The other day my friend Hatem Seoudi called me up to ask ‘what makes a good website? How can I tell if I’m looking at a kick-ass website, or a not-so-hot one?’
Good question. Needless to say, the answer is highly subjective, and depends on numerous aspects. But like everything else, there are a set of rules and guidelines that make sure you’re on the right track. After that, whether or not a website is ‘good’ enough is up in air. The following are the indicators to judge the overall quality of any website.
- Addresses target audience
If you’re not the target audience, then your judgment is to a large extent irrelevant. At the end of the day, a website offers information of value to a certain group of people. The broader the target, the more difficult the task at hand. For example, a website like deviantart.com is targeting a certain niche. It’s a community of digital artists from various backgrounds, but with a common ground. On the other hand, Google, or any search engine for that matter, is for anyone accessing the web. Therefore, the later is more likely to be extremely simple, and avoid making any associations or unorthodox approaches to ensure it appeals to the masses. The question of audience is carried on and applies throughout all of the coming points.
- Ease of use, informative
A website could boast unique, valuable information. But if the content is difficult to reach, or if it’s not clear where you should go or what it is you need to do, then it’s absolutely useless. That’s where usability comes in. Before working on the design concept, the creators of any website need to go through the process of dividing up the content into the different sections, and coming up with a suitable layout. A website like HSBC Egypt requires a dual degree in ancient Japanese and advanced algebra. Standard Chartered‘s, although far from perfect, is light years ahead.
- Aesthetically pleasing
This is obviously the aspect most prone to subjectivity. However, very few have invested endless hours and creativity and ended up with an ugly digital representation. If the website’s targeting a young, tech-savvy crowd, then the more interactive and loud (in terms of colors), the better. The Web Designer Wall is one of many that hit the spot for the ones who seek. The NPR‘s website, although ‘minimal’ in comparison, is phenomenal in terms of design and layout. For an example of what a website should not look like, look no further than Masrawy (or any of LINKdotNET‘s websites).
If the best website in the world takes more than 30 seconds for all of it to show up, then it useless. Quality websites require top-notch planning and coding, which means that there is less code to render, and therefore everything’s lighter and faster. Fubon‘s Flash website is impressive, but it takes less time to find a parking spot in Cairo. You’ll notice that community-driven social networks like Flickr offer pleasant performance, despite boasting large multimedia files. There are many ways in which you can reduce file sizes and load time, without sacrificing design or functionality.
- Frequently updating
‘No news is good news’ is old news. With the web, information becomes outdated in a matter of minutes, and people’s patience have all but gone extinct. In fact, the only reason visitors will return to a website (hence making it a ‘good’ one), is if there is valuable content offered. This requires fresh material being posted as frequently as possible, even if it’s not a news-based site. This ties in strongly with social media, and having something like a blog be a vital part of your website.
- Easy to share
A good website makes it easy on the visitors to share its content and help it go viral. This includes sticking to SEO standards (available with any popular Content Management System), providing clean, direct links for all of its content, and making it a click away from posting to Facebook or tweeting it to your followers. A good website will require minimal effort from you to invite others to share your experience. Until recently, there wasn’t an easy way to share articles from BBC News on social networks (and now it still doesn’t shorten the URL when posting to twitter). Their Spanish counterpart, El Pais, are one of many daily news sources that have mastered the art of facilitating content sharing.
Regardless of the purpose or audience of the website, if it addresses those points, then it’s definitely on the positive side of the spectrum. How valuable and/or successful it is, though, is for us, the people, to decide. No ‘industry standard’ can tell us how we should react, and that’s part of the charm of our beautiful web.