What do you think the best skill a web developer can have? What would this skill entail? Surprisingly, it’s empathy—being able to put yourself in the shoes of the customer is crucial. It doesn’t matter much if you have plenty of contacts in the SEO field, how many design contests you’ve won, or how many coding languages you know, if the end product doesn’t speak to the audience. A great web developer and designer takes a unique approach with every project and has a knack for intuiting what the audience likes.
So, what exactly does your audience crave? It depends on the industry and business, but there are a few “basics” that are in high demand for every website. When hiring a web developer, make sure they’re skilled in these areas and prioritize them, too. Whether you’re, “just” posting an announcement to your site or you’re creating a massive product inventory, you need to deliver the information correctly. Here’s how:
1. An intuitive, user-friendly layout
Your audience expects to find certain things in certain areas. For example, tabs or links at the top of the page or along the sides are common. They know the latest news can be found in your blogs, the site map is usually at the bottom, and they want these links to easily stand out. While it might be “creative” to put links in the middle of the page, perhaps hidden in a design, it’s only going to frustrate your audience. Keep the nav bar where it’s “supposed” to be.
2. An instantly loading homepage
Your homepage shouldn’t take more than a few seconds to load. You don't want to be one of, "those," who slowly roll out gorgeous images. Your users want to get in, find what they need, and not be forced to watch an indie film or art show before they can start clicking away. Sure, you can get inspiration from the likes of Hongkiat for gorgeous websites, but functionality and speed come first.
3. No auto music
Nothing is more shocking or embarrassing than forgetting your speakers are turned up and stumbling onto a website that auto-plays music or videos. It’ll have your audience back clicking faster than if they accidentally stumbled a NSFW page while at the office. You want to welcome your audience, not drive them away.
4. Easy contact options
From the homepage, it should be clear how to contact the business and there should be multiple ways of doing so. At the very least, include a phone number and email address. Don’t require your users to fill out a form, (although it can be an option), and consider offering live chat as your business grows. Your users won’t search for long for that contact button, and if it’s too much of a challenge, you’ve just lost business.
5. A fast loading page
You have some control over how quickly each page loads. Keep the size of images and videos reasonable, but also make sure the web host you use is speedy enough. This might mean upgrading to a paid, (yet still affordable) hosting package instead of the freemium model you’ve been relying on.
Still not sure exactly what your customers want in a website? Ask. Take a poll, get researchers on board, and check out the competition to see what they’re doing right. A website is a constantly evolving reflection of who you are as a business. You can correct wrong moves—but it’s better to avoid them in the first place.