Today I’m going to talk about the key features a website must-have. I know there is a lot of content on this topic out there, but still, each time I quote a client for a website structure, I see that they often do not clearly see what features are must and what features may be suppressed without any remorse. So, here you go for my list. You may agree or not, but this is how I see the monster :
Administration Panel Usable by an Average Human
Yes, you’re not dreaming, I do not start the list with your front page nor with the design of your website. First of all, your site needs to have an administration panel that you (yes you, not your web developer) can handle. At least to change the text or the image on that particular page at 2 am in the morning because you have zapped the small change of tomorrow or whatever. It would be silly to waste time (money, opportunity) because your web developer is temporarily unavailable. The simpler your website administration is – the better. This website runs on WordPress publishing software combined with a Thesis framework, because 3 years ago when I knew nothing of web development, I looked for the simplest solution I could use to administrate my website. I’ve tried a lot of software since, but still, I do not consider them more simple and better than WordPress and Thesis.
Five Pillar Pages
Yes, the minimum number is 5 – not 3 nor 4, but five. Here is why. Before someone enters your business they have at least 5 questions :
- Why should I do something (what is the problem I have)?
- What are the possible solutions for me?
- How much does it cost and how to find it out if there is no price displayed?
- Where and how to get those solutions?
- Why this business and not the one next door?
and here is the page list, accordingly :
- “Front” page – here you say what is the problem your client may have and you show what to do next about that problem.
- “Catalog” page – yes I know you have already listed the possible solutions on the front page, but are all of them there? On this “catalog” page you need to list them all and as detailed as reasonable.
- “Plans and Pricing” page or “Quote me” page – depends on what is your business and how do you feel about talking price on your website.
- “How to buy”, “How to find us” or “Contact” page with details about the ordering process and how to reach your business.
- “About”, “Testimonials” and “Legal information” page. Here you show why you’re a good trustable business/person. Yes, you might have already talked about you on the front page, but still, give more info here.
This list is quite simple, but I see a lot of small business websites that do not have this list completely. Well, guys, come on, technically it takes a couple of hours to make those pages. But they serve to make the difference between your business website and amateurs’ sites.
Simple Contact Form and a Phone Number
You must have a contact form (we are 2011 now). And this form should be dang short – Name, E-mail, Phone number, Message and Send button. You may skip fields like … well you may skip all other fields.
And near it, you must have your phone number displayed (a question of trust).
You do not know what exactly a blog is? Ok, it is the place where you publish pages regularly and they are displayed as a flow of content… Why your business must have a blog? The answer is simple – the better is your blog, the less budget you spend on marketing.
You’re a business owner, not a blogger (read – you’re scared of the word “blog”) – well, call it “news”.
Your company does not have enough news to publish regularly? – OK, what is the news in the business area your company belongs to?
Still have no idea of the content you will publish? – even better, answer the questions your client has and write them down in the “clients questions” section of your website.
But you must have this section anyway. No option here, because your competitors have (at least a couple of them, the famous couple that will split your parts of the market into several years).
- Benefits and Importance of Blogging for Your Business
- Guide to Designing Your Ideal Blog for Your Business
Mailing List Solution and A Subscribe Form That Goes With
Yes, I know this sounds complicated for the first time (sex sounded complicated as well for the first time ). But this is un must. Still, no option here, because this is how your site brings you money. Here is how: how much does it cost to reach a potential client and tell him/her to have a look at your product? Today it costs almost nothing (the last time I paid for such a feature it was 1 cent by highly targeted mail). But still, you need to have the list to send mails to.
Having a business mailing list is like having a magic box that makes it possible. See my latest example – a mail sent to all my actual clients telling them that I coded a new product to solve this exact issue (Frontpage widgets plugin in my store) – 1 dollar invested, 20 bucks back in 1 day. I launched this website 3 weeks ago… and have even not reached 1 000 visitors. Now the real surprise – one client from that list ordered a bigger product for 450 euros (550 USD). Would he do it if he didn’t get that mail from me? No one knows…
So, instead of thinking it is difficult to manage, search for a solution to how to do it easily (we will talk about technics later in the blog). BTW, the social media VS mailing list? – this is a wrong question. They should go hand in hand. And everyone uses e-mail. Some people use some specific social media platforms… your business needs to be everywhere…
Social Promotion Tools (Share Buttons)
While you may have no need to use social media sites, some of your visitors would “like” your site or “tweet” a page from your site, or share it on the Facebook thing. Do not strip this chance from them. Your budget will thank you.
Clean, Readable Design and Easy Navigation for Your Visitors
This is the last on the list, but not the least. You are judged by how you look before you have the chance to say anything. The design of your website may have fewer whistles and bells in it, but it must be neat, clean (spaced), ordered, easy to understand, and be readable. Otherwise, your visitors may leave well before they understand how useful you are.
The navigation must be handy, easy to find and to understand. See it like this – when you’re lost in a supermarket, do you think of what is on that shelf near you, or are you trying to find the exit? Your website is the kind of that supermarket.
Well, this is all for today. Do you have questions? let’s talk in the comments.