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What makes a good website: 6 characteristics to prioritize

It’s easy to assume you already know what makes a good website. But more than you think goes into creating a site that meets both user needs and business goals.

Last updated

22 May 2022
Best-Practices

This article guides you through the six most important characteristics of a strong website—and shows you what to consider before designing yours.  

Gain valuable website insights with Hotjar

Use product experience insights tools to see how users interact with your website and ask them what needs improvement.

The six qualities of a successful website

A strong website empowers users to achieve the jobs they set out to do and provides a smooth, frictionless user experience (UX). Learn what that looks like with these guidelines on what makes a good website and use our examples to inspire your own design.

1. A clear purpose

Without a clear purpose, your website will flop. And when we say purpose, we’re really talking about 'user intent.' 

Your website’s objective should be to help users accomplish their jobs to be done, so be sure you understand their needs and what they want to achieve when they search for your page.

That’s why it’s important to design various product personas and ideal customer profiles (ICPs) before creating your website. Letting users guide your decision-making process is key to successfully developing and optimizing your website.

Each of your webpages should have its own individual purpose. Ask yourself, 'Why is the user coming to this particular page?' and reflect user intent in your page layout, content, and calls to action (CTAs). 

For example, a clear value proposition—like the one Dropbox has—helps you clearly convey your product's or service’s purpose.

#The moment you land on Dropbox’s homepage, you know exactly what their value proposition is⁠—Dropbox lets users easily share, organize, and store files
The moment you land on Dropbox’s homepage, you know exactly what their value proposition is⁠—Dropbox lets users easily share, organize, and store files

Slack is another example of a purpose-focused site because it clearly communicates what their product has to offer and how it can help your organization work more efficiently and collaboratively. They also have several compelling CTAs, like ‘talk to sales’, ‘try for free’, and ‘sign up with Google’.  

#Make good use of CTAs to guide visitors through your pages and help them achieve their goals
Make good use of CTAs to guide visitors through your pages and help them achieve their goals

Pro tip: your unique selling proposition should be clear to users as soon as they arrive on your homepage so they understand what you do, how you can help them, and what their next steps should be. 

2. Quality content

Your website is only as good as its content. The best websites publish user-centric content designed mainly for their readers, not SEO.

That said, SEO can and should play a big role in shaping your content decisions: when you understand your customers’ search intent, you better understand their needs. Use pillar pages and topic clusters to explore topics that interest your users while creating a content structure that builds authority and helps rank in search engines like Google.

‘Topic cluster’ posts focus on a particular component of a pillar page and often target a long-tail keyword (a longer, more specific keyword phrase), while ‘pillar pages’ provide comprehensive overviews of topics. Link between pages in a topic cluster and always refer back to your in-depth pillar page.

For example, Hotjar's blog is designed to be easy to navigate, with filters like ‘user research’ and ‘PX insights’ that visitors can use to find the exact content they’re looking for. This structure helps both users and search engines find, categorize, and process relevant information.

#Create different content categories: users will thank you and search engines will reward you
Create different content categories: users will thank you and search engines will reward you

Pro tip: create content beyond basic blog posts. Build out helpful resources like guides, video tutorials, courses, and product insights.

3. Outstanding UX and UI

Brilliant user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design are among the most important web design rules and principles. Great businesses consider the user’s end experience from the very start of the web design process. Think of UI as what your users see, and UX as the emotions and reactions they experience while engaging with your site. 

#Oliva Health’s homepage is clean and coherent, and its interactive elements keep users engaged while clearly walking them through how the product works.
Oliva Health’s homepage is clean and coherent, and its interactive elements keep users engaged while clearly walking them through how the product works.

For a great UI, be sure your design is clean and coherent, and don’t be afraid to make use of white space. Include engaging elements like videos and animations, but be careful not to overwhelm users with too much eye candy. 

Strong UX design is all about creating a seamless user journey. Is your site well organized? Easy to navigate? Accessible for users with limitations like vision impairment? Think about your customers’ navigation needs and ask yourself how you can create a product experience that lets your users do what they came to do. 

When you design with easy, intuitive website navigation in mind, you’ll create a great product that gets you loyal customers. For an outstanding user experience, you’ll need to combine functionality and aesthetics. 

Typeform’s website showcases a great combination of UX and UI. Its top menu bar is easy to navigate and it clearly displays all the information a visitor might be looking for. As soon as a user visits their homepage, they’re greeted with an animation that demonstrates how to use the tool.

#Make your website well-organized and easy to navigate to enhance user experience. Image source: Typeform
Make your website well-organized and easy to navigate to enhance user experience. Image source: Typeform

Every site needs to be optimized to the best of its ability while still accomplishing its goals. But a lot of folks are more caught up in how they want it to look vs. how they want it to function, which is a lot like buying a car for the paint color despite knowing its engine and tires aren't up to par.

Charles Demarkles

4. Great performance

What goes on behind the scenes is just as important as what users see, so prioritizing performance is one of the most essential web design best practices to follow. Website monitoring is crucial for great product performance, so regularly check for bugs and broken links, and make sure your site is crawlable for search engines. 

Make sure to optimize:

  • Quick loading speed: according to Akamai, a mere two-second delay in web page load time increases bounce rates by 103% for ecommerce sites—and 53% of mobile ecommerce site users will leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load. 

  • SEO performance: use website optimization techniques like avoiding duplicate content and optimizing site speed to help search engines find your website, which makes it more visible to potential customers.

#Apart from its flawless design, sleek interface, and intuitive navigation, Apple's website performs well, meaning users wait less than a second for their page of choice to load.
Apart from its flawless design, sleek interface, and intuitive navigation, Apple's website performs well, meaning users wait less than a second for their page of choice to load.

5. Multi-device optimization

Mobile traffic now makes up over half of all internet traffic. That’s why your website needs to be optimized across devices, which includes desktop, mobile, and tablet displays. 

Make sure your navigation menus show up properly across different screen sizes, adapt image size and location, and position CTAs so they’re clear to users regardless of what device they use to access your site. 

Pro tip: use Hotjar Heatmaps and Session Recordings to compare how desktop vs. mobile users interact with your website and improve their experience across multiple devices.

Evaluate how users click and scroll on your website with Hotjar Heatmaps by comparing them on desktop and mobile

6. High security

Keeping your users safe is a huge part of what makes a good website. Great website owners prioritize protecting users’ personal information through multi-factor authentication, SSL certificates, and secure hosting. 

Security is especially important to protect customers’ credit card information on ecommerce sites and users’ financial data on fintech sites. 

Make sure your users know their data is safe so they feel secure and can focus on having a great experience with your website.  

#Investing platform Robinhood’s website lets users rest easy knowing their personal data is safe.
Investing platform Robinhood’s website lets users rest easy knowing their personal data is safe.

Pro tip: if you’re using website analysis, feedback, or product experience insight tools to optimize your site, choose options like Hotjar that prioritize user security and privacy. Hotjar’s onsite tools are extremely secure and always protect user data.

How to design an effective website for your users and business

All websites are unique, so there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to designing a good one. The best website design for you is the one that fits your users’ specific needs. 

To figure out those needs, ask yourself a few key questions before starting work on your website. Stephen Heffernan, website and digital marketing specialist at The Connected Narrative, shares some of the top questions businesses need to consider before designing their site:

  • Who is my target audience?

  • What is the purpose of my website?

  • What type of content should my website feature?

  • How do I want users to interact with my website?

  • What kind of tone do I want to set with my website design?

  • Do I need my website to be optimized for search engines?

By asking yourself these questions, you’ll identify who you’re building your website for and optimize its design and content for both users and search engines. 

Create a website your users will love

Your website can be a powerful tool for building customer loyalty, spreading brand awareness, increasing conversions, and keeping users satisfied. Design your website with our list of key characteristics in mind to see your business flourish and give your users the experience they dream of. 

Gain valuable website insights with Hotjar

Use product experience insights tools to see how users interact with your website and ask them what needs improvement.

FAQs about website design