I'm fortunate to be able to review hundreds of websites each day. Learning from
the successes and failures of others is important to the success of my own
current and future endeavors and equally important to readers of Website
Magazine. But on what criteria should a website be judged? While there are no
hard and fast rules to what makes one website "better" than another,
when you look at professional and novice websites day in and day out, you end up
getting a pretty good handle on what is going to work and what's not.
Never one to cast the first virtual stone at the hard work of designers
and web professionals, here are a few guidelines that I personally use each and
every day to assess the overal design of a Web presence:
- Is the Design "pleasing?"
This is completely subjective, but most of
us know when a design is pleasing. Mismatched colors and a variety of fonts
only cause many to simply back away and perhaps never come
back. Not only ugly, such sites look unprofessional and cause feelings of mistrust. How do you know if your website design is pleasing? Ask someone without a
vested interest in you business or whom you trust and chances are good
you'll get a honest answer.
- Is the website "innovative?"
I am a proponent of using publically available templates for website design,
whether they are from sources like OSWD or those that are found individually and
used for WordPress blogs. When experts look at thousands of websites and notice
that 10 or 20 feature the exact the same design, there is simply
no way you'll appear innovative, regardless of how innovative the idea or
content being presented.
- Is the content "appealing?"
Here's another tricky one. Content is typically appealing only to specific
groups. Some of us are interested in benefits, others are interested in
features. How does a designer satisfy both goals? Images assist greatly in
developing "appeal." If you know the audience, you'll be able to find an image that reflects their demographic.
- Is the website "easy-to-use?"
There's nothing more discouraging than website features that don't work.
Actually, scratch that - in fact there is. It's the complicated, endless stream
of navigation that turns off users (who will never return) more than it is
broken links. The reason is that Web experts, just like consumers, are forgiving
- but only to a certain point. Fail to explain how something works on the site
or force detailed registration to access information and you'll elicit some
negative feelings with your potential customers. You need to identify your audience and give them what they want with as few clicks and hassles as possible.
- Does the website "meet it's own goals?"
This is perhaps the most important point to consider when assessing a website.
Often Web professional think more is better when, in reality, less is more. Not
forcing users to make multiple decisions will benefit your bottom line. Have 10
goals for your website's landing page? Cut it down to three and the conversion
rate on all will be much better and earnings much higher. Don't make users think
- they won't, they'll just leave.