There’s a lot (and we mean a lot) of work that goes into Building, Launching, and Growing a new website.
After all, it is the Digital Age; there’s a good chance that the majority of your sales and marketing efforts depend on having a website to direct people to, which means it’s required to do a lot of a heavy lifting: showcasing the brand identity and value proposition, providing a sales hub, and serving as the primary source for all important information, customer communication, news, content, and more.
You can see why coming up with a checklist of key website must-haves is a tough ask, one that can vary wildly depending on what you’re trying to achieve with your site.
Here are five of the most basic elements we’ve identified that every website—regardless of industry, audience, or overall goals—absolutely must have
1. A Sense of Purpose
It’s not enough to talk about your brand story in an “About Us” page. Your brand’s purpose should be well enough defined that it identifies your ultimate goals and permeates and drives everything from your website’s layout and UX, to the colors and button copy. And it doesn’t need to be fancy; if time and resources are limited, even a basic audit of “Who we are/Who we help/How we do it” is better than nothing, and it will help you establish goals, develop messaging, define keywords for SEO, generate content, and more—all of which will improve traffic and, ultimately, conversions.
- Map your Customer Journey
- Define/refine your messaging
- Prioritize pages that serve key Customer Journey touchpoints
- Ensure copy (Headlines, CTAs, etc.) aligns with defined messaging
2. A Consistent Experience
There’s a very high probability that you’re looking at this on some device that’s not a desktop computer. If so, welcome to the party: figures suggest that by 2017, 63.4% of mobile users worldwide will access content through their mobile devices! Your customers expect that their experience will be simple, easy, and consistent across all devices, but especially on mobile—that’s why developers and designers prioritize Mobile First development, and you should, too.
- Double-check your interface and funnel on multiple devices
- Preview site performance on varying platforms/operating systems
- Ensure quick load times by optimizing content & images
- Fix any broken images & links
3. A Testing & Optimization Mindset
The best way to see if your website is serving its purpose (whether that’s website visits, form submits, or increased sales) is to test it. Just remember that your initial launch copy, design, and layout will serve as a benchmark; eventually you’re going to want to tweak these things to see what resonates most with your audience, so make sure you take that into consideration BEFORE you launch so you can plan for and develop elements that are easily changeable.
- Review specific brand goals (in the context of your website)
- Check elements & copy against established best practices
- Use a tool like this one from Google to understand how customers get from A to B
- Don’t underestimate the power of your CTAs
4. A Source of Custom Content
Did you know that marketers who prioritize blogging are 13x more likely to enjoy positive ROI? In order to have an effective blog, you’ll need to be able to fill it with lots of meaningful, engaging, relevant, and timely content. It’s a lot of work, to be sure—but totally worth it in the long run; once you have blog content up and running, you’ll have a new way to attract customers and drive more effective sales and marketing efforts across all channels (social media, email, video—even print!).
- Set up an Editorial Calendar
- Revisit your Customer Journey map for relevant content ideas
- Research new ways to plan & present timely themes
- Strategize effective ways to repurpose content across multiple channels
5. An Easy Way for People to Contact You
For all that your website is doing right or wrong, the greatest reaction you can expect is that someone takes the time to reach out and connect with you about it. Don’t make this hard for people to do! Ensure your contact information is easy to find on every page (not just your “Contact Us” page), and consider sticky forms on pages that have been specifically developed to receive traffic and focus on conversions.
- Make contact information highly visible/easy to find
- Put contact information on every page
- Ensure the mobile experience is simple & easy to navigate
- Consider sticky forms on high-priority pages
While we realize this checklist isn’t even close to being a comprehensive representation of the design elements, development utilities, UI/UX requirements, or great multitude of practical marketing-focused functionalities a successful website will need (each of which could have its own mile-long checklist), we still think it’s a pretty solid starting point. No matter what business you’re in, or what you’re hoping your website will help you achieve, it’s likely that if you’ve invested any kind of time or effort into the process, these 5 things will help deliver your greatest value.
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