Web design is an ever-evolving field, with new technologies introduced all the time that change the way websites are designed. This is all really exciting for web designers! But to the general internet-browsing public, maybe not as much. There are certain goals and expectations a typical website visitor will have when visiting a website, so in the face of all these tempting new technologies, it is still important that your site satisfies certain core requirements.
Web designers will have varying opinions on what is actually necessary to build an effective website, and often these requirements will vary depending on the goal of your website. For example, if your goal is to impress your visitors with a modern, sophisticated image, and lend your business trust and credibility–a valid goal, to be sure–you may not need to build out complex features like a live news feed or searchable database. A few pages of content, high quality images and thoughtful content, and current contact information, will likely suffice. On the other hand, if the goal of your website is to become the one-stop resource for all real estate listings in your area, you will at minimum need to integrate with IDX and allow users to sort through real estate listing data on the front end.
So yes, the requirements of a website will depend on the goals of your website. That said, there are three goals every website must achieve. Without these elements, your website will simply not be effective to the end user. That is because no matter the scope of your website’s goals, if your website doesn’t satisfy the below three requirements, the visitor is going to navigate away almost as soon as they arrive:
- Increase the user’s awareness about something – this may sound obvious, but a user goes to a website for a specific reason. It could be to look up the price of a dress they are thinking of buying, it could be to check the news, it could be to watch a video. Whatever the case, a user goes to a website to change their awareness about something. Your website must at the very least contain the information that your visitor reasonably expects to find there.
- Be easy to navigate and intuitive to use – we’ve all experienced poorly designed websites, where you can’t figure out how to navigate to the home page or you get lost eight pages deep into a listicle. These experiences are unpleasant, but more than that they cost us valuable time. Your website must be intuitive to use, and easy to navigate. Your user should not have to spend time learning how to navigate your site – that time should be spent taking in the content of your site. There is a set of agreed upon standards that website users have grown to expect, such as a navigation bar at the top or along the side of the side, and the ability to click on a logo to take you back to the home page. Some web designers might cast of these design decisions as boring, and favor some edgy new design. This is actually harmful, because web visitors do not care about the latest designs, because see #1. They are at your site in order to access specific information, so you better make it easy to access! Don’t make your website visitor waste valuable time trying to grok your edgy new design.
- Follow modern standards of web design and performance – your website should follow modern standards of accessibility, performance, and load time. It should look good on any device a potential visitor is using, and it should be follow accessibility standards. It should also load quickly. In our always-connected society, our attention span has been getting shorter and shorter. There have been studies that show that you have about eight seconds for your website to capture your visitor’s attention, or else they will go elsewhere. So a user waiting for the page to load is wasting valuable time and can result in them going elsewhere to get the information they need, including with your competitor!