A wise man once said "Good is the enemy of great." If you think about it, it's the truth. How often do people stop at good, rather than go all the way to great? This is especially true in marketing. I once suggested to a client that if we made a couple of changes to their site, they would have the best site in their industry. Their response was, "It doesn't need to be the best, it just needs to be as good as everyone else." Way to reach for the stars, dude!
There are a lot of good websites out there but not nearly as many great sites. Sadly more often than not the difference between good and great isn't huge. In many cases, it's a matter of spending a little more time thinking and a little less time worrying about launching it as fast as possible. Let's look at a few simple things you can do to go from good to great.
A good website works, a great website works for your user.
Obviously, you aren't going to build a broken website, so it kind of goes without saying that a good website works. The navigation goes to where it should, the links work, the site's responsive, the images load fast, etc. There's nothing wrong with that — the site all works, but does it work they way it needs to work for your audience? Does the organization of the navigation get them where they need to go in the quickest way? Does the page layout lead them in the appropriate path to inspire them to action? Does the design make the site more usable and clear for the user, or are your graphics just window dressing that looks cool and serve no purpose?
If you want to have a great website, you need to design and develop for your user. Ask yourself and your team, "What do our users want? Whats most important to them? What's the fastest way to get them there? And what will bring them back?" Actually go ahead and ask your users, they know what they want. Post a quick survey and gather some information. In the end, it's not the super cool, whizbang, holographic site that brings users back and keeps them engaged — it's the great user experience that brings them back, everything else just supports that experience.
A good website has great architecture, a great website has a great architecture that supports the user in various situations.
Everyone knows sites should be responsive (obvi). In fact, if you are building non-responsive sites at this point, please stop reading this and get back to building your tiled animated gif backgrounds and toss the old <blink> tag in wherever you can. For the rest of you, it's more than just about being responsive, it's being responsive in the right way, at the right time, for the right user. People use websites differently in different situations, which means all that navigation that was important on the desktop may not be as important on mobile.
Let's look at a simplified example of a hospital website. The average hospital site serves multiple audiences and each audience has multiple needs dependent on the situation. Audience wise we have patients, staff, and visitors. Those basic users break down further:
- Patients: Researching services, inpatient, outpatient, etc.
- Staff: Clinical, non-clinical
- Visitors: Visiting, staying with a loved one, parents, etc.
That's a simplified breakdown, but you get the point. Now, a good website would provide all the information needed, staff directory, medical information, contact information, patient login, staff login, and most importantly, directions to the cafeteria. The problem is that all of this information is needed, but not by everyone all the time. A great website doesn't try to be all things to all people, it tries to be what a user needs at the time. A patient browsing on their home computer may be looking for a doctor or treatment options, so quick and easy access to a staff directory, specialties and medical information and advice should be easy to get to. A patient on a phone maybe looking for contact information or maybe they are there for an appointment and need to figure out where to go. In this case, a staff directory, campus map, and other such tools should rise to the top. Visitors will likely be on mobile and need a campus map, directions to the gift shop, etc. Staff may just want to know their schedule. The point is, a good website provides information and a great site provides the correct information for a particular user group in a particular situation.
A good website has a beatiful design, a great website has a purpose driven beautiful design.
Imagine this, your client tells you she wants you to build an eye-catching site that grabs the users attention. She wants the logo to fly around the screen, then turn into a spaceship that blasts off into space, as the rocket flies across the screen it explodes once again into your logo before dissolving to the homepage. That's awesome. No one has a homepage like this. This is going to win an award! Before you start designing rockets and flying logos ask yourself this, "WTF does that do for a user looking for information on our products?" While your client or boss may think these kinds of cool animations or sliders are going to impress users, in the real world your users are BUSY! They have a job to do. They have a boss or a client on their backs telling them to accomplish a task by a deadline, and instead of being able to accomplish that task, they are waiting for your awesome animation to finish, or more than likely they are going someplace else. This is an extreme example, but seriously look at a site like Amazon, they sell stuff, their users buy stuff, whats on the homepage? Stuff for sale, categorized in ways that make it easy for their users to find stuff to buy. They sell fast, you buy fast, need more info that's there too.
According to Forbes, Amazon has a market cap of $427 billion dollars. I'm pretty sure they could build the coolest animation in the world for their homepage but they don't, because it serves no useful purpose for their users. In fact, its a barrier to buying their product.
Here is another example, Google's homepage is a search box. ITS A BOX! They are worth $600 Billion and the homepage is a BOX. I'm not saying you need to be as basic as google, or that design isn't important or animation doesn't have a place. What I'm saying is good websites have great design and great websites have a great design that serves the needs of the user and has a reason to be there. Google's design is a search box because it works for their users. Design solely for the sake of design is designsturbation.
Good and great aren't that different.
The major difference between good and great is, great is purpose driven. Good is good enough, it's the easiest place to stop. Great is not far off, but takes more to achieve. Great may only be a step or two from good, it's not an easy couple of steps but those steps are worth it for your company, your bottom line and especially for your users.