How to Build a Successful Website for Your Business
What Makes a Website Successful?
When clients contact us about their web design projects, they usually don’t have a very effective online presence. But, of course, that is why they are talking to us in the first place. But what exactly makes your online presence engaging and effective?
Well, that depends on your business. Some businesses want to get more brand recognition. Others want to sell a product or service. And some want you to know where they are. But it all hinges on creating a successful website.
Visitors will have certain expectations when arriving at your site or e-commerce store. First, they have a specific goal they want to achieve on your site. Visitors want to take a particular action on your site.
That could be signing up for your newsletter, finding your store hours, or buying a product. This process has to be simple and provide the best possible user experience. Now you are beginning to see why creating a successful website is critical to your online reach and engagement.
Websites come in all shapes and sizes, but specific characteristics are fundamental to all successful websites. A well-designed site is a delight to be on.
A successful website is built with the visitor in mind and serves them the information they are looking for quickly and efficiently. It is also optimized to bring in the right traffic from search engines – traffic that will convert into customers.
Essential Steps to Build a Successful Website
A well-designed website asks the big questions at the beginning of the process and uses the answers as a road map throughout the rest of the design process. You need to ask questions like:
- What are your goals for your site?
- What is the purpose of the site?
- What would make the site a success?
- What is your (realistic) web design budget?
- How are you going to differentiate yourself from similar sites?
- What kind of emotions do you want people to feel?
- How will the site be maintained? Who is my target audience?
- How will they find my site?
- What is the minimum viable version of the site to launch?
- Who will host and maintain the site?
Nailing down answers to these types of questions early on helps make the design decisions later much more manageable.
Define Your Goals
An essential step in creating a successful website is to set realistic goals. For example, what are your expectations for your online presence? And what expectations does your target audience have? Your new website will only generate traffic, leads, and sales when you ensure you have what your target audience wants and can provide that for them in a user-friendly way.
Defining goals for your organization and your target users should be pretty straightforward. And it is essential! Because if your goals and your audience’s expectations don’t align, you will likely have a problem.
It is useless to you, the business owner, to invest time and money into a site only to learn that no one wants or understands why they should buy from you. And this will happen when you focus too much on your goals, not your target audience.
You’re starting a website for a reason. What is it you want the site to accomplish?
Before working on the website, determine what you want your website to achieve.
If it’s a business website, your main goal will be increased profits. Still, you’ll want to break that down into more specific and transitional goals, such as raising brand awareness or driving traffic into your store.
If you’re hoping to write blog posts about what you love and eventually monetize your blog, your goals will be based on driving traffic and building a community.
Even if you want to use your website to put your thoughts into the world or share your creative projects, you probably want others to find and connect with them.
Successful website design depends on what you want from the website. Whether you want visitors, sales, subscribers, fame, community, or something entirely different, you must start by clearly defining and writing out your website goals.
What is the Purpose of Your Site?
Your website needs to accommodate the needs of the user. A simple, clear intention on all pages will help users interact with what you offer. What is the purpose of your website? Are you imparting practical information like a ‘How to guide’? Is it an entertainment website like sports coverage, or are you selling a product to the user?
There are many different purposes that websites may have, but there are core purposes common to all websites:
- Describing Expertise
- Building Your Reputation
- Generating Leads
- Sales and AfterCare
Plan Your Budget
Prepare to invest in your web presence. I have known a lot of brands that overspend on their sites and then go cheap on marketing. Conversely, some want to go big on marketing and won’t put anything into their website.
Select the best content management system (CMS) and type of site for your small business.
Off the shelf? Know the limitations, so you don’t have to throw them away and start over before you have ROI.
Custom design or custom code? Ensure it isn’t overkill and doesn’t push your breakeven point too far into the future.
Don’t be over or undersold. Know what your upfront investment is and what the incremental one is as well to make the right decisions to support your business.
To build an effective website, you need to stand out. Differentiation is critical to rising above the digital noise and your online competitors. Yes, you can still use a website template and look different. However, you can stand out by customizing imagery and styles and tailoring them to your brand.
This process goes along with earning trust. When you tell your story and create factors like price, quality, customer service, what you do with profits, how you give back, etc., you make the bond needed to stand out from the rest of the templated sites selling the same products or services.
The next step in building a successful website is to earn the trust of your target audience. Remember, when visitors first arrive on your website, they know little or nothing about you. Therefore, you must be clear and transparent in what you offer and what your audience wants to do.
Know what motivates your visitors and how that relates to your strengths, and leverage that. Unfortunately, websites often lack the emotional or credibility connections to earn trust and make the sale.
A straightforward way to earn the trust of your target audience is to have a comprehensive and practical “About Us” page. Website visitors want to know who they are doing business with and not that you’re just another online presence or ill-defined brand. In addition, visitors care about your intentions. For example, even the most cost-conscious consumers must feel you’re a legit business before providing credit card details.
Plan Your Website’s Structure
You already know what kind of website you’re going to build. You also have a domain, hosting, and the tech back-end to make the site. Now, it’s time to work on planning the site’s structure.
By structure, I mean deciding which pages the site will include. You should also outline the critical elements for each web page.
At this stage, this can be a very rough layout. I recommend against spending too much time planning your website’s design. That’s a different step, and your site’s design will likely change while you’re actively working on it (we know this from experience).
If you’re not sure which pages your website should include, here’s an essential list of options that most sites can benefit from:
- Homepage. Every website has a homepage. This page is the heart of your site, so you must carefully consider which elements you will include.
- About Us. This page can tell visitors more about you and your team. You can include short bios and discuss what your website’s goal is.
- Contact Us. Users will want to get in touch with you at some point. A Contact Us page makes it easy for them to do so via email or an embedded contact form.
- Blog. The Blog page should include your latest blog posts and enable visitors to browse the archives.
- Shop. If you want to sell products online, you need a Shop page. A shop page is where visitors can look for the products they want to buy and navigate the store’s catalog.
- Frequently Asked Questions. Depending on your site, you should include a page that answers common questions users might have about your content, services, or products.
Since this is your first website, we recommend looking at similar sites targeted toward your target audience. For example, if you launch a cooking blog, check out other food sites to see how they’re structured. In other words, scope out the competition.
This list should give you an idea of which pages and elements to include. Write all this information down in a list and save some of the pages you like the most as inspiration. You’ll want to refer to them during the design process.
Keep Design Simple
A great site appears visually appealing and polished. Your design should convey the feeling and essence of the person or business behind it. Design, like art, is subjective. But it’s safe to say that there are some golden rules you should always strive to follow. Keep it clean, simple, and elegant.
Because you only have a short time to “hook” your visitors, you must create a reason for people to stay immediately. That means creating a compact and straightforward message that arouses interest right away.
This message should communicate a tone or feeling that represents your brand and makes people feel comfortable and interested in your products or services. You can achieve this with beautiful images, creative typography, color usage, generous whitespace, and good copywriting.
When done correctly, it leaves visitors with a potent impression that stirs action.
Your visitors should not have to think about what your website is about or worse, how to use it. Instead, they should intuitively grasp your message. Then, use a compelling and straightforward call to action.
A clear information architecture allows them to navigate to required content within seconds upon landing on your web page. Always design appropriately to fit your target audience and industry.
The organization of your website should make it simple for visitors to find the information they need. Your main navigation needs to be easily identifiable and give users a quick overview of what is on your site.
Avoid using “cute” labels for your main navigation, and instead, use one or two words that directly summarize the information found on each page or section.
Navigation and site architecture should not exclude search engine spiders. Be sure to include a text link-based sitemap to make the entire site structure accessible to search engines.
Create Engaging Content
Quality content is critical for creating a successful website. Topical, compelling, and well-composed content will acquire links naturally over time. Research is vital for creating quality content. You don’t need insider information or a doctorate in your field.
The information is out there; you need to be smart about how to piece it together. For example, you can compile information not presented before. Quality always trumps quantity. It is better to have ten solid articles than 100 mediocre ones.
Focus on Functionality and Usability
An essential aspect of building a successful website is usability and user experience. Therefore, making it easy for your audience to consume the content they need and interact with your site would be best.
Everything on your site has to work as intended. That includes everything from links to forms to e-commerce shopping carts. Nothing frustrates users like a site that doesn’t work how it should: it’s a sure way to alienate your visitors.
A simple design cuts down on unnecessary design elements and reduces clutter. Ask yourself if each component is needed; if not, remove it. Simple designs are the product of a well-thought-out process and are not easy to execute
Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.Steve Jobs
If you have products or services, ensure users can access the appropriate pages with the fewest clicks possible. Don’t assume a user is willing to click several times to get to your products or other content. Especially mobile consumers are getting ever more impatient. Keep that in mind as your focus on your site design and content.
Start with an intuitive navigation menu optimized for mobile and desktop devices and screen sizes. Think about the placement of your search box and other cues to get to popular content. Remember that mobile users will likely use only one hand to scroll on their devices. Have you placed all-important content and buttons, so they are easy to reach with your thumb?
Don’t forget the page load speed. The speed of your site has a direct impact on how your users feel about it. Research says that users will abandon a website that does not load within several seconds. Ensure your site uses optimized code images. Whenever possible, use page caching to speed up your site.
Test User Experience
By this point, you should have a nearly completed website. Pages will be functional, and the website’s initial content should be in place. That means all the pages will have their written and visual content, and a user should be able to move from one page to another and complete actions seamlessly.
We use the word “should” because many people don’t test their websites before making them public. With that in mind, this step is simple. Ask some friends or colleagues to take your website for a test run.
To collect more valuable information from their experiences, ask the following questions:
- Is the website easy to navigate?
- Did you spot any elements or pages that don’t work?
- Do you think the website is missing any essential functions?
- Is there any aspect of using the site that you didn’t enjoy?
Keep in mind that not all feedback you get will be actionable. If you can get feedback from professional designers or web developers, they’re more likely to spot glaring errors in the site’s usability. They’ll tell you if the text is hard to read, buttons aren’t noticeable, forms don’t work, Calls-to-Action (CTA) need changes, and much more.
You can get all this user experience feedback after launching your site and receiving visitors. However, enticing the first users to your website takes a massive amount of work. If you want those users to return, you must ensure your website looks like a professional project rather than something put together haphazardly.
Use Reliable Hosting
Always try to get a dedicated IP address for your domain. And always use a hosting provider that is reputable and does not host questionable or spammy websites. A good hosting provider should offer specialized services for your WordPress website, perform regular backups, and provide other support services. Of course, a solid up-time record is essential as well. We recommend Cloudways, WPEngine, Kinsta, and BlueHost.
Optimize for Search Engines
A successful website considers how people will find it in search engines. Therefore, SEO can’t be an afterthought. Instead, it must be regarded as at the beginning of the project and used to determine everything from the copy to how to organize the pages.
Good SEO is more than just attracting a lot of traffic – it’s about bringing the right traffic looking for exactly what you’re offering on your site.
There are over 200 factors that go into determining how your website will rank with Google, and it’s impossible to discuss them all here. But, the fundamentals of good SEO are deciding how your target audience will try to find your site in search engines, what keywords and phrases they will use, and incorporating that language into your design in a way that is easy for Google to read and index.
Here are some of the main things you’ll need to consider when it comes to “on-page” optimization:
- Research which keywords to use. “Keywords” are the terms people use to look up information on search engines. A great SEO strategy involves researching what people seek and building content around those queries.
- Use descriptive page titles and subheadings. Search engines don’t really “understand” what information pages include. Instead, they use contextual data to help determine when to show results, and titles play a huge role. So use descriptive titles that tell users exactly what information each section covers.
- Add meta descriptions to each page. Meta descriptions are short blurbs of information that appear below titles in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). A good meta description can increase clickthrough rates for any given page.
- Using internal links. Linking to other pages within your website helps increase on-page time and shows you have relevant information for users to peruse.
- Get other websites to link to you. Backlinks are one of the most important aspects of SEO. Search engines take backlinks as signs of trustworthiness, so you must get other websites to link to your pages.
For now, focus on the basic best practices of SEO and read as much about the subject as possible. SEO can take months or even years to pay off, but it’s a surefire way to get steady traffic to your website.
Start Building Your Successful Website
As you can see, creating a successful website takes a lot of thought and consideration. All elements of the site need to work together and complement one another. A beautiful design is just the beginning of what it takes to make a website a success.
Don’t be scared if you’ve been thinking about making a website but are hesitant! It can be a long process, and some parts can be frustrating. However, it’s not an exaggeration to say making a website has never been easier. You don’t need to code to build an amazing-looking site; most of the work comes after the pages are published.
For a first-time project, we recommend using WordPress. It’s an incredibly versatile CMS you can use to build small and large-scale websites alike. In addition, it’s highly customizable and has a visual editor that makes building pages remarkably simple.
We have your back if you don’t want to do everything alone. At PixoLabo Web Design, we offer professional small business website design services where we listen to your needs and put together the perfect website for your project or small business. We are here to help you!
Final Thoughts on Building a Successful Website
Building a successful website is essential to succeed online in 2023. You only have a few seconds to attract and engage your audience and convince them you are their best choice. It does not matter what industry you serve or what products you sell.
Creating a successful website is not as complicated as many people think. But, yes, it does take some time and effort on your part. And you will want to avoid common web design flaws that will spell certain disasters after you launch your website. And always keep in mind that your website needs to deliver a compelling online marketing message.
Creating a successful website is essential to provide the best possible user experience for ever more sophisticated and demanding mobile consumers. However, mobile-first web design can get tricky, and you may require some professional help. If you are not sure how or where to get started, we are here to help.
Do You Need to Build a Successful Website?
Do you need to build a successful website or online store? Our team of professional designers will be happy to help you with this. But first, look at our portfolio and read our case studies.
Then, if you believe we are a good fit for your small business web design needs, let’s talk! We offer a full range of consulting and design solutions for businesses and product brands.
And if you are still unsure how to build a successful website, let’s talk. We will listen to you, answer your questions, and determine how to build a successful website for your business or product brand!
What Would You Add?
Did you build a successful website for your business or product brand? If so, how has this helped your brand meet its business objectives? What is your biggest obstacle in creating a successful website and online presence if not? Do you have other problems with your business website design?
We know there are other things out there that should be on this list, so please share your thoughts. What else do you need to build a successful website? Are there items on this list that you do not think are important?
Please leave your comments below so our audience can benefit as well. Grab our feed so you don’t miss our next post! And help other business owners build a successful website by sharing this post with them!
For more content relevant to your business or product brand – check out the range of articles on our web design blog. (This one, explaining the importance of user experience in web design, is an excellent place to start!)
Thank you! We appreciate your help ending bad business websites, one pixel at a time!
By Gregor Saita
Co-Founder / CXO