A great website is a lot like a great restaurant – an exceptional atmosphere, swift and pleasant service, and delicious food are a winning recipe.  Get it wrong – poor service and a distracting atmosphere – and the results can be disastrous.

A website is no different.  Your products might well be the stuff of legend, but if your site visitors can’t get past design flaws, locate the information they need, or are distracted by unnecessary bells and whistles, your website might be doing more harm than good.

Here are 8 essential elements for your website:

1. Define your goal

A great website can and should be a lot more than advertising space.  But do you know what you want it to do?  Is it a sales site? An information point? A landing page? All of the above and then some? Once you define the goal, pursue it.  But unless you know where you want it to take you, you’re simply treading water and going nowhere fast.

2. Improve navigation

The foundation of any great website is navigation.  Just like walking into premises, when site visitors arrive they should be able to find what they are looking for with ease.

Does your website have 1 or 2 menu headings but 9 subheadings each?  Consider making more main headings in order to clean up the menu bar and improve the user experience.

Buttons are another great way to improve the user experience.  They should be recognizable as buttons, with a consistent visual theme.

3. Get About and Contact pages

It is astounding how many websites do not include About and Contact pages, and they are absolutely essential to engaging with your past, present and future clients.  A good About page shares your values, pictures, and (dare we say it) personalises a business relationship.  Not much, mind, but enough that clients feel like they are working with people, not robots.

Without a contact page, potential clients often have no idea where to go or who to call in order to place an order or get more information.  That’s lost revenue and it can’t be allowed to continue.

4. Effective Images

You can write all the content you want, but as the saying goes, a picture really is worth a thousand words.  Given the short attention span of most site visitors, it really does pay to give them us much visual information as you can.  Good, original images – not stock photos – are essential to a great website.

5. Mobile Friendly

More and more people are accessing the web from mobile devices.  Great websites cater to the end user and their mobile phones, tablets, and notebooks.  Information at your user’s fingertips is a no brainer. We are great advocates of responsive web design. Every site we build is a shape shifter.

6. Clean design free of unnecessary distractions

Websites that try to cram as much detail on the homepage as possible, have soundtracks and use flashing images, quite simply… are bad.  Clean sites with plenty of white space and which do not use flash images and backing tracks are good. Enough said.

7. Great Content

In the world of the internet, Content is King.  Site visitors want reliable information that is easy to find and adds value.  This can be as simple as providing responsive directions and accurate pricing information to a well-written and informative blog.  If your content isn’t providing this, it needs improving.

8. Call to Action

Since the age of about 1, most of us have been conditioned to do what we’re told.  That is why it is important that every page on your website includes a call to action – a request that the user do something. Do you have a great blog post and want your readers to leave a comment?  Ask them to!  Do you want potential clients to join your mailing list?  Ask them to! (please join our mailing list).  If you don’t ask, people rarely volunteer, and they rarely do things that are difficult.  Make it easy for them to do what they’re told.

Whatever you are offering to the world through your website – be it your products, professional expertise or outstanding content on your blog – your website is often the first and only medium through which the world experiences it.  Just like in the restaurant industry, presentation matters. It can elevate the mediocre and demote the sublime.

Great web content, like great food, deserves outstanding presentation. Make sure your recipe for success is as great as the product you offer.