10 Essential Components of A Successful Website
Building your own website is easy and fast, thanks to website builder services and template/CMS tools like WordPress.
But like any DIY project, your new site will work better and look better if you plan a bit before you jump in.
That means understanding and including the most important elements of a good website: features that help people find your site, navigate it, connect with you, and more.
Let’s group these essential website components into two categories: things that work “behind the scenes” and things your visitors will notice when they come to your site. You need both sets of elements to have an effective website, and when your site is built well, they all work together. Here’s what you’ll need.
Must-Have Behind-the-Scenes Components of a Website
Not a technical person? Not to worry. These basics are easy to find and implement, and we’ve got resources to walk you through each step. Once you choose your domain name, you’ll need:
1. Reliable Web Hosting Service
Think of your web host as similar to a landlord who rents you space for a physical store. They provide and maintain the server space where your site files “live” and make it possible for visitors to come by and explore your site.
Like a good landlord, a reliable web host, whether you choose a basic cloud hosting plan or an enterprise dedicated hosting plan, will provide fast service, ongoing maintenance and improvements, and good customer service and support. If you choose a host with a website builder included (like HostGator!), you can snap together the framework of your site in just a few minutes.
2. A Content Management System (CMS)
Your content management system works behind the scenes to help you organize and maintain parts of your website like your site pages and meta data, and it makes it easier for visitors to find their way around your site.
You can create your own, if you enjoy coding. Or you can use WordPress, the most popular CMS around. There are thousands of templates, themes, and plugins to help customize WordPress sites.
Learning how all those elements work together can take time. To get a site up and running faster, especially if it’s your first site, a website builder will include its own content management system as part of its all-in-one service.
3. SEO Basics
Optimizing your site so it appears in search engines is a must. With millions of sites on the internet now in competition for a spot on the 1st page of search results, you’ll need to follow a few search engine optimization (SEO) best practices to get found.
To do this, figure out which keywords visitors are using (or will use) to find your site – the more specific and local the better, especially if your site serves a local or regional audience. Use those keywords wisely in your site copy, your meta data, and your media tags and file names.
There are other important aspects to SEO your site needs to include, like mobile-friendly optimization and fast page load times. Test your knowledge of SEO basics and learn more.
4. Analytics Tools
You’ll want to know how people are finding your site, which pages they spend the most time on, and how well different elements of your site convert. Google Analytics is the most popular and easy to use resource, it doesn’t cost anything, and it integrates easily with WordPress and some website builder tools.
5. Inventory Management
When you’re selling products on your site, you’ll want to make sure you keep track of what you have in stock, what’s sold, and what’s on order.
That’s where inventory management tools come in. When they’re integrated with your checkout process and your shop pages, you and your customers will both know whether an item is available to buy.
Website Components Your Visitors Will Notice
Now that we’ve mentioned customers, it’s time to talk about must-have website elements that your visitors will see and interact with. Whether you’re selling, blogging, or both, your site needs these things to make visitors feel welcome and want to stay.
6. Mobile Friendly Template and Theme
Your site will need to look great on all kinds of screens: laptops, desktops, tablets, and especially smartphones. Choose a mobile-optimized or responsive design so your site is fast-loading, easy to read, and easy to navigate on phones, which are the way most web users search now.
Having a mobile-friendly site will also help with your SEO, because Google looks for it.
7. Sections That Visitors Expect
Have you ever visited a new website that didn’t feel quite right, or an online shop that felt a bit off?
Chances are that feeling of wrongness was because the site was missing some elements you’ve come to expect: a home page that lets you know what the site’s for, an about us section that shows there are real people behind the site, and contact information so readers or customers can reach you if they have questions or feedback.
It’s a rare site that can build an audience on words alone. Our eyes are naturally drawn to images, especially if they move and make noise, and images are a must if you’re selling merchandise online. People will also want to see a photo of you in your about us section.
Choose images that are optimized to look good and load fast, and be sure to tag and name your website’s images in ways that use your SEO keywords.
9. Social Media Links and Integration
You don’t have to be on every platform, but you should link your site’s social media accounts to the site itself. Depending on how often you update, you may want to include a widget that shows your latest posts.
Some website builders will help you integrate with your favorite platforms so you can post your site updates to your social media accounts at the same time.
10. Shopping Cart and Payment Tools
If your site includes a shop, you’ll want a reliable, easy to use shopping cart and payment tools like PayPal or Square that are popular with most online shoppers. Most e-commerce platforms integrate well with WordPress, and many website builders can help you set up shopping and checkout tools in a snap.
Time to Build Your Site
Now that you know the basics your site needs to succeed, you’re ready to get started!
Check out our options for getting it done, including HostGator’s Website Builder service that includes all the elements on this list.
Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelancer who enjoys writing about business development and marketing, e-commerce payments and fraud prevention, and travel.