Building a website can be a lot of fun, but if you want to be successful, you can't put just anything on the web. You must keep your visitors in mind when building the site. It is your job to make the website as user-friendly as possible.
Search Engine Optimization is important, but it isn't everything!
Ensuring your website's front page is visible to search engines is critical. Most likely, the majority of your website's traffic will come from search engines. Why is that? Where do we go when we need to find something online? We fire up a search engine like Google, Bing, Yahoo! or the like. If a website is not listed in one of these search engines, most likely we won't visit the site unless the site has something specific we want.
However, while optimization may get people to your site, it won't keep them there. Your website can be the most search engine optimized website on the Internet, but if it doesn't provide something of value to your visitors, they won't stick around. The saying "content is king" really is true. If you don't provide value to your visitors, they won't be your visitors for long.
Understand the target visitor.
Before a commercial product is launched in the real world, a company performs extensive analysis of its potential customers. What do they like? What do they dislike? How would they be likely to use a given product?
In the same way, you must understand your target visitor. If you want to keep a visitor on your site, you must understand what it is he or she is looking for. What does he expect to see when he visits your site? If he doesn't find it, he is likely to hit the back button. It is your job to convince him to stay.
For example, an e-commerce site should display products and prices up front. Don't make your visitor search around the page. Most users will not want to search through navigation menus and complicated page hierarchies. Make sure pages can be found easily and quickly.
How do your prices compare to the prices of your competitors? How easy is it for a visitor to quickly buy a product?
Be sure to present your website's content in a manner that is clear and easily understandable. Complicated, confusing language will not bring your visitors to trust you.
Use surveys to get visitor feedback. Ask them about the site. Would they consider buying your products? What can you do to improve the site? Surveys and polls give visitors the chance to voice their opinions. And, let's face it, people like to talk about themselves.
By understanding your customer better, you can tailor your website to meet their needs and offer more of what they are looking for.
Generally speaking, a visitor is more likely to find a website trustworthy if the website owner provides contact details. On a personal note, I am far less likely to buy anything from you if I don't have a way to contact you. If I have a problem or a question, I want a way to get a hold of you.
It also helps to show your visitors a happy face. Put up a picture of yourself. Show the visitor who he is dealing with.
Consider these things as you build your website. Make sure that you take on the perspective of the user. How easy is the site to navigate? If you were viewing the site for the first time, could you find what you wanted? Present a personable face to your visitors. Ask them questions. Keep them involved. Users like to feel safe and feel as though they contributed something to the site. Give them that opportunity.
Through it all, don't forget what your job is. Your job as a web designer is to deliver the best possible user experience.