12 tips that make or break great websites (with examples)

Posted on June 24, 2013 by Rob Petersen



good website design

Why do people like or dislike a website? The research says it’s all about the experience.

KISSmetrics says, when people leave a website, the most common reasons are:

  • Bad navigation
  • Bad content structure
  • Obtrusive use of ads and sign up forms
  • Bad design and content
  • Poor legibility

The business term for a great experience is web personalization. It means the website matches content and experience to a specific user’s instructions or preferences.

What makes or breaks great websites? Here are 12 tips.

  • CLEARLY COMMUNICATE WHAT YOU DO AND MAKE IT EASY TO BEGIN A RELATIONSHIP: State or, better yet, visualize the benefit and take immediate advantage of potential interest. A company like Feed Stitch, for example, has a difficult communication challenge. They take many different data feeds and integrate them to have a common purpose. They use an effective metaphor, simple descriptions and a visible invitation to “get started.”

Good homepage design

  •  KEEP KEY INFORMATION AND ACTIONS “ABOVE THE FOLD;” Visitors to a website spend 80% of their time “above the fold” according to Nielsen. So don’t lose the majority of prospects. Dollar Shave Club gives viewers a video to explain what they do and registration form to take advantage of its audience – all “above the fold.”

above the fold example

  • HAVE A CLEAR CALL-TO-ACTION: These days, visitors’ experience to a website can come for any page. Don’t miss the opportunity to have them take action. Amazon always shows a clear call-to-action next to a motivating offers with their landing pages.

Good Call-to-Action

  • DEFINE THE ROLES OF YOUR AUDIENCE: Visitors to a web site have different “roles” or potential relationships. Speak to them. Sermo is a physician’s network that recognizes through roles the different types of doctors who visit Sermo for a variety of reasons.

website roles

  • RECOGNIZE DIFFERENT TYPES OF READERS: For each role, there are three types of readers: 1) Researchers, who expect to be educated, 2) Shoppers, who want comparisons and 3) Buyers, who are ready to take action. They are not mutually exclusive. For example, a Researcher can become a Shopper who turns into a Buyer. Design content and web pages so you can captivate all three.
  • ESTABLISH TASKS: The best way to establish if people who visit your site are doing what you want is to identify task. Here are some examples: 1) For an Insurance Comparison Site (Researcher): Find three, 1 million term life insurance quotes for healthy 30 year living in CA: 2) for an E-commerce (Shopper), Determine cost of XYZ laptop with optional DVD drive: for a Mobile App your Website (Buyer), Set up free trial account and go through steps to create app to publish
  • DON’T PARALYZE WITH TOO MANY CHOICES: It’s normal to imagine, when someone visits your website, they might be interested in lots that you have to offer, but they rarely are. If you went to this page looking for a certain kind of shirt, would this page help or confuse you? Don’t lose visitors by giving too many choices.

too many choices on a website

  • …OR TOO MUCH TEXT:  There is probably a great deal of meaning behind this text for the people who created this page. But, to the people who visit, not so much.

too much text on a website

  • CONSIDER POP-UP CAREFULLY: I know lots of people who are believers in “Entry” (Welcome) and “Exit” (Wait…Before you go) pop-ups. I’m not one of them. Why? Many sources say it costs 6 to 7 times more to acquire a new customer than keep a current customer. That’s a lot to put at risk when you think about the inconvenience you may be costing your best customers who have to skip pop-ups to get where they want to go. If you use pop-ups, just make sure the risk is worth the rewards.


  • ESTABLISH TRUST AND CREDIBILITY: According to Reevoo stats, 50 or more reviews per product can mean a 4.6% increase in conversion rates. So think about the addition of trust and credibility features like reviews, client testimonials, client lists and case studies on your website.

 client testimonials

  • OPTIMIZE FOR SEARCH: 80% of visitors find a web site by typing their unmet need in the query box of a search engine. 80% of those people click on an “organic” or “natural” listing. The subject of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is fundamental to creating a great website. Here are tips on how to write for your audience and the search engines.
  • BE SOCIAL AND ENGAGE: Your audience and the search engine send more traffic your way if they know content on the site is always being refreshed. The best way to do that is integrate a blog and your social networks into your site. Make sure when you set up your blog the URL tracks back to your website like it shown below.

blog domain

Everyone who has a website wants to be loved and giving visitors a great experience is the way to get there.

If you’re interested in knowing more about Website Optimization and Personalization, I’ll be teaching an online course on this subject at UCal Irvine with Mike Moran this summer. Or you can contact me through this website.

Are these tips helpful to you for creating a great website?

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