Thursday, June 12, 2008

What makes a good website?

Your website should have a goal. A measure how how "good" the website is how successful it is in meeting that goal. The goal for an e-commerce site will be very different to a fan portal, but nonetheless, "good" websites share some common characteristics. In order to meet your goal:

* Viewers have to find your site
* Viewers have to be able to view it easily
* Viewers have to be able to find what they want
* Viewers must think your website is credible

There is significant overlap between these characterstics. The things that make a site easy to find are the same ones that make it viewable, navigable and credible. Let's take these characterstics one at a time and see what they mean.

Viewers have to find your site

Most people on the web find a website through a search engine. According to Nielsen//NetRatings over 5 billion searches were carried out in October 2005, almost half of these were using Google. Unfortunately "build it and they will come" is not true on the web. A website with no traffic stands little chance of aceiving its goals. Potentially the most effective way to get traffic is through Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO is the strategies involved in increasing a website's search engine ranking (SERP), where it appears in a search engine's results page.

Viewers have to be able to view your site easily

Many things can get in the way of someone trying to view your site for various reasons. Vewiers with vision impariments, whether blind, color blind, old or simply viewing the site on a PDA/mobile phone need well laid out web sites both in terms of organization (semanitc layout) and graphical (white space/typography). Viewers on dial-up or older computers might need sites that use little graphics or Flash. Many users for various reasons will browse your site with JavaScript turned off. All of these groups need a website that is accessible to them, and these viewers, according to some studies, can account for up to 30% of the population on the internet.

Viewers have to be able to find what they want

If a viewer can't find what they are looking for on your website easily, chances are they will leave and go elsewhere. Your website has to be useable. Studies vary in what they say about how long someone will take to figure out your website, but the figure quoted most often is about 8 seconds. More than 83% of Internet users are likely to leave a website if they feel they can't find what they're looking for (source: Arthur Andersen), and 58% of visitors who experience usability problems don't come back (source: Forrester Research).
Viewers must think your website is credible

Once they have found your site, and figured out how to use it, they need to stay on it. "When a site lacks credibility, users are unlikely to remain on the site for long. They won’t buy things, they won’t register, and they won’t return" (Stanford-Makovsky 2002).

What makes a site credible? In the same study Stanford/Makovsky found that the "Design Look" or the site's overall design or look accounted for 46% of a site's credibility. This included layout, typography, white space, images, color schemes, and so on. This was followed by "Information Design/Structure" (28%) or poorly the information fit together, as well as how hard it was to navigate the site to find things of interest.

Many of the factors involved in being credible are the same for being accessible and usable.


At July 3, 2008 at 11:47 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice writeup. A good website should have visually interesting design, fresh and original content, viewer friendly structure, easy accessibility, be SEO friendly and have a reliable ISP and a domain name that is easy to remember.


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