10 Elements Most Websites Need
Although every website is unique, almost every one must follow certain guidelines in order to be easily navigable and keep visitors from floundering when figuring out how to learn more about your product, service or content. We’ve gathered a list of 10 important common elements and would love to hear your ideas too.
“Poor navigation makes us think. Better navigation makes us think less. Great navigation is so obvious we don’t have to think at all.” – Steve Krug, “Don’t Make Me Think”
A structured navigation system is a key feature for any website, Unless you’re planning a one page site, every website should have at least basic navigation, in a consistent place on each page, that helps the user get from page to page and discover additional content.
Whether you’re creating a blog, have a corporate website or run an e-commerce boutique that sells a number of products, offering some point of contact is key. You can do this via a simple form, or by including your email address and phone number on a contact page. Some websites include a map to their location. In order to protect yourself from robots and spammers, a secure form and/or “captcha” verification should put a stop to at least some of those pesky robots and email harvesters out there.
Clear Error Page/s
Adding simple custom error pages is pretty easy, and when they take you back to the front page they’re helpful additions to all websites. That way you won’t leave visitors hanging if a search doesn’t pan out or you’re inadvertently missing a link.
If your website grows beyond 4-6 pages, you may need to consider adding a sitemap. It’s a great way for you to keep track of your website’s growth, as you add more content over time. But it’s also an easy alternative way for users to get to where they want to go quickly and efficiently. And, did you know, for many blind internet users the sitemap is a key navigation item?
Sitemaps are also important for search engine optimization (SEO) as they help spiders to crawl your site and follow your links.
There are many articles and websites that give advice and emphasize the importance of web accessibility and we recommend doing a bit of reading on this topic. Accessibility is a pretty broad category in web design that includes readability, color theory, image analysis and so on – ensuring that all users can easily access and understand the content you’re presenting. An accessible website makes for a successful website on multiple levels – saving resources, making for easy maintenance, meeting accessibility standards which all leads to more visitors, happy visitors and better search engine visibility.
Title and Favicon
What’s shown on the title bar of your website is just as important as everything else, because a sloppy title and a randomly picked or no favicon speaks volumes about your great or lack of attention to details. Managing titles properly involves each page having its own individual title. Titles are also key elements for SEO.
Predictable, we know. Basically, great use of headings gives any website easy demarcation points, search engine benefits (SEO professionals will probably want to go into more details here), and greater accessibility.
This is an off-page element that many designers overlook. In terms of search engine indexing, the robots.txt file goes great with sitemaps. It’s the main tool to use in directing search engine bots to the pages you want, while keeping them out of certain sections that don’t need to be indexed. It also prevents excess crawling, which can save you bandwidth in the long run.
Relatively Small Page Loads
Waiting excessively for a page to load is a real pain and you don’t want to go through the same wait over and over again. In this case, building a WordPress based website is an advantage because it allows you to install a super cache plugin that, at least up to a point, solves the loading problem. However, regardless of the platform used, developers should be careful and try to keep pages (embedded images included) under 100kb each.
Given that great Google visibility can make or break a website, making proper use of the right markups and latest technology practices all throughout your website can put you one step ahead from the start. CSS, XHTML and HTML5 are tools that when used wisely ensure compatibility and cooperation with web standards and search engines.
Do you have other must-haves in your web design arsenal? Tell us about them in the comments.