6 Key Features of a Great Website – based on scientific research.
We all have an instinctive reaction when we land on a new website – is it for me, do I trust this company, should I spend any more time looking at this website?
These are questions which we answer in the space of 0.05 seconds. So, first impressions matter. Good web design is essential for user engagement.
But, when it comes to good website design, there’s a lot of information out there. In fact, it’s often difficult to know where to start.
At DayOne, we’ve sifted through the research and the jargon and boiled it right down to the most essential features required for a beautiful, engaging and trustworthy site.
But instead of spouting the usual subjective, but generally unhelpful digital agency remarks like “it needs to look good” or “you need killer content”, we’ve based this article on scientific research. These aren’t just features we like, they’re proven to make your website appealing to visitors and potential clients.
Researchers  trawled through hundreds of scholarly articles to uncover the most frequently referenced terms when it came to website design and usability.
Here’s what they found.
1. Navigation and organization
Getting around your website easily is vital.
It is the number one, essential feature of any successful site. Ever been frustrated in a supermarket when you can’t find what you’re after? And there’s no-one around to help? It’s infuriating. Now if that was your website, there are hundreds of others only a click away, vying to take its place.
If your customers can’t find what they’re looking for in your digital space and leave with a bad experience, almost 9 out of 10 won’t come back (88%, to be precise ).
So how do you make your website easy to navigate? Here’s what you need:–
Your navigation menu is the map you give to your customers so they can find what they’re looking for. And like all good maps, it needs to be easy to read at a glance and have a clearly defined hierarchy.
Seven is the maximum number of subjects you should have in the top level of your navigation menu, since that’s the number of items most people can remember for a limited amount of time . Any more will stray into information overload for your visitors.
Visible links (i.e. clickable images) aid navigation as can a search menu.
Have a clear and prominent navigation menu that is consistent across all pages of your site. It must be easy to manage and put the user in complete control.
2. Graphical representation
Remember what your primary school teacher said about judging a book by its cover? Forget all that. Your website will be judged quicker than a blink of an eye. Seriously.
It takes about 50 milliseconds  (that’s 0.05 seconds, the average blink is 0.1 seconds!) for users to form an opinion about your website. This determines whether they like your site or not, and ultimately whether they’ll stay or leave.
94% of first impressions are design-related .
It’s easy to say “good design”, and leave it at that, but what does this actually include? One study  has broken down the different aspects of these critical first impressions:–
Unsurprisingly, the findings include lack of navigation aids and poor search facilities (see point #1) as two major culprits behind bad design.
A complex or busy layout and too much text and/or text that is too small are also to blame for leaving a bad impression.
Good use of colour is also imperative (there are many great colour guides out there), and is the quickest way to connect your product to your customers .
Interestingly, users distrust websites that feel too “corporate” – these websites tend to have stark colour schemes and are text heavy.
And, of course, everyone hates pop-up ads!
A welcoming, clear and easily comprehendible home page will prevent users leaving your site immediately.
3. Content utility
We’ve touched upon content already, and the way in which content is utilised on your website.
Naturally, your content should be high quality and should motivate users to explore your site further.
There should be enough content on your website to make sure that users return, and it should be current, up-to-date and relevant to your website’s purpose (see point #4).
Remember when we said 94% of first impressions are design-related? Well that cheeky little 6% is content-related .
The written content on your homepage has to crystallize your company’s purpose into a less-than-six-second read.
Users spend an average of 5.59 seconds per page on reading written content . This can help you to strip down your homepage’s written content to its bare essentials, and guide users to where they need to go to find the relevant pages of your site (which is where navigation and organization, point #1, come into play).
Keep your content relevant, up-to-date and of a consistently high quality across all pages of your site.
What is your website for?
Users are looking at it for a reason, and this needs to be clear. Whether you want them to buy your product, sign up for your course, call you to make an appointment etc. it doesn’t matter – but you have to tell them what you want them to do!
Amazingly, some sources claim that around 70% of small businesses lack this call to action .
What do you want your website visitors to do? This question should permeate every aspect of your site’s design.
Simplicity is a theme that’s been running through this post, so it’s about time it had its own heading.
We’ve established that the average website user does not have time on their hands and can dismiss your website’s appearance in less than a 10th of a second, and its content in under 6 seconds.
So. Keep. It. Simple.
Researchers have proven  that complicated website designs are not looked on favourably by users.
The simpler it is, the less time your visitors will waste searching around your site, time which you cannot afford them to lose. Any features that do not support your website’s purpose (see point #4) should be removed.
You must become a ruthless declutterer.
A visually complex website will leave a negative impression on a user, and lead to mistrust.
Your clear, simple, enticing, purposeful and beautiful website design has led your visitors to start reading your content.
You’re on the home stretch. All you’ve got to do is keep up the momentum, and carry it into your written content. Your writing should be easy to read and understand.
Spelling and grammatical mistakes do not reflect well on your brand’s image.
Writing can be tricky, so remember the lesson from point #5 about keeping things simple.
Remember how short on time your readers are. They’re here for a reason, and it probably isn’t to read a meandering wedge of Tolstoy-esque prose.
Longer pieces of writing are fine, but you’ve got to keep your users engaged. How? A big block of text is guaranteed to scare people off.
But if you use images, pull-out quotes and subheadings to break it up, you will be guaranteed to keep people reading for longer. In fact, for a 15 minute read (which is about three times the length of this post), two out of three people prefer a well-designed layout instead of plain text .
Quality written content correctly presented results in engagement.