With the transition to the new business name (Brightsite) it seemed worth exploring the idea of a “bright site” and what that means for you.
In the fifteen years that I have been involved in web development, I’ve worked on and seen many different websites and experienced real world examples of sites that work well and for each of those, many more examples of sites that don’t. This experience has shaped my view on what the key elements of a good site are and I thought I’d share some of these with you.
Engagement starts with content
The first thing to acknowledge, is that with so many websites out there, vying for people’s attention, it is a challenge to stand out from the crowd. Engaging visitors is one of the biggest challenges that a website owner faces and while a what makes a site engaging can no doubt be broken down in a myriad of ways, I think there is a one area to focus on in getting this right. In a word it’s CONTENT. High quality content that is well-written and targeted at your audience should be the building block of every successful website.
The challenge of producing engaging content is one that many of us struggle with. Why, because writing is hard. It’s a unique skill in itself. But if you’re willing to practise this skill and invest your time in energy in writing content on a regular basis for your website, you will reap dividends both in terms of visitor engagement and search engine rankings. Remember search engines predominantly understand text and measure a website’s quality (at least partially) in terms of the uniqueness and depth of content.
Providing useful and engaging content opens up opportunities for ongoing client contact. In other words, when visitors see that you provide useful content on your website, this builds trust and provides opportunities to capture leads (i.e. email addresses).
This is another area which clearly separates websites along quality lines. Having the ability to update and maintain a website is critical, both in terms of keeping content fresh and engaging, but even more importantly for your own peace of mind and budget. A website that you can update yourself is going to be more cost effective then a site that can only be updated by a 3rd party. While it’s true that many small businesses don’t have the time or the energy to update their own websites and are quite happy to pay someone to update it for them, being able to manage and control this process yourself, puts you in a much better position in the long run. What does this mean in real-terms? It means your website should be based on a decent content management system (like WordPress) and you should be comfortable with updating it.
Yes, this requires some effort on the part of you or a member of your staff, but it will more than pay off by reducing headaches when you need to update your site. So ensure that you learn how to use the content management system that your site is built on (your website provider should provide training and direction on this) and get used to updating the site regularly so that you keep your hand in the game.
Tip: using a plugin like Sidekick for WordPress can be a great way to augment user training if you site is built on WordPress.
Even if you don’t want to update your site yourself, having a site that is easy to maintain and update will save you money if you’re paying someone else to do it.
Security and Performance
The 3rd key area that stands out with sites that deliver value for their owners, but which is easy to overlook, is security/reliability. One of the biggest unwanted surprises a website owner can face is having their site hacked or compromised unexpectedly. Having systems in place to back up a website and restore it in the event of a problem, will ensure that when there are problems, they can be rectified quickly and inexpensively.
Using security tools and monitoring systems like Sucuri are an important part of ensuring that your site stays online and is readily available to customers (and search engines) when they look for it.
Many websites, which are developed on a tight budget or delivered under time pressure, aren’t delivered with much thought given to security and performance. Setting up a few simple plugins and plans for backups and security doesn’t take long and can be applied at any time to provide greater peace of mind, not to mention yielding better results for you and your site.