The 1 thing that makes a good website great

The pandemic has sped up my thinking on this, but I’ve come to realize the difference between a good website and a great one is the ability for people to actually do something.

Most of the thinking around how to make a great website falls into three bland, trite buckets:

  1. Make it look great!
  2. Produce great content!
  3. Use a call to action!

These are parts of a great website. But saying these things is like saying to make a great pizza, you must make it round, use tasty toppings, and make the crust chewy or crunchy. Tell me more, Batman!

As much as UI/UX/UWhatever designers will protest: your design doesn’t matter a ton. It matters insofar as you don’t look tragically out of fashion or off-base. Like wearing bell bottoms or poodle skirts un-ironically.

Plus, plenty of people navigate awful websites all the time. Facebook is a functional mess. Amazon has a homepage and an app ecosystem that are ugly and confusing. What’s sponsored, what’s fake, what’s real, and what’s useful are all unclear. Craigslist is maybe the pinnacle of terrible but functional.

“Produce great content” never comes with a “how” and most people are tragically bad at it. This quickly devolves into men talking into podcasts or endlessly on videos to tell you absolutely nothing you didn’t already know.

“Use a call to action” translates to “put buttons fucking everywhere”. And the buttons are really just to a contact page or a phone number. Even linking to forms/registrations/items is kinda silly because much of the time people aren’t convinced your product or service is even worth it. Lots of things can hold people back from purchasing, and just shoving a big button next to your smiling face ain’t cutting it.

I feel so strongly about this I’m making it my mission in life to think and promote this notion of “empowering websites”. Websites that enable people to do something to improve, fix, change, or solve a problem or issue in their life.

About the author

Justin Harter

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