Developing a website that works hard for your business is much more complicated than it initially seems. There are countless factors to be considered, and overlooking any one of them could significantly influence the effectiveness of your website as a marketing and business tool. Before you begin your next website development project, take a few minutes to review this list of simple tips that can make the difference between a good and great website.

Have a plan

First things first, you need to have a plan. Understand your audience, define your goals and outline the steps you intend to take in order to achieve them. Remember when doing this to consider what you need at the time, but also what you will need in the future. It’s essential that your website be scalable and readily provide for updates to successfully maintain it over time.

Evaluate web analytics

When redesigning a website, it’s incredibly important to evaluate past performance. Understanding your web analytics can provide digital strategy insights that can significantly contribute to the success of your web design and development project. See what pages perform best, evaluate what search terms are most popular, understand how visitors flow through your site and then use that information to guide the next phases of your project.

Design strategically

Will Rogers wasn’t talking about website design when he said “You never get a second chance to make a first impression,” but the phrase certainly applies well. The design of your website is the first thing visitors will notice, so design to impress them. A great website should visually represent your company and brand, as well as communicate the trustworthiness and ability of your company to meet a visitor’s needs. Additionally, the design should serve each of your current goals and offer flexibility for any enhancements you may have down the road.

Deliver a positive user experience

The ability to navigate a site with ease facilitates a positive website experience. Spend time creating an intuitive sitemap and information architecture strategy. Repetition is a beautiful thing online, so consider repeating key pages in the global navigation and site footer, as well as creating an internal linking strategy to encourage additional page visits. Make it easy for your audience to get what they are looking for and ideally take your desired call-to-action.

Appeal to all devices

A whopping 61% of individuals are likely to leave a site if it isn’t mobile-friendly, according to Search Engine Watch. Catering to your mobile audience is vital, so don’t overlook the specific needs of your mobile visitors, especially because visitors frequently view a site on multiple devices before taking an action. Developing your website using responsive design [link to article] is a great way to ensure a universally attractive and accessible site.

Understand the power of SEO

Search engine optimization is an integral component of any digital marketing strategy. When developing a website, be sure that it supports an ongoing SEO program. It’s more than likely that a potential customer will use a search engine to look for your products and/or services at some point in their buying cycle, so having a defined SEO strategy from the onset will drive traffic to your site and help support your ROI goals.

Plan for delivery of fresh content

Fresh content is pivotal to obtaining a higher ranking in search engine results, as algorithms are designed to interpret new content as being more relevant to a search. Additionally, fresh content encourages previous visitors to return to your site. As you redesign your website, plan for how you will continue to deliver fresh content to both search engines and your audiences. Consider including a blog, newsroom or other continuing education specific to your industry on your site. Remember that all content should be written with both SEO and visitor objectives in mind. An article that is keyword-rich may initially attract visitors from search engines, but it is unique and compelling information that will help encourage meaningful action.

Toot your own horn

Think of your website as your star sales person. You might get 3 minutes (if you are lucky) to demonstrate your credibility, so wow them with customer testimonials, awards, positive reviews and mentions of your company in the press. People have a “safety in numbers” mentality when it comes to getting information online, so illustrate why they should trust your business.

Cross-promote everywhere

Your website is a great cross-marketing tool. It can, and should, be used not only to provide visitors with information regarding the products or services they originally came to your site for, but to cross-sell them on other related solutions they may benefit from. You are going to work hard to get visitors to your site, so keep them there longer and take advantage of every opportunity to woo them.

Decrease load time

“Patience is a virtue”… that a lot of people don’t have. 47% of people expect a web page to load in two seconds or less, and 40% will abandon a web page if it takes more than 3 seconds to load”, according to eConsultancy. To combat the increasingly impatient web audience, work with your web developer to understand how their proposed design and development techniques will affect page load time. Additionally, for mobile versions of your site, be sure that you are considerate of excess imagery and scripts that can frustrate users on slower connections.

Facilitate action

On every page of your site, the end-goal is to have a visitor take some sort of action. You might want them to contact you, buy a product, sign up for a service, read an article or download a white paper, but the key is to make that action clear. Above all, make it easy for the visitor to take that action; the easier it is, the more likely they will.

Thinking about a new site or redesigning your existing website? Contact ZAG Interactive.

Michelle K. Brown and Brenna Keough contributed to this article.