Guiding Principles of Successful Websites

  •    Susan is the co-founder and CEO of Hack the Hood and a former Silicon Valley tech executive.

At Hack the Hood, an Oakland based tech-career education and readiness program, young people learn how to structure and craft websites, gather digital assets, and work with small business clients to create simple and effective designs. With the help of lead instructor Max Gibson I’ve developed a list of basic principles from our curriculum that can help anyone make a successful website.

1. Know your audience

Take the time to ask yourself this very basic question, “Who is my website intended for and what purposes does it serve?” Understanding and thinking through what your intended audience will need and want --not just what you like--is a critical first step to success.

2. K.I.S.S (keep it super simple)

We follow this design axiom, "All design should be as simple as possible, but no simpler." In other words, design should seek to be spare, reduce clutter, and be highly functional as well as beautiful. For new web designers, especially, less is totally MORE.

3. Map out architecture, form and function

Before you start building out the look and feel of a web page, think careful about core architecture. How many pages will there be? What do the pages need to do? Will there be subpages with additional information, details, or sections? Thinking through this before you start creating is another way to ensure success.

4. Understand basic user flow

What do you want visitors to do on these pages? What actions--like shopping or donating--might need to be prominently highlighted, perhaps by appearing in the top-level navigation of the site? What actions are less important, and might appear on sub-pages, or be bundled into primary pages as additional options (like putting the signup for a newsletter on the About page). Does the site need a search box? Social sharing tools? An image gallery? Think ahead about how users will interact with the site to find and perform the your desired actions.

Photo Credit: Kevin from Hack the Hood working with a small business owner. By Jennifer Leahy, used by permission, all rights reserved.