Have you ever gone to a website and you simply can’t find what you’re looking for? Or as soon as you get to a website’s landing page you get super irritated because of the pop-ups that keep interrupting you? (Ugh, I hate those!) Or how about when you’re navigating through a website and you quickly realize that you just don’t like the design? Or perhaps you’ve had the experience of trying to go on a website, but the site’s technology is outdated, and so the site simply doesn’t work or load properly – have you ever had that happen to you?

These are some of the common issues that almost all of us have encountered at some point in our very technologically-driven lives. But the reasons for these problems, and others, are the result of a number of issues including the very quick-paced world of technology and how it changes (almost) on the daily. These changes can result in things like a website not functioning as it should on various devices, i.e. a website that’s built for a phone won’t look “right” on a desktop, or vice versa. Another reason is due to the fact that just about anyone can create a website now, and not to take anything away from the DIYers, but the professionals are professionals for a reason (most of the time); most of the pros have years of experience creating beautifully designed websites that are intuitive; have an appropriate information hierarchy; and have the appropriate features, plug-ins, photos/videos, etc. and know in what instance they should be used; as well as incorporate the appropriate technology and updates.

And then sometimes things just break down and that’s a common issue that we can all encounter – a code breaks, or a website is hacked, or some glitch occurs. Stuff just happens.

Where to start?

As with all other things, you always have to start at the beginning. When it comes to building a website, regardless of whether it is for a business, a non-profit, a personal site or anything in between, you have to begin by asking yourself the purpose of the website: what is this website trying to achieve, what information is it trying to convey and to whom? What are your goals with the website, and will those goals change in the next year or two or three?

Once you answer those questions, what follows seems much easier and do-able because when you’re armed with answers to those questions, you can easily identify the hierarchy of information as well as the information flow through the website. I specifically didn’t discuss the website’s design in this step because every person has different design aesthetic preferences, likes and dislikes, and there really is no right or wrong design or approach. However, I will say that there are certain styles that are more appropriate in different circumstances and sectors. For example, a baby or bridal boutique can have similar design aesthetics compared to an excavation or landscape design company, see what I mean?

The next steps involve choosing the appropriate photography, videography, and graphics as well as the appropriate language (text) that you’ll be using throughout the site. Here’s a tip: always try to have your pictures, videos, and graphics reveal what the text will be sharing. This way there is enticement to read the text, and a glimpse into what that particular page or section of the website is all about. It becomes intuitive for the website’s viewer this way.

When it comes to your website’s text you have to think in two regards: first it obviously spells out your message and information, but secondly you have to think of the text in regards to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) as well. Think Google and Googling things: how does information show up when you search for something? How do you find websites and information directly and/or organically? Furthermore, how do you want your website to show up, using what terms, language, geographic locations, etc.? Remember, your website should be working for you even when you’re not – and that is where SEO comes into play.

Control the narrative

Another important thing to realize when it comes to your website’s text and the accompanying photos/graphics is that they set the mood, feel, and message of your website (and your business/brand). And you need to control this.

Ask yourself things like: what do I want my website’s visitors to see when they enter my site? What are my visitor’s coming to find? How do they feel when they are on my website? Can they find what they’re looking for? Be truthful when you answer these questions, because the answers are key to making your website successful.

Or if you’re trying to change your narrative, then you really have to pay special attention to the above questions. If you’re in this category, you have to first know what it is that you’re trying to change: what is your messaging currently, and what are you trying to change it to? Once you have identified that then you can much more easily shift from message A to message B. But be aware that all newcomers to your website, who don’t know about your business and its previous messaging, they will see B. But those who were aware of- or familiar with your message of A will still see A, and it is your job to help them go from A to B in your messaging and execution.

There is a lot that goes into building a successful website, not just a pretty design and great coding, but a lot of intuition, thinking, and psychology. There are a lot of amazing websites out there, mediocre, and some that are just bad. But that’s OK. I view every site as an opportunity to be great, and that is something that is totally achievable. It’s just a question of each person/business’ wants, needs, and desires. At the end of the day, each person/business’ goals are different, but if the website achieves those goals, then it is a successful website!

Thorunn Kristjansdottir is the owner, publisher, and designer of this magazine as well as the principal designer/marketer of Thorunn Designs, LLC., a graphic design and marketing firm. For further information please visit,www.thorunndesigns.com.