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The Ten Pillars of a Successful Website

11.09.2014 by Sebastian Maier

The ten pillars of a succesful website

Small and medium-sized enterprises' (SMEs) websites are an important source of information for new and existing customers. Here you will learn the ten pillars of a good SME website, with which it becomes a successful marketing instrument for the company.

1. A Solid Technical Framework

The best design cannot really be deployed if the technical framework behind it fails. It is thus important to choose a stable, user-friendly CMS that supports functions like responsive design or search engine optimization (SEO) easily and without issue. (Check out smooster :)! )

Simple and intuitive service is an especially important factor, because it is the foundation for the regular care of the website and thereby a good search engine ranking.

Quality should also be emphasized when choosing a hosting partner, because this effects factors such as stability, security, speed, and support.

2. A Good Layout

The only good layout is an intuitive, user-friendly layout! After all, websites are about the visitor finding their way around quickly and easily.

The content should ideally be prepared before the design. For this, one should ask what exactly should be achieved with the website and with what goals are visitors coming to the site. What kind of information would they like to see first? Where will they find this?

3. A Professional Design

The website is every bit a part of the overall appearance of a business as its business cards. The more professional the design, the more professional the business will be perceived.

At the same time, it is important that the website conveys the business character, or individuality of the brand, to the visitor, because emotions often overcome objectivity during a purchase. As Ralf Wagner, professor of international direct marketing at the DMCC - Dialogue Marketing Competence Center at the University of Kassel, Germany explains in an essay for the W&V (only available in German):

"The customers are hardly capable of distinguishing between competing offers by objective criteria such as material, functionality, and design. In these situations the power of the brand displays itself."

For this reason, it is also important that website and corporate design are seamless.

4. Simple Contact Support

Since new customers will most likely be won through the website, the contact support must be as simple as possible. That means that important information like telephone number, email address, and contact forms should be provided in prominent places.

Additional contact information such as address, directions, business hours, support, etc should also be quick and easy to find.

Simple contact support especially plays a meaningful role in responsive design! People often search on their mobile device for a local business that they would like to visit or contact soon. If they can, for example, make a call directly through the mobile website in such a case, that raises the chance that the interested person will also actually make contact.

5. Good Texts

Similar things apply here as in professional design; short, concise texts that are understandable to every target group show that one is dealing with professionals.

There are a few simple rules for good texts. It is important, for example, to cater to the customers and to speak about their advantages while not getting lost in details about your own business and offers.

Choosing fitting keywords and weaving them into the content is also an important requirement for an online text with regard to SEO.

6. Cross-media Integration

A website must be advertised for one to find it. Therefore, the web address should be communicated in as many utilized marketing channels as possible: in digital media such as social media platforms, forums, portals, blog comments, display advertising or Google Adwords, as well as in print advertising such as business cards, flyers, articles in magazines or newspapers, ad banners, etc.

A more obvious, yet underused ad channel for a website is the use of your domain behind the @ in the email address. Emails are written frequently every day, so every recipient will remember the web address.

7. Responsive Design

According to a Google study of smartphone usage from 2013:

"88% of smartphone users search for local information with their device, and 78% take action based on the search results they find, either in the form of a purchase or by making contact with the business."

These numbers are clear; a responsive design is worth gold for SMEs. In a good responsive design, attention should be paid to details such as the possibility to call a business directly from the website with one's smartphone, or the ability to adapt to a variety of equipment standards. (More info can be found in the smooster Responsive Webdesign Checklist)

8. Usability

Besides a sensible navigation and a clear layout, the usability aspect encompasses many other areas. Examples are the confirmation of actions that the user performs on the website ("Thank you for registering for our newsletter"), or the sensible and comprehensible integration of animations.

It is always fundamentally important to test your website yourself by gathering feedback and implementing improvements when necessary.

9. SEO

There is a whole series of measures for search engine optimization. The most important should be considered in every case. Among these are the submission of metadata such as keywords and the description, listing the business in Google My Business and regularly updating the website. For the last measure, blogs can be especially useful.

If you make sure that SEO functions are already available in your CMS, you will save yourself the effort of searching too long for plug-ins to submit SEO data to your website. (More info on SEO functions in the smooster CMS can be found here.)

10. Analysis

With services such as Google Analytics and Google Webmaster-Tools you can essentially know more about your customers than if they were to come directly into your store.

These tools provide information on the user's location, browser, and device, as well as worthwhile clues to how they came to the website in respect to what type of terms were searched.

But be careful; in Germany, there are data protection obligations here! smooster customers receive a checklist for their webproject, with which they can legally and securely integrate Google Analytics into their website.

With a regular analysis of the website through such services, you can improve the user experience step by step and thereby create an even better offer for those interested.

What do you think about these ten criteria for a successful website?

(picture credits: FREDDIEBROWN - flickr.com / CREATIVE COMMONS)

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