We’ve all been to winning websites – websites that are visually appealing, intuitive to navigate and which provide the information and content we’re looking for. And we’ve all suffered the annoyance of visiting poor websites that are impossible to navigate and look like they’ve been put together in a kindergarten.

To make sure your website doesn’t fall into the latter category consider the following characteristics all good websites have in common.

User Focus

Let your ego go. A website exists primarily for its users. You may have ideas and content you love, but if users don’t like them they’ll simply stop visiting your site. When you begin building your website your mantra throughout the whole process should be “what does the user want?”.

Content

And what users most often want is content. The phrase “content is king” has been overused in recent years, but in website design it still holds true. Interesting, useful, comprehensive and original content is what most internet users are looking for. From the latest goss on Brittany, to obscure papers on quantum physics, the need for content is what drives the bulk of net searches.

Provide real content on your site, not junk articles whose only aim is link generation, and your visitors will keep coming back.

Stay Current

Content is no use if it stays static or becomes outdated. You had a load of articles about Brad and Ange last year, but you didn’t post anything about Jen and John Mayer? Uh-oh, no wonder you lost all those users to Perez Hilton.

Update your content regularly, make sure you always have something fresh and new to entice your target audience and keep ‘em coming back.

Define Your Purpose

But there’s so much content out there – how do I know what to put on my site? It’s easy to answer this question if you clearly define the purpose of your site before you plunk your money down with a website design company.

Be specific. Lamely muttering that you want to “increase your web presence” isn’t defining the purpose of your website. The purpose of your site is what you’d embody in a web mission statement. “To increase sales of 5mm titanium widgets to males located in the North Island aged between 18 and 45.” Now that’s a well defined website purpose.

And once you have your purpose locked down it’s easy to figure out the kind of content you should fill your site with – anything that provides information useful to people interested in titanium widgets, of course!

Nuts and Bolts

You’ve got your purpose, you’ve got your content – ain’t much use if visitors to your site can’t read it easily or, worse, cant find their way to it in the first place.

Ensure your content is clearly and attractively presented, don’t use distracting backgrounds, use images sparingly. Design your site’s navigation to be intuitive and consistent.

These points may seem self-evident, but there are a lot of sites still out there that appear to think yellow text on a white background and not providing back buttons are sensible design features.

Interactivity

If you include interactive elements in your website design you’ll stand a far greater chance of engaging your users. Actually doing stuff on a site is fun, and a fun site will draw its users back time after time.

Think about things like blog pages that users of your site can post to, online surveys, forums, comments boxes and the ability to rate content. And, if you really want to open up a goldmine, allow users to submit their own content – you can’t get much more interactive than that!

Winning Ways

Define your purpose, identify your target audience (your users), get lots of content and keep it current, make that content easy to read and find, and inject a dose of participation with some form of interactivity and you’ll be well on the way to designing a winning website.

Learn more about the basics of website design in this video.

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