Websites serve a variety of purposes for a multitude of different user types. Individuals, small businesses, corporations, and even governments use websites as a hub of information and data exchange between the visitor and the owner of the site.
Even in a place as diverse as the Internet, there are a handful of key components that virtually every business site should have in order to provide its users with a good experience.
There are always exceptions to the rules out there, but for the most part, these five elements serve to meet the needs of the vast majority of users.
A menu, ideally located at the top or predominantly along the side of a page gives users the ability to quickly navigate to various areas of your site.
Even a one-page site can benefit from a menu that jumps visitors to a specific location of the page so they can access the information they need without having to manually seek it out. Even something as simple as directional arrows which take users to the following/previous section in a long one-page layout can make navigating the page a lot easier.
Your business is more than a series of products and a buy button. It's a brand, with its own identity and history that users will likely want to know about prior to trusting you with their business.
An About Us page tells the story of your company, and who your customers will be interacting with when they decide to do business with you.
At RocketTheme, we have a Team page set up which gives a bio of each member of our team, along with a brief history of its founding.
This page can be as simple or as complex as you need it to be. It is intended to serve not only as a resource for your customers, but for anyone in the media that may be doing a review or writing about your company in general. This makes it a great place to put a press kit, if you an area of your site dedicated to press materials.
Having your contact information on your site is crucial. This is how people know where and how to contact you for sales inquiries, partnership offers, customer service, and even promotional opportunities.
Your website is a virtual hub of information for your company. It is how people find you, and learn more about your business. If your contact details aren't on it, you will lose out on virtually any advantage having the site would give you.
Having your email address and other essential info directly on the page can lead to an increase in spam and other unrelated messages, so you can always use a contact form instead, making it easy for users to give you their preferred contact information, the reason for the request, and more.
Is your company on social networks like Twitter and Facebook? Add links to your contact page, and/or the header or footer of your site so it's easy to access. It never hurts to have more ways to reach out to customers to let them know about any news you have to share.
Search is an essential component of any site with multiple pages, especially for larger ones with information reaching into a variety of topics.
Many companies provide documentation, product details, pricing, and more on their site. By adding a search feature, you can make it much easier for someone to find specifically what they're looking for.
The easier you make it for someone to become a customer, the more likely they are to do so. Your site should have a purpose, and everything from its design to the way its content is written should be focused on achieving that goal.
If you want to sell more widgets, create a call to action for users from your front page leading them to where they can check out your widget.
A button that says, "Read More" is nice, but one that says "Download Our App for Discounts" or "Join Today" acts as more of a call to action for your visitors, giving them an incentive to follow through. Using active words like call, register, and subscribe are more likely to illicit a response than passive words.
Additionally, adding information related to timeliness can be helpful. Let readers know if this offer is only available for a limited time, or if quantities are short.
Good use of white space is also helpful. The more space you have around the call to action, the more likely readers are to focus on it. If it's a link embedded in a paragraph of text, it's easily overlooked as most readers scan over text for the information they need most.
Amazon is the largest single retailer on the Web. It didn't start out that way. Many people thought Amazon would fail out of the gates because buying things online was impersonal, and it would be difficult for people to ask the hard questions prior to purchase.
To the surprise of many traditional retailers, Amazon surpassed expectations by doing one very important thing. It allowed people to leave honest reviews of products on the product page. If a product received terrible reviews, those terrible reviews stayed up, regardless of how much money Amazon might lose over it.
This feedback makes it easier for people to trust a company. By sharing testimonials from real, named clients, you make it easier for a potential client to evaluate your business and make an educated decision about doing business with you.
If you sell products, having the good and bad information made available adds value to your company's site, which makes it more likely someone will return for insight on another product, even if they don't end up buying the first thing they came to research.
Do you know of an element or feature that should be present on business websites? Share your insight in the comments section below.