The definition of a successful website is one which promotes your business in a way that improves your outcomes. That doesn’t always mean a direct increase in sales or higher profit margin. Sometimes it will help with those indirectly though through a reduction in costs or an improvement in customer relationships.

Over 10 years ago Smashing Magazine published an article extolling the virtue of usability and utility as good website design principles and that hasn’t changed a lot other than the undeniable need to accommodate search engine friendliness.

Getting it right starts with the construction, which is much like building a new house, it requires the right foundations to ensure that when completed it meets your expectations and needs.

Regardless of what your intended outcome, a successful website relies on getting 3 things right during the construction phase.

1. Good Design

The goal here is to achieve a design that will appeal to the widest cross-section of visitors from your target market. Unless you really want to push the envelope that sometimes means going with something slightly less daring and slightly more beige. How do you get that right? Well, there is no magic formula for a successful website but there are some important do’s and don’ts.


  • Do rely on the advice of your web designer. Good web designers usually have years of experience in their field and can call on that knowledge to incorporate what they know works and leave out what doesn’t. If you are lucky you will get a web designer who has some marketing experience that can be added to the ingredients for a well rounded design.
  • Do ensure that if you request a change to the initial design of your website that it is because it will improve acceptance by your audience. The website designer may have designed it that way for a reason (remember they are supposed to be the one with the expertise).
  • Do try to make your website as engaging as possible by inviting user interaction.
  • Do make sure that your site is pleasing to the eye (the collective eye – see point 2 in the Don’ts section) with a cohesive choice of colours and fonts that give maximum readability.
  • Do include enough detail to ensure that your website is a source of valuable and accurate information.
  • Do make your website easy to navigate with clear structure and a hierarchy that enables easy progression through levels of information.
  • Do include graphics and images to make information easier to digest and comprehend while breaking up more complex material into smaller sections.


  • Don’t allow a web designer to use your website as a platform for their creativity. A web designer who panders to their own design flare will produce a website that may be asthetically exceptional but a total failure in other areas.
  • Don’t assume that everyone shares your taste. It can be very easy to assume that everyone shares similar likes and dislikes in how a website should look. It is not uncommon for clients to insist on specific design features because that is what ‘they’ like but which may be at odds with what their market likes.
  • Don’t add unnecessary features. If it serves a purpose fine, but if you want it included because you think it is trendy or modern then leave it out. No gimmicks.
  • Don’t assume there is an ‘easy out’ when it comes to ensuring your website is a success. Achieving and maintaining a successful website is a long-term and often time-consuming process.

2. Covering Technical Needs

Acceptance by search engines and ease of use by visitors are two of the key technical aspects to consider.

Page load speeds, device friendly designs, usability and so on are also not just important for real people they are important to the search engines visiting your website. Why? Because the search engine rankings highly value aspects of your site that are important to humans, and they are getting better and better at identifying what those features are.

While the gap between providing information suitable for human consumption and that provided for machine consumption closes there are still technical aspects that must be present and correct to satisfy search engine requirements. Normally these technical aspects are better left to your web developer who will know what features you need to make your website as search engine friendly as possible but they include:


  • meta data including the correct use of tag attributes
  • keywords and phrases (your web designer may embellish some of the copy for your website to ensure search engine markers are present)
  • optimised content (including images)
  • security
  • site maps and crawl files
  • best practices for URL’s and navigation structure
  • preventing duplicate content
  • the effective use of links

While this isn’t an all inclusive list the internet is full of resources and some of the best are those provided by the search engines themselves among which is a basic guideline on search engine optimization provided by Google themselves.

Google SEO

3. Balancing the First Two

The final piece to the puzzle is ensuring that the first and second keystones are balanced perfectly. After all, there is no point in having the best looking website in the world if no one can find it and there is no value in having the search engines listing your website highly if visitors to it won’t engage with it (it is unlikely that it will be listed well anyway due to the weight search engines give to the popularity of a site).

Although it might not look like it there is a lot of overlap between the design aspects and technical aspects they differ in that the design aspects are mostly visible to humans and the technical aspects are mostly visible to machines i.e. search engines. As artificial learning and intelligence become more and more important in the mix it may not be so important to ensure that both sides of the coin are equally represented in website design but that time has not yet come.


Not every successful website will score 100% in those 3 keystone areas and the success of a website is not always gauged on increased sales (have a look at the 27 top designs in this Blogspot article ( but your website must be a contributor for your business and a good foundation will help that happen.

Smashing Magazine

The road to website failure is lined by plenty of people who think that anyone can design a website. However, employing a web designer who makes good use of the 3 important keystones of clever design, covering the technical aspects and good balance of the two will ensure that success for your website will be far more easily obtained.

How do you know whether it is better to rebuild or start fresh with a new website?

You have had a website for a while but it hasn’t received much attention recently. Everyone has good intentions when it comes to keeping their website up-to-date and the benefits of doing so can’t be underestimated. However, all the best intentions in the world sometimes get swamped by other things demanding your attention.

If your website has been neglected for a while and you have now managed to find the time to do something about it one of the first questions you are probably asking yourself is, can I update what I already have or do I need to start from scratch with something entirely new?

There are no one word answers to that question so let’s look at what you need to consider.

Short Term

If it has only been 12-24 months since your website has seen any regular attention then you may be able to get away with a refresh by adding some new content and updating other material. A check to ensure that the existing content being displayed is still accurate and relevant should be a regular task anyway. Add some simple changes to the styling to ensure everything looks fresh and new and you might get away with it.

Long Term

On the other hand and this is the focus of this article, if it has been any longer than 2 years since your last major content updates then it will almost always be better to start fresh with a new website. There are more reasons to start with a fresh slate than you may think, so let’s look at the main ones.


Even with a small business it is amazing how quickly content can become dated. Information about the business, the products, services, regions covered, contact details and staff members can all change in a short period of time and seemingly without anyone noticing.


Conventional coding practices can change a lot in a couple of years. So if your website was built using a content management system, as most are these days, then you have a lot to be concerned about. Not only is it likely that your CMS is seriously out-of-date but it is probably a potential security risk if it hasn’t had any patches applied. With new features being added to most CMS’s regularly you are probably missing out there as well.

Search Engine Updates

All the major search engines are continually refining the way they filter the results to searches in an attempt to provide more relevant, valuable and accurate results. In turn, website owners need to be adjusting the text, keywords and terminology used on their website to ensure they are well represented in the results for their field.

Social Media

Shifts in social media usage can mean that channels targeted previously are no longer as important as they once were. Re-examining your social media strategy, like most other areas, should be a regular task.

Design Methods

While trends in website design change at a more gradual pace it is not unusual to find that what was a cutting edge website design has become somewhat dated. The more cutting edge your design the faster it will date.

New Techniques

New techniques in website design appear constantly and adherence to standards by the major browsers is improving. That means you have the ability to leverage the newer styling methods earlier. At the same time it is important not to jump on the wagon of some passing fad. Make sure that any new techniques are well supported and going to be around for the long haul before using them in your website.

Industry development

Some businesses compete in industries that are constantly changing both in the products they produce and/or supply and in how they engage with their market. An example of this is the car industry where 2 years can see more than one new model release. If your industry changes as fast as that then your website needs to react quickly in both styling and content changes.


Regardless of whether your website has been neglected for a short or long period, any attention it receives will be worth the effort. Just as important is that you introduce a plan for regular checks and updates to ensure you aren’t facing the same issue again in the future. Assign the task to someone to spend an hour or two on your website at least monthly and more frequently if possible. The benefits will show in your bottom line.

The coveted 1st page listing in Google requires some basic steps to achieve.

Everyone with a website wants to improve their SEO. That means a desire to see their website appear at, or as close as possible, to the top of the first page of results in a Google search. In a lot of cases that can be achieved by ensuring a few basic construction principles are followed by your website.

  1. Ensure your content is relevant and concise. Let’s face it most business’ survive because they have a good product or service so promoting that correctly through a website shouldn’t be too hard, right? Apparently not. Some websites fail to clearly tell the visitor what they are selling in plain and simple terms. So if it confuses the human visitors it is bound to confuse a search engine. Make sure that your content is plain, easy to understand and jargon free.
  2. Understand your customers. You should know what your customers think is important and valuable in your market so that you can highlight the ‘looked for’ features in your offering. This is not only important for building relevant content but also so that you can understand the search process your customers use.
  3. Embrace the need to adapt to the different devices your visitors are likely to use. It is increasingly important to provide mobile friendly content. Websites need to display and read well on a range of different device types and screen sizes. Search engines like Google are placing more importance on having a ‘mobile friendly’ website.
  4. Include your website and its content as part of an overall marketing strategy that encompasses not only traditional marketing channels but also digital channels such as web and social media. All too often business owners think that online marketing replaces their conventional marketing. Online marketing does not trump conventional marketing methods, it enhances them.
  5. Don’t try and manage your online marketing internally unless you have the staff with the time and knowledge to handle it in a consistent and structured way. Many businesses, especially small businesses think that they can save money through do-it-yourself search engine optimisation and marketing. Sadly, a lot of the time spent doing that can be wasted in performing tasks that are not going to get the desired results. Pay a professional and spend your time working on your business, the results will cover the cost.

Unfortunately there is no magic potion for instant search engine ranking success, despite what some operators will tell you. However, adhering to the basics and doing a few things well will go a long way to putting your website front and centre.

You can’t ignore the need for a mobile responsive website any longer!

The incredible growth in the ownership of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets has seen a corresponding jump in the use those devices to access websites for information gathering and shopping. Today’s internet users grab the first device at hand to surf the web and research products and services before making their purchase. That means you need a mobile friendly website.

A browse through the statistics of most websites can see as much as 50% of visits, depending on the industry, coming from mobile device browsers, not a market segment that can be ignored.

So what is a mobile responsive website?

By default the web browsers on most mobile devices will automatically shrink the size of a non-responsive website so that the site displays exactly as it would on a large computer monitor. The downside to that is that on a small screen such as a smart phone the material can be so small that it is unreadable unless the user zooms in, hardly a good user experience.

A mobile responsive website will adapt the layout of your website content to suit the size of the screen in use. That means some things may be hidden or collapsed, as in the case of menus, other material stacked vertically so that there is no horizontal scrolling, and text resized or maintained at easily readable sizes. These formatting changes mean that the user should find a website viewed on a mobile device just as functional as one viewed on a desktop computer.

Why do I need one?

If you are relying on a website built only for desktop viewing you are missing a large potential market in the mobile user crowd. Having potential customers frustrated and impatient at trying to navigate their way through a site designed for desktop-only is a sure way to exclude your business from the user’s consideration and ensure they probably won’t come back.

Time poor shoppers that still prefer to purchase at a bricks and mortar retail outlet will quite often have made their decision prior to arriving based on information obtained online while sitting on a train, waiting for a bus or as a passenger in a car and while using a phone or tablet.

Online (and even in-store shoppers) take advantage of their mobile devices by sending photos and prices to the key decision makers, friends and family influencing the purchasing process. Making this an easy task via a mobile responsive website will ensure that you are in the mix when a decision is made.

Impulse Purchasing

If you trade in area where impulse purchasing is common then satisfying that impulse by allowing customers easy access to your wares through a mobile responsive website is a given. With competition online fierce, businesses need to take the opportunity to allow shoppers every chance to “buy now” rather than seeing them browse to a competitor’s website where the mobile user is welcomed with open arms.

With internet use from mobile devices increasing exponentially website owners can’t avoid providing a more satisfying user experience by catering for such a growing segment of their audience.

Update: 20/4/2015

Google has announced that as from the 21st April, 2015 they will be “expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal”.

Search Engine Optimisation is a term you often hear mentioned in the same sentence as website. So how important is it?

Mentioned in our blog article Geek Terminology SEO or Search Engine Optimisation refers to the process of fine tuning your website so that it appeals to search engines. It provides the basis for good high ranking organic appearances in search results.

Search engines, Google in particular, have an extremely complex algorithm that is used to rank the results they display for a given search. This algorithm is continuously refined and adapted to suit the patterns searchers use, the results that search engines deem relevant to their users and the methods employed by websites to make their content attractive to the search engine bots (programs that crawl the web looking for new and updated content).

As search engine users generally only look at the first 20 or 30 results from a given search and sometimes not even that, it can be a tremendous boost to your website traffic if you appear well up that list. That makes effective SEO a necessity and as the only cost involved to the site owner is the work involved in optimising your website it provides great return on investment.

So how do I optimise my website?

Normally this is something that will be handled by your web developer, however you can and should have input into the process to ensure the best results.

While there are literally hundreds of factors looked at by the search engine algorithms there are some areas that are key to obtaining good results.

  1. Relevant content – the Google website itself will tell you that the best way to help your site rank well with them is to provide high quality, well presented and relevant content. This means including terminology that is unique to your product and/or industry, also referred to as keywords.
  2. Don’t try to spoof or trick the search engine crawlers by using keyword stuffing. Include material that is only related to your site and only use methods that legitimately present your content. Included in the search engine algorithms are methods for identifying trickery and if detected you can expect your website to be penalised or even excluded from results.
  3. Ensure your pages are optimised properly – this means the carefully implemented use and placement of page titles, meta tags and keywords.
  4. Links – both incoming and outgoing. The more valuable of the two are the incoming links and the more valuable of those are from websites that rank well themselves. Needless to say it can be difficult to obtain incoming links from websites that already have a good reputation with search engines. Avoid links to and from sites that have no relevant association with your site content because they can be seen as trying to inflate your ranking illegitimately (see point 2).
  5. Commit to a long term program of refinement – the best results cannot be obtained overnight (despite what some hawkers would have you believe) and require a dedicated program of fine-tuning to change your optimisation to suit the habits of users and the changes to the search engine algorithms.

Given some effort and time it is not impossible to rank well in search engine results without the need to spend large amounts of money. What’s more, results obtained through a dedicated approach to SEO will not only be more sustainable but they will also be more resilient.