What are the features of a good website?

Design / 28.09.16
Mark Vaesen

In the latest in my series covering the different aspects of planning your website project, we look at what website features to include on your site, and how to choose what’s best for your business.

Straight off the bat, I should tell you this is aimed at what’s historically been referred to as “brochure” websites.

Around 75% of our clients have this type of site, so it’s relevant to the majority of businesses, but if you’re looking for in-depth analysis of ecommerce features, or other more complex sites, you’re probably in the wrong place.

The Famous Five

The fundamental requirements of brochure sites haven’t really changed since I started in the industry waaaay back in 2000, and they always come back to the 5 key areas of your business you need to cover;

  1. What you do
  2. What you’ve done
  3. How you do it
  4. Who you are/what makes you different
  5. What your customer needs to do next
No, not that Famous Five

This is why you’ll find most brochure sites have pages called Services/Products, Portfolio, About, Contact (or variations thereof); they cover all these areas quite nicely. But by thinking about these sections in a bit more detail, you can make better decisions about what website features you should include to make your site more effective.

But of course, it’s not a one-size-fits-all deal; different businesses need to give prominence to different areas. What works for one business might not work for you.

So let’s dive in and take a look at each of these 5 areas more closely…

1. What you do

Obviously, you need to tell your potential customer what you do.

Setting out the services or products you provide helps your customer in several ways;

  1. It confirms they’re in the right place – “I was looking for a carpenter. I can see one of the listed services is carpentry. Good, I’m in the right place and I’m not wasting my time – I’ll look further.”
  2. It gives them context – “I was looking for a carpenter, and I see one of the listed services is carpentry. There are five other things on the list – General Building Work, Kitchens, Bathrooms, Plumbing, and Electrical – I can see this is a general builders rather than just a specialist carpenter.”
  3. It sets their perception of your skills – “I was looking for a carpenter and I see a list of services that are all carpentry related. This company is obviously a specialist carpenter.”

But how does it help your business?

Well, it gives you the opportunity to target the sort of customers/business you want. If you’re a specialist carpenter and you want more customers looking for bespoke hand-made kitchens, list it as one of your services. If you don’t really want to also be involved in the plumbing of that kitchen (although you could, it’s often just a pain in the arse), don’t put plumbing on the list.

Be careful not to be seen as a Jack of all trades

Think carefully about how many services you list, and in what order they appear. Remember the old adage “Jack of all trades, master of none”, and what your customer might think seeing a long list of broad services. Tailor the list to appeal to your target market and get more of the type of work you want.

2. What you’ve done

You need to show examples of the work you’ve done for other people. Your customer usually wants to see that you’ve done some stuff similar to what they want. Think about it – if you wanted an interior designer to design your new shop, you’d want to use someone that’s done a few shops before, right?

To make this really effective, you need to put yourself in the customer’s shoes and figure out what it is they want to see as evidence that you’re good at your job. This might not be visual…

Example 1 – You’re a financial advisor. What’s important to your customers is that a) they’re money’s in safe hands and b) they’re going to get good returns on their investments. Consider displaying several glowing testimonials (properly cited and with an image or even a video) that talk about these specific points.

Example 2 – You’re a marketing company. What’s important to your customers is the results you can deliver for their business. Case studies of a similar business would be great – but don’t just tell them what you did, show them the results you delivered for your client. Tell them how much extra business it generated, or how much their turnover increased. For visual interest, you can pull out headline figures and style them nicely to make the page more aesthetically pleasing.

Example 3 – You’re an architect. What’s most important to your customers is what your buildings look like. They might also want to know about how you helped other people make more of their space etc. etc. but what they really want to see are pictures that make them go “oooooh, that’s nice”. So show them – invest in the best professional photography you can and show them a portfolio of big glossy pictures.

If your “product” is visual, invest in quality photography

If your “product” is in any way visual, I can’t stress how important it is to invest in quality photography – it’s the single thing that will make the biggest difference to your site. If your product isn’t visual, think about how you can present the results – a graph, headline figure, testimonial – in an interesting and engaging way.

3. How you do it

Having ticked off the first two questions (“Do they do what I’m looking for?” and “Have they done similar things before?”), the next thing your customer wants is some reassurance that the experience doing business with you is likely to be a positive one.

How you approach your work is especially important if your business provides a service that’s not that familiar to the client.

Tomango is a pretty good example. For many clients, a brand or website project can seem daunting, or they may have had a bad experience elsewhere. By explaining how we approach our projects, we can demonstrate to them that it doesn’t have to be a painful experience and they’re in good hands.

This is your opportunity to reassure your customer, and position yourselves as being well-organised and thorough. The way you explain what you do (the tone of voice, the words you use) also gives you an opportunity to express your brand values.

4. Who you are/what makes you different

At this point, your potential customer’s decided that you know what you’re doing and you’re capable of providing what they want. Now they want to know what you’re like, and whether they’ll like working with you.

This is your opportunity to get across the personality of the business, and show them what makes you so special.

It’s especially important if your business is all about relationships. Our previous example of the architect is a good one; a client wants to know what makes you tick before trusting you with the design of their new home.

This part of your site can also be useful if you’re trying to demonstrate your capability through size. If it’s important to appear to be a reasonably sized business, think about how you want to present your team, and whether you want to focus on certain individuals. If you do, you might want to have a Meet the Team-type section that includes individual profile pages.

You might also want to think about how much you feature your premises. If you think your customers might in part make their decision based on whether you work from a cool urban office rather than an industrial estate (and if you have a cool urban office), then show some great photos of where you work. It all goes towards setting the scene and positioning yourself in your customers mind.

When we were deciding what we wanted to include on the Tomango site, we recognised that our clients place a lot of value on the people in the company, the skills we have in-house, and whether they’ll feel comfortable working with us. So we have individual profile pages for everyone, and the customer gets to know a bit about us before we start. We’re also fortunate enough to work from a pretty nice location – something that the sort of clients we want to work with tend to look for in their design agency – so we’ve got some great images of our studio too.

Finally, this is your big chance to demonstrate your brand values. Let the customer know what you feel’s important in how you do business.

5. What your customer needs to do next

You’ve done all the hard work convincing the customer you’re the right fit for them – now you need to reel them in.

In order to make this as effective as possible, think about how you operate as a business and figure out which means of contact suits you best.

For instance, if you convert more sales when you’re talking to customers on the phone, make your call to action all about phoning. Put your phone number in prominent positions, making sure it’s not just in your header and on your contact page, but at the bottom of any copy on your pages.

If you need information from your client, a form’s better than email

If it helps to get a bit of information from the customer first in order to work your magic, consider pushing them towards a contact form where you ask them for specific details. A form’s better than an email, because it tells them specifically what you need to know from them.

Don’t forget the rules of good contact forms:

  • Don’t have too many fields – only ask for the absolute minimum
  • Make it easy to use – think about how you can make it easier and quicker for the customer. Use drop-down lists, tickboxes and radio buttons appropriately
  • Make any instructions and labels as clear as possible
  • Always send the customer to a Thanks page when they submit the form, so they know it worked

If customers expect to be able to get an online quote, or calculate costs in some other way, make this a feature when you’re planning the site. It might add a bit to the development costs, but if it brings in more business as a result, it will be a worthwhile investment.

Need more help planning your website? Read the other posts in our series “Planning your Website Project”:

Do I need a new website?
What sort of website do I need?
The 6 things a good website must do
What are personas?
What is a User Journey?
How to create a website design brief – download our template
How to choose a web design agency

Choosing the right website features

For more advice on choosing the website features that will work for your business and customers, contact the team today for a quick chat.