4 Keys to a Successful Website
Ben here. Since founding Knapsack in 2012 I’ve had the opportunity to build websites for hundreds of awesome clients.
Year to year I’ve noticed trends that come and go, but there are a few timeless factors that affect the success of a website.
Here are four of the most important keys to a successful site:
1. Text that’s easy to understand
The actual words you use on your website are just as important as the way they are presented visually. There are a few good principles you can follow that will help you get it right:
Break up your text in small chunks
Label sections of text with headlines
Use words your customers are looking for
Avoid insider terms that confuse your customer
Being clear is more important than being clever
Talk about things from your customer’s perspective
The principles I learned were invaluable. If you’re curious and want to clarify the message of your company and write better copy I highly recommend checking out the book Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller.
2. A professional design
Having your website designed by a professional is more important than you think. Here’s why:
Customers will judge you at a glance
If your website looks amateur, customers will assume that your services or the quality of your product is also amateur. Compare it to how our brains assume things about someone by the way they dress. Even though it may be incorrect, our brain often uses the way something looks to make a judgement call instantly.
Great design builds trust and shows legitimacy
When your website looks professional, people are more likely to trust you because they know you’re serious about your craft. Not only does this make people more likely to hire you, it also makes working with them easier since they will be more likely to trust you as a professional.
You can’t afford to confuse your customers
A professionally designed website will follow usability principles to help organize information in a way that makes it effortless for customers to find what they’re looking for. If people don’t find what they’re looking for quickly, they’ll go elsewhere.
3. A user-friendly website editor
An often-overlooked aspect of having a successful website is the ongoing management plan after the website is built. Having an easy-to-use website editor (CMS) is critical. If your website is too hard to edit, that friction may keep you from getting the most out of your investment moving forward.
Here are a few basic things you should be able to do:
Be able to edit your website while previewing
(not have to switch between edit and preview modes)
Edit and replace photos easily
Change text quickly and easily
Duplicate and create new pages easily
Make small changes on the go using a mobile app
At Knapsack we’ve chosen to use Squarespace for our clients since it meets and exceeds all of these requirements. We re-evaluate regularly and so far continue to find Squarespace to be the most user-friendly website builder for our clients.
4. Search engine optimization
You can have easy-to-understand copy with a great design that’s simple to edit, but if no one sees it… was it worth it?
When we build a site we follow several best practices to optimize Squarespace websites to be more discoverable:
Add a site title
Title pages strategically
Use URLs strategically
Include custom page descriptions
Write alt-text for images
(helps image search and screen readers)
Submit to search engines for indexing
If you’d like to know more detail about what we do, check out Squarespace’s SEO checklist. We’ve modeled our best practices after their recommendations.
Of course, on-site optimization is only part of the puzzle. We recommend our clients also do things like:
Sign up for Google My Business
Link to your site from social media
Regularly add fresh content to your site
Link out to reputable websites
Get links back from reputable websites
While design trends are fun (and we like to follow them too), keep in mind that there’s more to a successful site than looking good. Clear copy, a professional design, a good website editor, and SEO best practices will get you a long way.
Have a question? Leave a comment or meet with us.