11 Essential Elements Every Website Should Have

by Yaritsa Arenas | Web Design

Regardless of what field you’re in or who your ideal client is, there are some key pages and site elements that will greatly improve your visitor’s experience while browsing your site. Whether you already have a site or are planning your new site, the items below will give you some food for thought. Now, I’m by no means the only person who’s ever written about this, but hopefully some of the tips I’m offering will give you new insight.

11 Essential Elements Every Website Should Have

Let’s start with the must-have Pages and how to make the best of them:

Home Page
Generally, this is the first page a client will see. It serves as an overview of your website and by extension, an overview of what you’re all about. Consider what is the most important thing you want them to know about you and what is the first step you want them to take. Don’t oversaturate the homepage with everything but the kitchen sink. Guide them to the next logical page. And on this page, even more so than any other page, it’s important that you very clearly spell out what you do and who you do it for above the fold (before you have to scroll down). You don’t want people wondering what the heck they’re doing on your site!
Pro Tip: Go to your site now and see if you can tell at a glance what you do and who you do it for? Is there a clear next step to take or page to visit? If not, make sure you add a call-to-action and/or add a description of what your services are straight away!

About Page
A lot of people use the about page as a resume of sorts, listing a bio and credentials. There’s nothing wrong with that, but really, the about page is not about you, it’s about your client. Or rather what your client gets out of working with you. They may not care what school you went to or what your hobbies are, they want to know what you have to offer them and what makes you a good fit for them.
Pro Tip: Read over your About page and make sure the focus is on your client and not on you. This is not to say you can’t have some background details and credentials, just make sure it all links back to how you can help them!

Work with Me / Services
This is where you want to go into detail about what you have to offer, how it all goes down, and an overview of timelines and pricing if applicable. You can sprinkle some testimonials on this page (or you can also create a separate testimonials page if appropriate). It’s not a bad idea to include answers to frequently asked questions or provide a link to that page if you have one.
Pro Tip: While a list of services is important, don’t forget to briefly go over your process and where possible, bundle your services into a package.

Portfolio / Case Studies
Regardless of what field you’re in, people want proof. Are you as good as your site claims you are? Here’s where you want to show off a little. Photographers should show their best work, Writers should have some excerpts, Designers should share featured projects… Let people see what your style is and what you have to offer.
Pro Tip: Make sure you’re only showing your best work. You don’t need to show every single project you’ve ever done, and you certainly don’t need to include projects that you no longer enjoy working on.

Contact Page
This page is pretty self-explanatory, yet there’s a lot more that can be done with it than just putting your email and phone number for someone to reach you. Contact forms are a great way for people to communicate with you, but also consider including links to your social media pages and your newsletter opt-in. If you have a physical location, include a map or directions. If they’re on your contact page, the visitor already wants to connect with you, so make sure they have options!
Pro Tip: This is a great opportunity to streamline who’s reaching out to you and how they reach you. I highly recommend a thought-out intake form. Not just Name, Email, Message, but ask specific questions, gather the information you need from them to get them a quote.

A blog page is not necessarily a MUST-HAVE, however, I’ve included it here because it’s really useful. Not everyone needs a blog, but most of the people I work with do have one. Personally, I think it’s a great tool to reinforce your expertise.
Pro Tip: Aim to give your blog a purpose and write about things that your visitors will find useful and will aid them in working with you in the future.

Now let’s talk about Key Elements to include throughout your site:

Intuitive Navigation
Your site navigation should be easily spotted and should include the main pages you want your clients to visit. If your visitor can’t easily find what they’re looking for, they’re likely to leave. Make sure your navigation follows a logical order, think of it as the map to your site.
Pro Tip: Not every page needs to be linked to from the top navigation, you can also include a menu in your footer for less critical pages.

Call-to-Action (CTA)
Believe it or not, people can very easily get stuck when they reach the bottom of a page and don’t have a next step. Every page should include some sort of CTA. Whether that’s a text link that directs them to the next page, an opt-in box allowing them to sign up to your mailing list or a big ol’ button that tells them to act now (“Book an Appointment”, “Sign Up For…”, “Visit X Page”).
Pro Tip: With some pages it’s naturally easy to remember a CTA, such as a Work with Me page, but don’t forget the other pages, such as your About Page or your Blog Pages. Go through your site and make sure your visitor has someplace to go when they reach the bottom!

Newsletter Opt-In
If you’re building a list, this might be obvious, but don’t forget to include someplace where people can sign up! Whether you include it on every page or just on key pages, having it easily accessible will encourage sign-ups.
Pro Tip: Brownie points if you’re offering a freebie. While it’s not required, people have come to expect something in order to sign-up. At the very least, include a short sentence talking about what types of mailings they can expect to receive from you if they join your list.

Social Media Links
If you’re on social media, and you want people to find you, what easier way than to have social media buttons on your site? You can include them throughout your site on your footer or header, but at the very least, you should have them on your contact page.
Pro Tip: I recommend only including links to platforms you’re active in (no one wants to check out a twitter feed that hasn’t been updated since 2012!)

Social Proof
I didn’t include a testimonials page earlier as some people opt to have testimonials throughout their site or linked to specific projects, however it’s important to have some sort of social proof somewhere on your site. Whether that comes in the form of testimonials, case studies or hard numbers, people want to know that you can back up your claims.
Pro Tip: Even if you have a dedicated Testimonials page, it doesn’t hurt to have them on key pages throughout your site. Your Work with Me page is a great page to include a testimonial, as it adds incentive to hire you.

Bonus Tip! Is your site responsive?

So many people will view your site on their tablet or mobile these days, it’s critical that you have a site that will adapt to any device. You can check-off every item listed prior to this, but if people can’t easily view your pages from their mobile devices, they will likely go elsewhere.
Pro Tip: If your site is not mobile-friendly, there are plugins you use to create a down-and-dirty mobile version of your site. I’m not a fan of these as they’re not aesthetically pleasing for the most part, but it’s a quick-fix for the short-run. There are also many mobile-friendly themes you can buy. And of course, if you’re looking for a re-design, contact me!

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