10 Steps to Create a High-Quality Website
This and many other posts are also available as a pretty, well-behaved e-book: On Web Development. And speaking of which, here’s a short treatise just about managing the quality of websites: The Little Book of Website Quality Control.
A valuable source of information does not fall from the sky, and it’s impossible to create in a few easy clicks. In setting up a website, one needs goals, content, structure, design, programming, and maintenance. What one needs is expertise—constantly. This article outlines—without attempting to be comprehensive—the 10 most important steps to creating a good website. A checklist to be collected and shared.
This is a translation of my article “10 Schritte zur hochwertigen Website”, kindly provided by Greg and Esther Scowen. Thank you!
- Information Architecture
- Quality Assurance
- Public Relations
- Success Control
- Quality Assurance
If you don’t sincerely want to create a website and don’t intend to maintain it: Please don’t even start.
A high-quality website requires a lot of commitment and effort. Good content requires a lot of commitment and effort. Your users and visitors demand commitment and effort. A website can be compared to a pet—think about whether you really want one before you get one. (But you are right, pets that are not treated well certainly hurt much more.)
So you have decided that you really want a website and that this website should really be of an acceptable standard. What you need to do now is a plan:
- What is the goal of your website?
- What is the target audience of your website?
- What content do you intend to offer?
- Which key data and metrics will you use to determine your success? (Determine your key performance indicators.)
If you are unsure about how to answer some of these questions, if you are in any doubts or even fail to find an answer to one of the questions, you probably need a break. Or you could try to seek for help regarding your decisions. Your website won’t mind the wait.
3. Information Architecture
After the planning phase has been completed, don’t immediately start designing and implementing: First, you need to create, test, verify, and reconsider the structure and architecture of your website. To do this, read a good book about information architecture, look at a few heuristics and have at least 15 users do some card-sorting. Even at this early stage, don’t forget to keep an eye on localization and internationalization. Document the structure you have elaborated and validate it—by testing it while you are designing the website.
Hurray, Design. Important:
Design is a set of fields for problem-solving that uses user-centric approaches to understand user needs (as well as business, economic, environmental, social, and other requirements) to create successful solutions that solve real problems. Design is often used as a process to create real change within a system or market. Too often, Design is defined only as visual problem solving or communication because of the predominance of graphic designers. In other fields and contexts, Design might only refer to Fashion Design or Interior Design. However, a recognition of the similarities between all design disciplines shows that the larger definition for Design operates at a higher level and across many media.
—Nathan Shedroff: An Evolving Glossary of Experience Design (2005).
Consider a few additional points before you start the design process:
- It doesn’t hurt to have a look at a few principles, whether specific ones by Tufte or Tognazzini or general ones like the golden ratio or wabi-sabi.
- It is essential to keep accessibility in mind, even during the design phase. It is easy to address color blindness, photosensitive epilepsy or sufficient contrast during this stage.
- Test your drafts (don’t wait until the final version). Carry out tests, whether with five users, with more than five because that’s not enough, with n users, just as long as it is cheap, or with none because you place your trust in experts. Test and read through basic rules about usability.
Be creative, but not “out of control.”
After completing the design process, which should have led to a well operating design, you can now start the implementation. (It is, however, possible, that you start this at an earlier stage already.) In addition to environment (server) and dynamics (script languages), you need to consider the following points:
- Choose a suitable document type for your documents. If in any doubt, get inspired by Jeffrey Zeldman or Eric Meyer. If this doesn’t help you—just pick any valid document type.
- Use HTML elements according to their meaning.
- Write structured code and get used to coding guidelines. This is particularly important if more than one person is working on the project.
- Validate. Everything. Consider it a taboo to publish documents and style sheets that haven’t been validated.
- Whatever you do, always keep accessibility in mind. Accessibility heuristics can be useful, but unfortunately they are not comprehensive.
6. Quality Assurance
After having worked out an elaborate, high-quality information website on the basis of the aforementioned points, you should still absolutely and definitely carry out Quality Assurance (QA). The launch of your website is part of this phase, ideally after a final QA. It may be possible to launch your website immediately after having carried out the QA, but only if you have focused on quality from the beginning.
Control and optimize the following:
- Technical validity and compliance of all resources.
- Accessibility, ideally with the help of real users, but automated tests can be useful as well.
- Links. Linkrot has never been fashionable.
- Load time.
- Just about everything. Your website should stand for quality and value-added user experience. Make sure that you’ve got it.
7. Public Relations
Market your website without feeling guilty. Your HTML should already be suitable for search engines (semantics and accessibility). Use a moderate link strategy from this point on and perform conventional Public Relations (PR). I know, this is easy to be said, but it has to be done. Furthermore, don’t get upset if your website doesn’t have great success from the very beginning, such as 10 times more users accessing the website—plan on a long-term basis.
8. Success Control
Make sure that the “key performance indicators” (KPI) you determined at the beginning are measured. If your existing statistics don’t determine these numbers, ensure that they do. There are some useful statistics tools: A few good ones are free of charge (Google Analytics), only fractionally more good inexpensive ones (Mint), and a handful of good expensive ones (WebSideStory). Use these metrics to evaluate the development and the success of your website.
This hint won’t be of much use if you have never before had a good look at web analytics. It is time to do this now.
Maintain your website. Update your website. Look after your website. Add new content on a regular basis. Furthermore, check old content. You need to proofread new and old content. Never cease to question your site. At the end of the day, it is once more all about…
10. Quality Assurance
That’s right, quality assurance is a process. Keep validating, checking, and testing your documents, contents, and design… again and again.
About the Author
Jens Oliver Meiert is a technical lead and author (sum.cumo, W3C, O’Reilly). He loves trying things, including in the realms of philosophy, art, and adventure. Here on meiert.com he shares and generalizes and exaggerates some of his thoughts and experiences.
If you have any thoughts or questions (or recommendations) about what he writes, leave a comment or a message.
Very good article, thank you !
On May 10, 2007, 12:23 CEST, Andrew Rickmann said:
Excellent article. It’s what every client needs to know goes into producing a successful site, as well as everything that actually should go into it.
On May 10, 2007, 15:40 CEST, Victoria said:
First time for me today to take a look at a “blog”. I have been on the web for 8 years and have worked anywhere from 8 to 14 hours a day and sometimes 7 days a week on my ecommerce site. I think that the comments that you have made concerning how to make a website successful are very true. My feelings personally are that I should not have to link to a million other websites (or even “1″ for that matter of fact), nor should I have to post a “blog”. The hours that I have put into the site have been hours spent making the site user friendly, cost efficient, updated with new merchandise and 100% customer satisfaction along with using Google Adwords and other forms of honest marketing. I cannot understand anyone’s logic that if you have millions of websites pointing to your site that that is what makes your site a “good” website? Or posting a blog may help? Last year someone stole my store name “Victoria’s Visions Lingerie” in the form of a url. I read articles on this particular company buying up thousands of url’s in hope to rip off web site owners. Now between all of the above, I don’t mind telling you that my site has taken a nosedive. I am not going to take my valuable time to contact millions of other sites to link to me nor am I going to post blogs to make my site better.
What about the good old fashioned way of working hard and treating your customers right???
Integrating or building a content management system is an important step worth mentioning.
Nice to see quality assurance appearing twice on the list! Technically, I’d like to see it appear *three* times. The first time call it QA: quality planning and put it between IA & design. The second time call it QA: quality control and the third time call it QA: quality process improvement.
Excellent. Simple. Concise.
More people should run through these steps before building a website. However, there will always be a large amount of people who simply don’t care. There will always be designers/developers who want to make a quick buck.
For everyone else - this is a great list to keep your site top notch!
On May 17, 2007, 20:13 CEST, Marc said:
Excellent advice, many thanks from a beginner!
On May 18, 2007, 5:54 CEST, Jermayn Parker said:
It is all true what you have listed but maybe you did not seem to put enough attention in the design (looks) and how its coded which I think is just as important.
You can have all of those but it needs a good design and coded right for it to be a high-quality website.
Nice article, very well put together.
On April 14, 2008, 18:41 CEST, Maik said:
Very nice buildup with important facts. I´m saved these page on my favourite.
Thanx Jens 😊
On July 12, 2008, 20:34 CEST, Yuri said:
Good post Case. It sums up a large portion of starting a business online.
On October 8, 2008, 15:35 CEST, Petrossino said:
Hmmm…..U talking about design but what about the content? I mean design is not everything, design is just a curtain. What makes people to come to your webpage? Is it design or text content? Learn more about writing for web as thats where the key to succesfull webpage is. oleeee have a good one
On December 6, 2008, 1:59 CET, miryam said:
My balckground is more graphic design than web developer, I have created my previous sites with html, I wonder if wordpress is only for doing blogs? do you recommend it for common websites?
On December 9, 2008, 8:22 CET, Zara said:
this article was very helpful to me. I’m doing an assignment on website creation at school and your step by step guide really helped me.
On February 18, 2009, 2:03 CET, emo said:
HEY mind giving me a link to making my own website??!!
On June 12, 2009, 0:09 CEST, Brian said:
Thank you so much.This website is one of a kind.I’ve never had this much information in one place.
On September 5, 2009, 16:45 CEST, Richard Morton said:
Most organisations only have a vague awareness of the needs. The pet analogy is a good one but even with that I suspect there are very few people who are absolutely sure they want a pet and understand all the implications before getting one. A similar analogy would probably be having children - in an ideal world parents would have proper training before they had children but that ain’t gonna happen in the real world (and probably shouldn’t either).
On December 16, 2009, 1:30 CET, Brian Mathers said:
Using the term website quality brought me to this website of Jens Meiert, and I want to say that
I fully support what has been written here. Jens makes a great point right at the beginning of this blog and that is about ‘commitment’. A business must be committed to taking on a website. And the person put in place to manage this site every day must also be committed and be fully up to speed on ‘quality and standards’. Website Standards is everything I am about as an impartial advisor to the small medium business community. I am trying very hard right now through talking to parliamentary ministers in the UK to put in place training excellence program so people are properly trained in understanding the standards Jens talks about here. Right now, lots of websites fail, because the business owner I am afraid leaves a lot of the decision making to the website developer. The website developer will never get to know a business unless that website agency was via contract providing a permanent account manager to really work with that business owner regularly. At most the website agency could commit this person to one or two clients. But in my opinion to achieve all the standards listed here, a business owner needs assistance to groom someone (an in-house employee champion) that works for the small medium sized business. This person must want to learn not to be a web designer, but a certified web author who has the task of making the website ‘perform’ everyday and whether its ecommerce or brochure driven, ensure the company’s ‘goal pages’ meet the standards, contain good quality content and most importantly convert into ROI for the business. Every page is a salesperson and the challenge is what can the page bring by way of worth into the business. Once again a great article!
On December 19, 2009, 12:25 CET, Bhavyesh said:
Realy healpful in building high quality website.
On January 7, 2010, 17:12 CET, megan brazeau said:
im 13 and im trying to find steps on how to make a website….. for language class i have to make a flow chart HELP ME
On October 6, 2010, 23:15 CEST, David Upton said:
Thank you for this highly informative article. I will use this as an aide memoire in future. The article with its focus on logic, structure and experiential learning approach to problem solving(heuristics) is the perfect antidote to the rash of transatlantic psychobable and freeze dried mysticism one increasingly finds on any site to do with web design. I also found the links seomoz and web analytics very useful.
On February 18, 2011, 15:24 CET, Sultan said:
Thanks for the “steps”.
I liked the summary “If you don’t sincerely want to create a website and don’t intend to maintain it: Please don’t even start.”
I think once we have the site, we should keep an eye on the “Public relations” you step 7 and honour the needs of the audience within the “Objectives” for your website.
Have a look at the most popular posts, possibly including:
Perhaps my most relevant book: CSS Optimization Basics (2018). Writing CSS is a craft. As craftspeople we strive to write high quality CSS. In CSS Optimization Basics I lay out the, at least some of the most important aspects of such CSS.
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