Things aren’t as simple as they used to be. It was once simply a matter of getting a web developer to come in and build you a website with sub-par copy and pixelated images – and that was enough.

Those were the early days of the web.

Then came Web 2.0 which brought with it more powerful web browsers and faster internet speeds (which meant better images and better site interactivity). It also brought Google as the web search engine of choice for internet searches. Nobody says: “web search it”, people say “Google it”. The word is synonymous with web searches.

And Google brought on an arms race between those practising SEO (read more about SEO in our recent article here) and the company itself.

Suddenly copy had to be better to hold the attention of readers if you wanted to make online sales (another aspect that Web 2.0 brought with it – e-commerce). That led to the rise of the digital copywriter. But even here, SEO meant so much word stuffing that copy often became bland.

Things are different on the web now. Where we are is different. And to answer, succinctly, what makes a good website, is this: a website that can be A) found and B) serve its specific function.

It’s a jungle out there.

The web isn’t static; it’s organic. It bears the hallmarks of an ecosystem, one where some days the lion wins and the impala doesn’t make it back home, or some days the impala wins and the lion goes home hungry that night.

Websites need to be dynamic to be considered good. And what about purpose? Well, if you’re an e-commerce site, your purpose is to push product and make sales. What makes yours a good website is enticing copy, clear design, and products that evoke the emotions. Such as a PlayStation. Can you make your interested reader – who has stumbled on your website because they’re “browsing” (pun intended) – vividly imagine the joy of playing that product after a stressful day at work, as he takes on the role of a rugged, man’s man gunslinger of a character? If you can do that, through the copy and through the design, then what’s needed next is an operating mechanism in the site to quickly take him to check-out. To quickly and easily provide his details and (most importantly) his credit card.

So while he’s playing at robbing a bank (in the Old West), you’re laughing all the way to it (in the here and now).

The medium is just the messenger.

The internet is a media medium like so much else. And if your website’s function is to provide info, what makes it a good website is how clear and concise the copy is. There’s a test which reveals the comprehension level of the copy written. Simple copy can help a Grade 8 student easily understand the ideas within it. Complex copy might require a master’s degree in English. For such a website to be good at its function, the copy would need to be simple. It needs to inform.

A good digital copywriter can communicate complex ideas by simplifying them and using easy to imagine metaphors.

What makes a good website is how easy it is to find. If people are making purchases on your website, Google bots and trackers are monitoring this. It tells them that the website is fulfilling its function and therefore is a good website. Which has the effect of making that website appear higher in keyword searches.

The same basic principle applies to information sites. If your site has relevant information structured to be easy to digest, then people will stay longer on it. Google is even smart enough to have a sense of where you are looking on the page, based on factors like your mouse cursor. This helps indicate to it how you are going about your search for relevant info on the page and gives it a clue as to whether you’re finding it or not.

If you aren’t experiencing a bounce rate too high, i.e. people aren’t coming onto the site, glancing around, and then leaving shortly afterwards, to look for the info they seek elsewhere, then you have a good site. Again, this comes down to good content. Content is still king.

The ecology metaphor.

But like a jungle, things can swift and change in the ecosystem. The needs for design and copy can change and what was once a useful site easy to find may start becoming the “impala”, not the “lion”, and be devoured with falling ranks. It may almost be impossible to find in the so-called jungle.

Something that also makes for a good website, is having it monitored constantly, having analytics done, as well as having a dedicated team made up of developers, SEO specialists, copywriters, and designers to ensure that when the web ecology changes, they can help the website adapt for it. Something we just happen to have expertise in. One supposes you could consider us game wardens tasked with protecting our websites in these changing ecological conditions. And be ready to act when necessary to ensure a website remains “good”.

If you want to find out more on how we can help you develop a good website or maintain one as “good”, from an e-commerce or informational perspective, that gets found when searched for, speak to us at info@fgx.co.za.