What Makes A Good Website?
I used to think a well-navigated, aesthetically appealing website with good content are all the attributes you need for a great website. What more would you need, really?
Well, apparently more than I thought. Not that those above mentioned components aren’t important because they are imperative in any successful website but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
So, what exactly makes an awesome website? Well, I found my answer through airports.
A Tale of 2 Airports
If you’ve ever been to Jakarta, Indonesia, you would find yourself making your way through the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport. It operates like most airports and functions smoothly to meet your most fundamental needs. I guess you can say it’s utilitarian.
Then, there is Changi Airport in Singapore, internationally recognised as a world class airport and lauded with numerous awards. In fact, with more than 350 awards and counting, Changi Airport is the world’s most awarded airport.
So what makes Changi Airport better? The Soekarno-Hatta International Airport performs all the functions that an airport should perform, so why doesn’t it receive the accolades Changi Airport gets?
It didn’t take much effort for me to figure out why.
The key difference is this: Changi Airport was built with the customer in mind. Most airports, on the contrary, are built with function in mind. As a result, the design of the airport differs vastly.
Changi Airport is efficient and intentionally made customer-centric. From getting off the plane to immigration, collecting your baggage, and through the doors to the taxi stand, all you need is 15 minutes. In most airports, you take about 45 minutes. If you’re stuck in transit, you’ll probably be bored out of your wits after an hour in any ordinary airport but not at Changi Airport.
At Changi Airport, you practically have no reason to leave. Got spare time? You have internet terminals where you can login to Facebook to give a shout-out and clear your email inbox, snooze chairs for a nap, a swimming pool and Jacuzzi, 24 hour massage and spa facilities, video game rooms, a movie theatre, entertainment decks, gardens, a 4 storey slide and lots of retail to keep you occupied for hours. There’s also a gym, shower facilities, transit hotels, and given that you have a lot of free time and would like to head out, you can even go on a city tour without having to go through the immigration. Need to get some work done? Fret not because Changi Airport has a business centre running on broadband. You get the idea.
That observation triggered me to parallel airports to websites, and got me asking, just how do you build a world-class website?
Like how you build a world-class airport, apparently. You design it with your customer in mind.
Drawing the Parallels
So, what are the similarities between a great airport and a great website? Turns out, more than I initially thought!
From Offline to Online
The problem we see with a lot of websites is the lack of consideration put into building it. Most companies build websites because they want to create “online presence” but here’s the irony: they hardly make an impression, let alone have presence.
It’s like going on a date. The most impressionable part of the date is often the interaction between two people. Sure, maybe whether you’ve enjoyed the date or not depends on how great a restaurant you went to, or how great a movie you’ve watched, but ultimately, it’s the overall experience you’ve had with the person that counts. Bringing the point back online, let me illustrate it with the two examples below.
Now, let’s just say you’re going on a holiday. Which site would you use to book your vacation accommodation?
Let me guess. You chose Example 2. I would choose the latter too. Clearly, the second website offers a better user experience, overall – it was made easy for me, not the developer – which happens to be the same reason why you would go on a second date with the same person and why Changi Airport wins.
Back to the drawing board
A website is a wonderful sales and marketing tool, when utilised effectively. If you’ve got an awesome website, it saves your sales person a whole lot of trouble explaining your business to anyone. In fact, a great website is like an extra salesperson for you.
But to get there, it’s important to get the foundations right.
To build a solid website, you have to start with thinking critically about the design and structure of the website. This means, you create a website with your customer in mind, even before the person becomes a customer.
Let’s try personifying this a little. Back to the illustration of a date, imagine the website is a guy, and the visitor is a girl, and they’re going on a date.
Basically, you start by thinking about her journey – from her entrance to her exit. So, you make it such that when she visits (like a first date), she likes what she sees (you’re engaging, and she’s interacting), she gets impressed (it’s a great date), and then she decides that she would want to become your customer (she wants to go out again!). SCORE.
In online marketing terms, we call that a conversion. You make your website work for you (like an invisible staff you’ve hired) by converting a visitor into a customer in the course of time that he’s on your website.
So go take a good look at your website, and give it a re-think. Change your perspective, go back to the drawing board, and reassess the objectives of your website. You might discover that your website has got more untapped potential that you haven’t realised.
To recap, here are the key elements that makes a winning website.
As customers ourselves, we like a good experience. So do your customers or customers-to-be, so remember, focus on user experience. The rest, they’ll fall in place once you get the fundamentals right.