A potential client was referred to me and when I met with him, he told me that he hired an out-of-state web design company to build a website for his business for $250. The client was starting a real estate company with a partner and wanted to build a simple website to promote their business. They found the web design company on Craigslist and hired them because of the low price.
The only issue was that they could not finish the job and gave the client a website that wasn’t complete and production-ready.
When it comes to building a new website, you really get what you pay for. But whether building a $250 website or $2,500 website, there are certain things you must have on the website at a minimum to serve its purpose. And that’s what I wanted to share with you in this article.
The first impression is very important. When a visitor comes to your website, even before consuming any content, he or she will notice your branding first. They won’t know that they noticed it because they will go straight to the content and images. But in the back of their mind, they have already conceived the image your website portrays.
I am not a branding expert but, on a website, branding includes:
Yes, the visitors will come to your site mostly to consume content. They don’t come to your site to look at your branding, colors, or font selection. But if you have strong branding, you will leave strong impression on them and they will appreciate it when they come back. It seems that a combination of strong branding and quality content is like dynamic duo that will drive traffic and conversions.
If you already have a business card, then you may already have done some branding. Just extend from what you already have. If you don’t have a business card or think that you don’t have strong branding, I highly recommend that you work with a web designer or brand consultant. If you are in Northern Virginia, a company I recommend is VENUTEC for your branding needs.
Remember – logo, colors, and how the content is presented are the first things visitors will see when they come to the site even if it happens within the first second of page load.
I debated whether I should include “content” as a must-have since it is pretty obvious that all websites have content. But what content will you have? Consider having following information at the least:
- Who you are
- What you sell or do
- Why we should buy from you or use your service
- How to contact you for any questions
Your website should flow from a page to page as if you are having a conversation with someone. Use internal links at the right places so that readers can jump from page to page without having to look for a link or menu. For example, if you are describing your products and services on a page, there should be a link at the bottom that takes visitors to the contact page. Don’t make the visitors try to find how to contact you.
Your content should be dynamic and engaging. It is probably the single most important factor whether your visitor will stay on your site or leave. When writing content, make it dynamic and interesting by considering following:
- Adding pictures
- Adding links to other pages
- Right length – not too much and not too little
- Use headings, bullets, and shorter paragraphs and phrases
Remember – your website is not a book. Too much content with paragraphs of paragraphs of text will bore your visitors.
Navigation is more than just a set of links to different pages on your website. Before you create navigation, you should carefully think about how you are going to divide up your website into different pages or sections.
Follow this guideline when creating your navigation:
- Less is better – do not have more than 7 or 8 items in navigation
- Keep it simple – each navigation item should be one or two words at max
- Keep it clearly visible – do not use similar colors as background
- Mouseover submenus will not work on mobile/touch devices
Keep in mind that more items you have in navigation, more confused your visitors will be.
You should have at least one CTA on your website. CTA is part of your website where you ask visitors to take an action. Some examples are:
- Call us today
- Download Now
- Fill out this form
- Schedule a call
- Click to chat
- Watch webinar
- Try for 30 days
- Add to cart
- Get the ebook
You don’t want visitors to come to your site and consume content and just leave the site. You want them to stay and consume more and more content. And eventually, you want them to call you or send you an email which will lead to in-person meeting and finally sales.
CTA started out as simple “Contact us” in the beginning but things got a lot more complex and people do not respond to simple “Contact us” anymore. With advanced A/B testing tools, digital marketers have been able to test their CTA phrases and come up with ones that give the best results.
If anything, your website should have at least one CTA.
Email subscription allows visitors to stay connected to you. One example is blog subscription where visitors can receive notification emails when new blog posts are published. Newsletters work the same way. Visitors will give you their email as part of newsletter subscription. And when you send out a newsletter, they will receive it.
There are different types of subscriptions:
Blog subscription – send notification email to subscribers when a new blog post is published. Once configured, notification emails are sent automatically when new content is published.
Newsletter subscription – send weekly/bi-weekly/monthly newsletter to subscribers.
Launch subscription – send email once a website, product, or service is available.
Email subscriptions are a great way to keep your readers informed and engaged. Even if you don’t plan to do email marketing any time soon, you can still have a form on your website so that you can collect emails.
Form is what connects your site visitors to you on your website. When they visit your site and like what they see and want to move to the next stage, they will contact you through the form.
Forms can be as simple as a “Contact us”form with name, email, and body fields or it can be very complex with 15 fields.
My suggestion is always keep it simple and have at least one form on your site. Remember following when working with forms:
- Long forms are hard to fill out on mobile devices
- Form is preferred over showing an email address with hyperlink – in that way, you can track form submissions with tools like Google Analytics
- Some platforms like Linkedin allows you to integrate one-click form submission on your website
- When a form is submitted, send a copy to the visitor as a courtesy
- Test your form from time to time and make sure it works
XML sitemap tells search engines what’s on your site so that they can crawl and index the content on your site. Without a sitemap, search engines rely on internal links to find out what pages there are. And if you don’t have links to all pages, search engines will not be able to index the entire site.
In summary, XML sitemap makes it easy for search engines to know about your site and the content on your site so that they can present it to users when they are looking for something and there is a match between what they are looking for and what you have on your site. In other words, XML sitemaps helps get your website found by other people looking for your site.
If you found this article useful and want to learn more about the topic, I recommend reading this book – 25 Website Must Haves For Driving Traffic, Leads, and Sales by Trent Dyrsmid. The author goes into further details than what I described here and it’s a great book to reference from time to time if you manage a website.
Any questions? Send me an email or post them below!