated to a subject which are made to treat a subject matter in depth (they are more and more confused with blogs).
- Websites designed for marketing or communication purposes. A brand or company must have a website to inform its customers about its products, services, and also its philosophies, its methods, its customer cases and its use cases (in the United States we speak of this case from Persona Marketing ). The website are also useful for a company to direct customers to its offices and provide them with a direct point of contact. When all goes well, a company will use its website to attract customers and generate contacts and new prospects (in the language of the Web we talk about lead generation , the word 'lead' or ‘track’ in French). Companies, through their websites, often try to generate sales via inbound marketing. Inbound marketing means that it’s the customers who come to the company via its website and not the company that goes to its customers. Hence, a quality website is essential for the activities of a company. Despite this, many companies in France neglect their website. It is estimated that in France 70% of SMEs never update their website and that 49% of French companies are not yet equipped with one.
- In what is known as e-commerce or online commerce, websites can be built and developed for commercial purposes, to directly make sales online. There are different types of commercial sites, including the "pure players" who are actors of ecommerce and the new economy, and the "click and mortar" that combine physical presence with an online store.
- Non-commercial transactional sites
- Collaborative or social websites
- Internet sites for technical purposes
Let's focus on the corporate website, the one that is supposed to be the showcase of your company on the Internet, even if we do not like this term of showcase site which denotes a static and soft vision of the Internet. A good website must be dynamic in its content, rich and attractive, informative and above all, customer-orientated. A quality website will also be interactive, because it will allow the customer to easily get in touch with the company and the company can also respond quickly to a customer request. This could be done conveniently through, for example, an interactive chat box, or even a video chat. Nowadays, it’s also possible through a chat bot, which is an interactive intelligent agent that will respond to the client in real time.
However good the criteria set by Bowen Craggs benchmark be, they do not suffice in defining what a good website should look like. Let's try to define a checklist that allows a quick evaluation of a web capital. For this, we will use the services of one of the pioneers of the evaluation of Internet sites.
The checklist for the first impression of a good website
We have adapted the following checklist from Vincent Flanders' work on the Webpagesthatsuck.com website. We’ve updated and simplified this checklist as it has become quite old now by changing it at many places in order to make it more relevant. The following points, which are not exhaustive, will enable you to quickly assess the quality of your website. We have resumed the deliberately provocative and impertinent tone of Vincent Flanders; after all, disgruntled customers are often impertinent and not always polite, as we have encountered many times. If you claim that you’re customer-centric, as the old saying goes, should definitely put themselves in the shoes of their clients when they design their website.
- Our website has been designed to meet the internal needs of our society rather than the needs of our visitors.
- Through our website, we try to convince you by all means that our company is great, but we just have to solve your problems.
- A Martian would take more than 4 seconds to understand the subject of your website.
- A Martian could not quickly find the center of gravity of your home page or any page wherever it is on your website.
- Our site does not portray our image as one of credible professionals. A good website aims to win the trust of its visitors. Note that this does not mean that the website must be beautiful (certainly aesthetics do not hurt, but they should not come first). This sentence means above all that the content and information of your website must collectively contribute to improving your credibility (once all the content is good, you may now worry about the graphic quality of the site and not the other way round).
- It is not enough to put pretty pictures to appear credible (see above). Your choice of images must be not only relevant but also evocative and original. The proliferation of low-cost image banks online is leading to widespread standardization of the Web, where all Internet sites end up resembling each other. We therefore recommend taking the opposite route to this trend. This is the reason why on our website and blog, all photos and illustrations, with a few exceptions, come from us.
An original "home-made" illustration will give more personality to your site than a copied image.
- The homepage of our site, or any other page of the website, takes more than one second to appear. In the age of fiber, speed has become a minor problem for websites. But not for Google, which heavily penalizes websites that are too slow. Optimize your website to ensure the speed of display. If you have chosen Wordpress, make sure that the "WP Rocket" plugin is installed and configured. If you have the technical and financial means and resources to maintain a proper website, don’t opt for Wordpress.
- Our site is adorned with creative browsing and we have booked surprises for our visitors who are looking for share buttons, for example, because they have been positioned in unusual places. The visitor, thus lost, cannot help but admire the designer who placed the elements on his website in an intelligent way.
- Our website is full of designer gadgets that do not add anything to the user. Have you noticed how the most famous and most visited sites are also the least aesthetically appealing? The exemplar in this area is probably Amazon , which has almost never changed its layout since its launch more than twenty years ago. No sophisticated graphics, no convoluted navigation, no fantastic innovations and most importantly, a site that does not change or almost hasn’t changed at all, so that we know exactly where to find things. Yahoo! at the time of its splendor was nicknamed "the nightmare of the typographers" so much so that its logo was considered hideous. Redoing the site did not save Yahoo! , which was acquired in 2016 by Verizon and later merged with OATH in 2017. This does not mean that to succeed, a site must necessarily be ugly. What this means is that the main concern you must have for your site is above all the interest of your customers and users.
- We welcome our visitors with a vague and value-added message such as "welcome to ..." or "our offer is flexible" . In other words, we must avoid hollow messages at all costs. First impression is actually quite impactful. A visitor will have a few seconds to evaluate a site before deciding whether or not to spend more time there. That is why the content strategies are so powerful. The visitor will arrive because of the content and quality of information you provide and not by the quality of your interface. Think about it!
- Our site is full of flash or is just an empty page in flat design packed with graphics. Flash websites are a survivor of the past, but there are still some that exist. In recent years, websites with edge to edge flat design which are fully developed on the homepage with links inside have come up. These are sites full of emptiness without any content or links off the homepage and so they end up becoming a single page. When we compare these two formats (the flash site and the empty flat design site), they appear to come from the same illusion that aesthetics or form, is more effective than the quality or depth of content. Be careful not to interpret this rule as a rejection of flat design. Of course, that would not make sense.
- Our site displays an intermediate page (splash page in English). This note does not apply to websites that display the merits of alcoholic beverages. Less popular today, these intermediate pages have tended to disappear steadily. If it persists on your site, make sure to retract it as quickly as possible.
- The title of the home page of our site is "home" or "index". It is imperative that this title is meaningful and that it goes beyond the simple name of your company (which is often present in your URL in all cases). Note that this remark is valid not just for the home page, all your pages must be given a valid/existing title.
- Our site welcomes you with music that is played automatically when the page is opened. This tic of development was very present at the beginning of the Web and then disappeared. But now, it has come back and a growing number of sites, even serious ones, begin to sing once opened. It's not only useless but terribly irritating. Not to mention the embarrassment you create in the office when you arrive on such a page and all your colleagues glare at you for disturbing their reflection or calm.
The list has not ended. Remember that nothing beats the concrete work on your website and your web capital. In the end, there is no standard answer on what is a good internet site. What will make your website good or bad will be determined by the visitors and their reactions. Considering this reality, our advice is to multiply the meetings and feedbacks with your readers, as often good suggestions crop up from such discussions or surveys.
In the end, it is a partner who wishes your success on the Internet or elsewhere and hence will not hesitate to reveal to you truths that disturb.
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