creating successful websites

Successful Websites - What They Need to Have

The World Wide Web (www)

In the 30+ years since Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web (www), websites have become considerably more complex.  In the early days, you needed to understand just one thing, HTML, the code markup language behind what you see – pre-1993 it was just plain text!  Graphics were basic, content was light, and Yahoo! was the major Search Engine. 

Today, there’s a whole lot more to consider to have a successful website.

Planning & Design

Website Purpose

When you’ve decided to build a website, the very first step should be to decide its purpose.  For most small businesses the ultimate goal is sales, but the way that’s achieved differs.  There are three main types, Business Card, Trust Building and E-commerce.

Business card style websites are websites that show little more than your contact details, a very brief overview of products or services and a little bit about you.  They should almost exclusively be placed in the past – although they do have minimal uses, e.g. property development or investor packs – making way for trust building websites where testimonials, educational articles and other tools are strongly promoted.  E-commerce websites, as the name suggests, add the shopfront component.

In addition to the website’s primary purpose, consider what benefits you should add in order to bolster a users experience and encourage sales.  Articles and Videos are excellent examples of ways to build trust whereas actual colours and graphics instead of basic text information in a storefront product selector may do the same for E-commerce.  Tools, Calculators and a myriad of other features may make it an easy decision to buy from you.

Research Competitors

As with all aspects of marketing, it’s a good idea to know where your competitors are at to discover any threats or opportunities you may face.  While you should always aim for a unique approach to business, foregoing standard website aspects to save on development costs will be especially detrimental when your competitors have that functionality.

Conversely, you may be inspired to add functionality previously not considered to boost your customer’s experience, whether your competitor has that functionality or not, e.g. tools and calculators.

Revisit your website plan after research to add in any news ideas.

Wire Frame Design

Prior to jumping into the development phase, an important step in the process is wireframing your website.  Essentially, wireframing is a crude design of how you intend your website to look.  Often what we envision in our mind doesn’t work as well as intended, so getting that out and refining it during the planning stage will dramatically improve the time in which it takes to develop the website.

A lot of web designers – us at Actual Marketing included – take this step a little further and design out the pages in graphics programs incorporating real logos, colours and photos with dummy text to assist you in joining in on the vision.  But, a pen and paper is really all you need and that can suffice when doing it yourself.

Wireframing all major elements such as headers and footers as well as the body of primary pages, such as Home, Contact, About and Product or Service pages should be strongly considered as again, it will speed up development time considerably and allow consistent structures across differing pages.

If you’d like to get your design off on the right foot, check out our Graphic Design service (

User Flow

Once you have your wire frame design revisit it in the view of a customer or client.

User flow is extremely important to maintain engaged website visitors, and engaged website visitors are much more likely to turn into customers/clients.  Does the design make sense?  Do the Call to Action buttons pop out from the page and scream “click me”? What barriers will a customer face when viewing a page?  Does it generate interest fast enough or is the really juicy bits too far down the page?

Call to Actions

Call to Actions are absolutely critical to website success, but are often thought of after the design phase (and often deep into the development phase or later).  Before you start building your website you should consider what Call to Actions you’ll have to entice users to become customers.  There are two main forms of Call to Actions, small text paragraphs or images, and buttons.

For small text paragraphs or images, these call to actions should be super easy to view and let users know that continuing is going to be of great benefit to them.  It should answer their primary problem and offer them your solution.  Showing some Urgency here often helps speed up the process, too, but don’t rush them.

Buttons are the other form of Call to Action.  Any button that starts the journey to contact you, get a quote or buy from you shouldn’t be obscured by everything around it.  You want it to stand out more than a sore thumb.


Content is one of the core components of SEO.  As they say, content is king.  You could have all other elements of SEO on point, but without great content you’re not going to be able to rank, and what’s worse, your customers are unlikely to develop trust in you.


When writing the copy for your website, it’s a good idea to know what people expect to see when going to a website like yours.  Google’s Keyword Planner ( or Neil Patel’s Ubersuggest ( are excellent tools to indicate what people are entering into the search bar, but that may not necessarily include what you want.  Search Intent is the art of knowing why people type in a query and certain queries we don’t need to rank for.  Take “web design sunshine coast” for example, the search intent is to find a web designer in Sunshine Coast, we want to rank for that.  Conversely “learn web design Sunshine Coast” is not something we need to rank for… although the irony regarding this article is not wasted.

When researching you should consider common phrases, synonyms and similarities with your competition (for clarity, competitors are similar businesses, competition are different businesses that can replace your product/service e.g. blinds vs curtains)

Writing Style

Lucky, recent advances in Search Engine algorithms have allowed an even greater emphasis on context.  In the early days of SEO, “keyword stuffing” was extremely prevelant “plumber Sunshine Coast” this and “plumber Sunshine Coast” that made for hard and unappealing reading.  Now, “we’re Plumbers in Sunshine Coast” works just as well, and your website visitors will thank you for it, they’ll be more engaged and that leads to greater sales.

Writing style depends on your ideal customer, so it is important not to write content for everyone because then it resonates with no one.  While you might want to consider stopping short of expletives, if your target customer is a tradie, it’s highly likely he or she will resonate with language different from a young child.  The more a website visitor resonates with your language – as well as across all your marketing channels – the more likely they are to trust and buy from you.

We love copywriting to the right audience.  It’s often left as an afterthought when building a website, but it really shouldn’t be and that’s why it’s here in this article – you could even add it to your wireframe!  If you’d like some help to resonate with your audience, we’re here.  Head to our Copywriting page. (


Choosing a Content Management System (CMS)

Nowadays, over half the websites across the globe are controlled by a Content Management System, and that statistic is growing by the day as older websites are updated and new businesses enter the online space.  But not all CMSs are created equal.

Currently, there are four super popular CMS solutions available, with many more smaller and niche offerings.  Formally blog orientated WordPress reigns supreme, controlling over 60% of all CMS-based websites and around 34% of the web in total.  The other three are Wix, Squarespace and Shopify.

Shopify, Wix and Squarespace are proprietary platforms, which means they control the hosting and developmental tools of a website.  While this fosters an easy to adopt learning curve, it does have limitations on customisation and freedoms.  Shopify is an excellent platform for E-commerce, as that is its core focus.  Wix and Squarespace are less specific, offering a broader range of tools.

As Web Designers, we prefer WordPress – although we have a number of websites across these other platforms.  WordPress offers the full suite of customisation and freedom to host in the location/region that is most appropriate for our clients.  You’ll find it a little steeper in the learning department, but not by much.  Being the most popular CMS solution out there also means there is no end to the amount of plugins available for even the most niche of functionalities you may require.

Possibly more importantly, you have complete control of your WordPress website.  You can change hosts or bring on additional designers (did we mention we do Web Design *wink wink*) whenever you want, save the code to your personal computer in case of unforeseen issues and just have peace of mind in general.

Our WordPress bias aside, it’s a good idea to look through the documentation of each and see what’s the right fit for you right now.


A theme is essentially a pre-built website that “plugs in” to your chosen CMS.  All the major CMS solutions offer quite a decent range of themes to choose from, but again, because of the open-source nature of WordPress, it reigns supreme here, too.

Over the past few years, themes have gone from single layout designs to full blown designers in their own right.  Divi and Elementor are known as Theme Builders and are actually plugins, offering an in-CMS user interface to build from scratch or use one of their ready made templates.  But, many themes that don’t call themselves Theme Builders are also more than capable of the task.  We use Impreza, a hugely robust theme that can match your wire frame design to the pixel.

When on the hunt for a suitable theme, there are a number of factors to consider.  Firstly, can it mirror your wire frame?  All that planning shouldn’t go to waste, especially when you’ve planned for user experience and sales.  Most themes offer a demo view to show you a range of options.  Secondly, is it HTML5 and CSS3 (current version) compliant?  All major browsers such as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, Apple Safari and Microsoft’s Edge are finally very similar in their adoption of HTML5/CSS3 best practices, and thus this enables a smooth experience no matter the device your potential customer is using.  Google Search also pays close attention to this when considering rank.

Australian-owned Envato runs Theme Forest, housing possibly the largest collection of themes anywhere on the web.

Functionality & Plugins

Functionality & Plugins is where we step back in time to the planning phase.  At this point you should be well aware of what will benefit a prospective customer, so that’s the functionality you should be looking to achieve.

Searching the plug-in libraries of all the major CMSs should reveal a number of solutions to the functionality you’re trying to achieve, however they can at times be a little light on information and use-cases.  When you’ve found one that looks the goods, a quick Google search or visit to the plug-in website should confirm and refute its potential use on your website.

If using WordPress, in addition to the functionality you actually require, you’ll need to add a few basic plugins as well.  Security (SSL) is one, especially when dealing with payments, but Google wants it too.  We use a free plug-in called Really Simple SSL to force HTTPS.  If your theme doesn’t come with a contact form, we recommend Contact Form 7.

Technical SEO

Technical SEO is one of three primary aspects of Search Engine Optimisation and one of two that focus on the website itself (hint, content is the other one).  Technical SEO focuses on what Google loves to see, which for the most part is what your potential customers unconsciously want to see, too.  Unfortunately, this is where the limitations of Wix, Squarespace and Shopify become very apparent, you can’t do a lot here using those CMSs.  WordPress on the other hand…

Google – and other search engines – wants to give its users the best experience, so they tend to rank websites that load extremely fast and don’t interrupt the user’s experience.  Core Web Vitals is their most recent update in this arena, where they focus on layouts and interactivity delay.

There are two tools we use regularly to analyse our website’s performance, Google’s own PageSpeed Insights ( and GTmetrix (  They both are super handy tools that score various components and tell you how to improve each of them.

What you should look at first is caching and for this we head back to the plug-in library.  Autoptimise, WP Rocket and WP Fastest Cache are a few of the many optimisation plugins available that compress all the code in your website to allow it to get to your user faster.  This improves performance by stitching together files, removing coding comments and unnecessary white space.  But, it can break your website, too, so test before and after.

The other major aspect of Technical SEO you should be looking into is images.  Huge image files dramatically slow down websites, and should be avoided at all costs.  The goal here is to deliver images that are the right size dimensionally, and optimised to be smaller in file size – which the file type also plays a part.  Photo-like images should be JPG, and solid colours – such as logos – should be PNG.  If you have access to Adobe Photoshop, the Save for Web feature makes this super easy, but many other graphics programs and even some online converters have this functionality as well.  The GTMetrix analysis tool also allows you to download your images they have optimised after analysis for even further gains.  Head back into the plug-in library and search for “Enable Media Replace” to allow you to quickly switch out images in the Media Library.

Finally, set up Google Search Console ( for your website to be in communication direct with Google.  They’ll tell you when technical issues appear that affect your website and rank.

Related Link: SEO Basics

We love Search Engine Optimisation.  If you’re struggling with the technical aspects of SEO or are looking for a provider to assist you to rank in Google, please reach out to us.  See our Search Engine Optimisation page (

Next Steps

Once you’ve completed all the steps above you’re ready to go live, congratulations!  You have a thoroughly thought out website that serves the ultimate purpose of improving sales by focusing on what the customer/client needs from you.

People can be funny though, no matter how much research and planning you do, how your potential customers interact with your website may differ, or your ideal customer may change over time.  Because of that it’s a great idea to continue to monitor your website and make subtle improvements on it as you obtain real world use cases.  Google Analytics ( provides a wealth of information you can use to improve your website, Google Optimise ( allows you to split test elements/pages on your website to see which one works best and Hotjar ( is a neat tool that allows you to visually see what your visitors are doing and where they leave or when they are confident to buy.  You may also want to connect a Facebook Pixel and your CRM if you have one.

Note: At present, the Google Site Kit plug-in, which allows easy setup of Google’s Search Console, Analytics and Ads into your WordPress website isn’t great when dealing with E-commerce data, we use the Tatvic Enhanced Ecommerce plug-in for our online store clients instead.


Is everything we’ve mentioned here absolutely necessary to get your website live? 
The simple answer is no, but by taking a processed approach to building your website you’ll take the guesswork out and be well on your way to having a successful website that will allow for easy, incremental improvements long into the future.

We believe in this process because it’s the process we’ve developed and used for over a decade building hundreds of high performance websites for our clients.  This guide is for those looking to understand the process, or DIY their website.  If you’re not looking to DIY, please visit our Web Design ( page and reach out to us today.