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What Makes a Good Website and How to Create One

a woman in a ponytail looks at sticky notes on a board

Have you ever found yourself staring at a website and thought: “Wow, I actually hate this?”

The days of cringe-worthy websites are (mostly) past us. We lived through MSPaint graphics and amateur GeoCities sites, and now we have website builders like Wix and Squarespace making it easy to create decent sites. Templates and guides exist to keep amateur web devs from making anything too atrocious, and designers are always around the corner to lend a hand whenever needed… For a price.

an example of a bad website about the yales school of art

Aside from a few outliers (like the one above), bad websites are usually not offensive to the senses anymore. A “bad website” nowadays is one that doesn’t convert customers, drive traffic, or otherwise serve its function.

Even if all of the other aspects of a company are firing on all cylinders, a bad website can hold the entire operation back. When prospective customers feel like a website doesn’t jive with them, they bounce.

a guy disappears after doing a peace sign
“Alright buddy I’m out.”

Websites are more than just placeholders for your company’s quarterly updates. A good website will drive demand, generate leads, and provide shareable content for your audience, but you have to get it to that point first.

Before designing or redoing your website, ensure you fully understand your marketing funnel and the route you’d like your prospects to take from beginning to end. This will help you get a sense of which functionalities your website needs, making the design process smoother.

In this blog post, we’ll cover what makes a good website, including the essential elements and pages, and provide actionable tips on how to make a good website—one that drives results for your business.

Why good website design matters

Website design isn’t just about making things look pretty. It’s about guiding your visitors on their journey, creating meaningful first impressions, showcasing your products and services, and ultimately leading visitors to take action. Quality websites go beyond aesthetics; they prioritize user experience.

An effective web design ensures a seamless and enjoyable user experience. Customers are more likely to engage with you when your website looks appealing and serves a clear purpose.

Qualities you find in a good website

Your website serves as a virtual storefront for your brand, making it crucial to prioritize certain qualities in its design and functionality. Qualities like:

  • Polished and professional: Your website is a reflection of your brand, so it needs to look polished and professional. Incorporate white space and high-quality visuals to let your message shine through.
  • Functional and fast: Ensure your site functions quickly and flawlessly. Build to web standards, proofread rigorously, and regularly test for speed and functionality issues. 
  • Clear and intuitive navigation: Focus on delivering your message clearly and ensuring your site is easy to navigate for everyone. UX plays a crucial role in helping visitors understand and interact with your website.
  • Fresh and engaging content: Use language that resonates with your audience and avoid jargon. Regularly update your content to keep visitors engaged and improve your SEO. 
  • Mobile-friendly design: With mobile traffic on the rise, ensuring your website is mobile-friendly is important. Consider adopting a mobile-first approach to design, focusing on delivering a seamless experience for mobile users. A mobile-friendly design helps reduce clutter and ensures your site remains fully functional across all devices.

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Essential elements that make a good website

All websites are made from the same few elements, regardless of how they were created. Your users don’t know if you used a website builder or template or wrote the raw code yourself. What they do care about is whether or not your site speaks their language and lures them in for more.

Most websites feature the same essential elements across every page. While some industry-specific exceptions exist, like ecommerce or web applications, the most common and substantial types are used repeatedly. To understand what makes a good website, it’s essential to understand these elements.

1. Typography

To someone unfamiliar with web design, typography might just mean “which font should I use here?” To a dictionary, typography is “the style and appearance of printed matter.” A better definition, especially for digital marketers, comes from our pals at CareerFoundry:

“In essence, typography is the art of arranging letters and text in a way that makes the copy legible, clear, and visually appealing to the reader. Typography involves font style, appearance, and structure, which aims to elicit certain emotions and convey specific messages.”

Typography plays a strategic role in captivating audiences and building brand recognition. When a brand or entity consistently uses the same typeface, users will begin to associate the brand and typeface together, creating familiarity and quicker recognition.

Good typography serves to enhance the user experience. Typeface experts are able to select typefaces and typographical elements that subconsciously align with a company’s tone, style, and voice, while also remaining aesthetically pleasing and legible. Your fonts, and the style in which you use them, become your brand.

As an easy example, simple messages might be written with minimalistic fonts in shorter paragraphs, and official-sounding messaging might feature long explanatory paragraphs with a formal font.

a screenshot of a formal font used by rose law firm
Rose Law Firm uses an old-style heading and narrow paragraph font, with an accent color to match the company’s brand.

When choosing a typeface, shoot for something that

  • Is unique and interesting
  • Is clearly legible; none of the letters look confusing together
  • Matches the company’s vibe
  • Carries the tone of the company’s messaging

2. Hero image

an illustration of a website design emphasizing where to place the hero image
Source: Balsamiq

In web design, a hero image is any large, banner-style image that occupies the top of the page so that users see it first upon entry. A hero image should be high-quality and clear so it doesn’t cause any strain or confusion for the users.

Hero images serve as a visually appealing landing feature to immediately create a good impression on your users. Because of their versatility, a hero image can be just an image, or can also feature text and buttons over top of it.

an example hero image by drop creative
Video producer Drop Creative tastefully uses a video instead of a hero image.

Hero images can be anything from video content to technical graphics, as long as they convey the brand’s message well. Some companies use hero images as an opportunity to showcase their products and display their benefits, whereas other companies use hero images to build trust or facilitate emotional reactions. It’s all about using graphics that match your brand.

Pro tip: Hero images with huge resolutions will slow down page loading speed. Be sure to re-size them to screen size.

3. Value proposition

In marketing, a value proposition is a concise statement that describes why your prospects should do business with you. A value proposition should also paint a clear picture of what your company offers its customers.

Value propositions are unlike mission statements in that a mission statement is a static piece of unchanging information, whereas value propositions change to fit each audience.

If you’ve done your market segmentation, you can alter your value proposition in each campaign to ensure that it speaks to each audience. Savvy spenders might react favorably to a message that boasts a low price tag, for instance.

an example of a value preposition by crazyegg
Crazyegg’s value proposition is bold and awesome

Pro tip: To facilitate real trust with your audience, avoid diluting your value proposition with buzzwords and jargon.

4. Technical images

examples of technical graphics and process images

Beautiful technical graphics and process images are a phenomenal way to creatively describe what you do without even having to use words. A good technical image will make a clear point without requiring much of an explanation.

Technical images differ from hero images in two key ways. Where hero images are meant to be a visually captivating way for users to land on a web page, technical images can be used anywhere on a page and are meant to show the product and its benefits in a stylized way.

an example of a tech photo by tsheets
Image via TSheets

TSheets does a great job using tech photos on their site as a substitute for hero images and icons. The tech photo above clearly shows that TSheets users clock in and out on their phones, and then use timesheet management tools on their desktops. This technical image gets an A+ because this is exactly what users do with the software.

5. Trust icons

One of the more common types of iconography is trust icons of a brand’s clients and partners. Featuring your customers’ logos on your site is an easy way to inform your users of your trustworthiness. This phenomenon is called social proof and is super effective in marketing.

Social proof is the “they tried it, so I’m gonna try it too” phenomenon to avoid an overly-psychological explanation. This is the reason statements like “40,000 US-based tech companies use our software” are more impactful than “tech companies like our software.” If you’ve got a solid customer base, your future customers need to know.

examples of trust icons by nuarx cybersecurity
Nuarx cybersecurity uses trust signals to appeal to the fast-food industry.

6. Icons

Icons are tiny little pictures that are used in web design to help your users understand content more quickly. Many companies use similarly styled icons across their entire brand in order to facilitate more widespread recognition from their potential customers.

In web design, icons are generally used to:

  • Accompany content on text-heavy pages
  • Draw attention to specific features
  • Enhance infographics
examples of how icons are used by jottful
Jottful uses icons to signify its three-part sales process.

7. Calls to action

A call to action (CTA) is to marketers as a sales pitch is to salespeople. It’s the marketers’ chance to take their shot and ask for something in return from their audience.

Calls to action aren’t as high-stakes as a sales pitch. A typical call to action might be something like “sign up for our newsletter” or “sign up for our free 14-day trial.” Worst case scenario, the user just ignores it. No harm, no foul.

Graphically, calls to action tend to exist in the form of buttons or other links that redirect the user to a new page, form, or download.

an example call to action by neil patel
Neil Patel’s call to action is his free website analysis.

A call to action shouldn’t be a heavy lift for your users. Instead, it’s better to try to pitch relevant ways to keep them engaged without expecting them to make a considerable commitment. For instance, don’t try to sell your product at the end of every piece of content; That’s just spammy.

8. Copy

When creating websites, it’s essential to keep the design exciting and engaging. Lots of words, walls of text, and lengthy paragraphs are a sure-fire way to bore your visitors to death and subtract from the quality of your content.

Try to find ways to say less with more. Remember, you don’t have to tell the entire story right on your landing page. If your visitors care enough, they’ll click around and get the whole story.

Coupled with icons, a few quick blurbs and paragraphs can paint a clear enough picture for your visitors to decide whether or not they want to learn more. Keep them short and concise, and save the lengthy writing for lower in the marketing funnel.

website copy by adobe
Adobe describes their product Illustrator in one clear sentence.

9. Testimonials

Again, social proof is extremely valuable to boost your brand’s reputation. If your business has customers that are willing to be featured on your website, you are in luck.

Customer testimonials can come from another business or a single person, depending on the products or services you offer. The format, however, can be whatever works best in your specific scenario.

Testimonials can be formatted as:

  • Standard quote (with photo)
  • Video testimonials
  • Social media posts
  • Yelp/Google reviews
  • Case studies (written by you about your customer)
  • Case study (written by your customer about you)

Useful resource: Free case study templates.

A testimonial given by a customer can be used in a variety of ways. Outside your site, the same content can be chopped up and posted on social media or used in advertisements, telling the story as far and wide as possible.

Long-form testimonials like case studies are also perfect content for prospects who are looking for a nudge in the right direction. Hearing a story about a buyer just like them might even bump them to the next pipeline stage.


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Essential pages to include on your website

Another foundational factor in how to make a good website is the pages you create.

Every page on your website should have a purpose. Whether you’re building familiarity, providing content, or describing your product, every single page on your site needs to provide a specific value.

Consider the depth of each page on your site. Your homepage is at the surface level, and the product and “about us” pages are deeper. Because of this, the content and layout of these pages should match the corresponding level in the marketing funnel.

Below we discuss three of the most crucial pages to include on your website. Of course, you’ll likely have many other pages, such as blog posts, product pages, and contact pages. If you’re building a new website, though, these are the three to start with as they form the foundation of your site.

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Your homepage should effectively convey the “big picture” of what your company does, and why visitors should do business with you.

This is where your branding takes the front seat, as homepages are often the most visited page on any website. A good homepage is a showcase of your brand’s identity and its high-level offerings. The specifics get addressed on the web pages later on.

Pro tip: A good homepage needs to be very aesthetically pleasing. If this isn’t your strong suit, it might be worth it to find a professional designer, even if just for this page.

an example of an aesthetically pleasing homepage
Aesthetics make people feel something.

Be sure to keep the verbose explanations on your homepage to a minimum. A “what we do” statement is acceptable, and even some copy to explain how your products work. However, it’s easy to get carried away, which is why the full explanations should exist in the right places, like specific pages about the company itself, the products, the partners, etc.

Be sure to throw your icons in there to jazz up the content. Good iconography can even be used to break up your value statement, signify different products or services, and provide spacing and relief to your homepage’s overall design.

A good homepage is also optimized for easy navigation. Visitors should be able to follow whichever path appeals to them most without being confused by tons of options and offers—save those for the lower (in the funnel) pages.

Lastly, the homepage needs clear CTAs so visitors don’t hit a dead end. The first CTAs should be placed after the value propositions, roughly in the center of the page. The second CTAs go at the bottom of the page so that visitors don’t have to scroll back just to continue on the website. If your page is small, stick with one CTA at the end.

Landing pages

A landing page is a tactical page that is created as part of a marketing campaign. A landing page’s URL will be featured as a CTA in a newsletter, advertisement, or other piece of content. When users click the URL, the click is tallied, and the campaign’s effectiveness can be measured.

Because of their strategic purpose, landing pages don’t have the same open-endedness that homepages do. As part of a marketing campaign, a landing page features one specific offer, and thus has only one CTA.

an example of a landing page by instapage
Image via Instapage

A landing page’s sole purpose is to get visitors to convert by clicking its CTA. Paragraphs, company descriptions, and other content can distract from the goal. Keep your landing page’s content minimal and streamlined. It’s all about that CTA.

An all-star landing page is typically outlined something like this:

  • A hero image to captivate users. The first impression is important, so even if your hero image is a simple blue wave design, it serves to set the aesthetic tone for the rest of the page.
  • Title and subtext. Your page title reinforces why the users are on the page, and why they should be interested in your offer. The subtext serves to provide more information and reel the user in. The title and subtext can go right on top of the hero image.
  • A value proposition to encourage users to opt in. The value proposition should be specific, and targeted, and do a good job of explaining what’s in it for your users if they click your CTA. The benefits you list should be tailored to the viewers of this particular landing page. Usually the value proposition is featured just below the hero image.
  • Social proof. Tossing customer quotes in there is always a good idea, especially when accompanied by a photo. This combo package subtly reminds the user that other human beings, just like them, are fans of your product. As long as it doesn’t subtract from the design or aesthetic, social proof can smush right between the value statement and the CTA itself.
  • The CTA. On a landing page, there’s usually only one CTA, and it’s either found after all the content on the bottom of the page or positioned on the hero image just below the title.

Bonus: Check out this handy guide to landing page builders.

About Us pages

Practically every company has a page about themselves. Usually, an About Us page will describe things like what the company does, how they were founded, who works there, and what its mission is.

Blue Acorn reports that customers who visit an About Us page are five times more likely to make a purchase than those who don’t. Furthermore, customers who visited an About Us page spend a reported 22.5% more on their purchases. Why is this?

There are two leading theories, which both may be true in different cases. The first theory is that customers who are already about to purchase something tend to visit the About Us page to see exactly who they’re buying from, mainly just out of curiosity.

The other theory is that the About Us page is actually a compelling piece of content in and of itself, and people who visit it become likely to convert because of its content alone.

In terms of page design, the About Us page is a flexible one. Some companies take a graphical approach, featuring photos of their employees and workspace. Other companies take a verbal approach, and center around the company’s story, using photos as a secondary form of content.

Whichever approach you decide to take, try to design the page around the questions your prospective customers might be asking:

  • How old is your company?
  • Where are you located?
  • How many employees are there?
  • What are the people at your company like?
  • Are you “the real deal,” and a genuine fit for me?

Get started with performance-driven web design

Creating websites is about building a brand that supports your messaging and drives prospective customers into the marketing funnel. From ecommerce to talent portfolios to B2B sites, the specific elements vary, but the fundamentals remain the same.

You now understand the essential elements and pages that make a good website. You’re totally qualified to hop on WordPress and start making your own, but if you’d prefer to work with professionals, consider our partners at WebFX.

WebFX has designed over 1,200 performance-driven websites and offers a full suite of other digital marketing services, so you can get everything you need to grow your brand, increase your visibility in search, and drive conversions with your website.

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