To the untrained eye, every website appears the same: there’s a menu for navigation with some imagery, content, and call-to-actions to follow. All the same, right? Not quite.

Side story and I swear it relates: While visiting my grandma, I couldn’t help but notice the heaping mound of envelopes on her coffee table. Curious to see what was so important that she must hoard, I noticed they all had one thing in common: there was a yellow sticky note on the outside of the envelope that “personally” addressed her in what some may think was inked cursive (although, my 20/20 vision knew immediately it was a mass print).

Before recipients started to catch on, this fooled people (and unfortunately still does to this day, *cough* Grandma Olson *cough*). To the untrained eye, one really thought someone took the time to write a personalized messaged, making them more prone to open the envelope only then to find that it was all a hoax.

These mail advertisers are getting smarter. Why? Because the recipient is as well. Nice work, advertisers.

This concept applies to web design. As the user experience evolves and people become more experienced, the bar will continue to raise.

Keep your eyes open for these 5 overlooked features that differentiate a mediocre, outdated site and a kick-butt website:

1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – There’s a lot that goes behind those high ranking sites on Google, trust us, it’s no magic.

Pro-tip: Stay clear of image-based text (that is, when you’re able to click on what looks to be text and it moves when you drag it). And although imagery is a key part of the user experience, make sure that every photo uploaded to your Content Management System (CMS) has been optimized (or in short, saved as the keywords you want Google to read it as).

 

2. Consistently (styled) websites – Sure, it’s a minor detail but it’s a tell-tale sign your web designer picks up on the little things. This includes forms, buttons, fonts…do they all follow the same look?

Pro-tip: Go to the contact page and pay attention to the text and colors used on the form. Does it match the rest of the site?

 

3. Web copy with a purpose – Web copy is the leading reason why people stay on your site. Try to find a skilled copywriter that is able to communicate your service or product in an effective way.

Pro-tip: Read up on modern day web copy.

 

4. User-friendly – There’s a common phrase we use in web design, and that’s “don’t make them think”. It’s easy to recognize the poorly designed sites as it becomes frustrating to navigate, but a well-strategized layout may sometimes be overlooked by the inexperienced because, well, they didn’t have to think.

Pro-tip: Does the site tell a story, leading you to the call to action that you are looking for? If not, it’s making you think, and therefore, not user-friendly.

 

5. Responsive web design – Ah, the term we still have to pride ourselves on for the sole fact that some web design companies still develop non-responsive sites (meaning they only lay out properly on a computer screen, not a cell phone or tablet). We believe you shouldn’t have to pay additional for a responsive web design; it should be a standard for any website being built from this point forward.

Pro-tip: If the layout changes as you slowly minimize the browser, then you have a mobile responsive site. See how it should look here.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s A LOT that goes behind the scenes in the creation of a great website so these are just five pointers that help sort out the good from the bad.

As you’re considering a new website, keep these 5 criteria in mind to make sure you get the best value for your buck.

Don’t be fooled by any old website out there. There’s a difference. Know how to spot them. Or just let us help.

Erin Olson
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