What Great Website Design Actually Means and How to Measure it

Great website doesn’t grow on trees

Have you started the venture on your next great website design? Maybe your original design was pretty great when you launched, but that was a few years ago, and now it’s not so great. What exactly is the definition of great, anyway? Is it a good color pallette? A fancy design? Does it shuffle content more effectively, or draw your eye to the most important calls to action? Does it generate revenue for you? Has it been effective at building an email list? Are you consistently seeing more revenue generated through it than the month before?

You can probably guess at which of these questions are more important than others. If we have to hear another new marketing intern complain about pop-ups without looking at the 20-30% increase in email captures when they launched, we’re going to go all Nate Silver on them. Business goals – do you have them? Good. Are you willing to do what it takes to reach them? Great.


Here is a list of tasks that every successful business with a great website design has completed, and our resources on how to complete each task.

1. It will attract, convert, engage and monetize website visitors.

Starting from the layer with the most visibility, we attract website visitors through search, then, a smaller number of those who we attract will convert into email subscribers. We will then engage a smaller number of those converted subscribers with great content in order to keep them happy, and then make money by monetizing the relationship and turning those engaged email subscribers into buyers. This is the smallest number of people, however, and is fueled by the layers before it.

Read: Understanding the Mequoda Method for Multiplatform Publishing

2. It knows its goals, and assigns calls to action in all the right places.

What are the actions you’d like a user to take when they arrive at your website? If you were conducting any kind of simple usability tests, you’d need to define these actions. In a heuristic usability test, where you’re watching a user engage with your website, you are required to come up with 5-10 major tasks, many of which require the one element that every website design requires: a very obvious call to action. Many publishers might include this list of tasks they wish their web visitor could complete easily, all requiring a button or call-out of some kind, telling the user how to do at least four fundamental tasks: Download a free report (to subscribe to an email newsletter), subscribe to a magazine, purchase a book, and register for an event.

Read: What Every Great Website Design Requires (And You Might Be Missing)

3. It’s ample with opportunities to click. 

Reader engagement is a key metric important to all publishers. Time spent, pages per visit and return visits are all numbers that every online publisher should hold near and dear. The problem with the information overload of the internet is that website readers get lazy. When they come in from search engines, they often click, find what they’re looking for and head off in another direction. However, if you give them better reasons to click, they’re more likely to keep digging.

Read: 10 Great Website Design Ideas that Make Lazy Visitors Click More

4. It chooses its fonts wisely.

A recent Digiday story on publishers’ new approach to site redesign reveals that in place of the customary massive overhauls every few years, magazines are now outfitting their portals with infrastructure enabling periodic tweaks and tune-ups rather than part-and-parcel transformations. The realization that redesigns are capable of doing more harm than good has fueled this change in thinking. And fonts are at the heart of it, with one foot in traditional redesign theory and the other in this new gradual, evolutionary one. Changing the predominant font of your site is a reasonably simple process with perhaps the single biggest potential impact.

Read: Best-Practice Font Tips for Effective Website Design and More Readable Content

5. It leverages the most current tools.

The most important goal when designing a website is to figure out the main funnel that gets a visitor to complete a transaction. That transaction may be monetary (a sale) or not (a subscription to your email newsletter). Effective website design is based on efficiency, clarity, and user-friendly elements that take the visitor through the funnel. Check out these 12 best website design tools that cover all of the above.

Read: Designing a Website: 12 Best Website Design Tools

There’s a never-ending stream of new tools that pop up every day to help us become better web developers. We have a dashboard of tools we look to for ideas, assistance and even implementation, and it’s safe to assume that you probably do too. Last year we discovered and shared a lot of web design tools that we use and want to pass on. In addition to the post above, read more of our favorites below.

Read: 18 Website Development Tools to Try

6. It accomplishes these 14 website design guidelines.

To create the 14 Website Design Guidelines, we’ve reviewed hundreds of websites and interviewed dozens of website publishers. We’ve conducted a series of expert usability reviews and actual user tests to determine what we believe to be the top 14 best practices for the running a Mequoda system. While these 14 guidelines are by no means the complete list of website design practices, they are essential to sound, effective website design. We’re sure that implementation of these practices will result in happier, more satisfied, readers.

Read: 14 Best Website Design Guidelines for Improving Any Website

7. It’s visible in search engines.

Almost a decade ago, a colleague said that it was impossible to figure out how much search traffic a website could or should be receiving from Google and other search engines. They were wrong. I hope these days they know this, and also how to find their top keywords and their top trafficked blockbuster posts, because those are important too. Below is a link that explains how to calculate the amount of traffic Google and other search engines could be sending your way.

Read: Organic SEO Metrics that Matter

8. It’s audited on a regular basis.

As someone who’s looked at your website every day for a long time, you probably have no business reviewing your own website. There are probably things in the back of your mind that you’ve kept a mental checklist of – items that need to be optimized, altered and updated. Have you been writing these things down? Often, when we finally get the chance to update our websites, it’s months after we’ve discovered the original issue.

Read: An Informal Approach to the Best Website Design Review of Your Website You Can Conduct

How to measure the success of great website design

Finally, going back to the first item in this list—attracting, converting, engaging and monetizing—it performs and improves continually on all the below metrics:

Your attraction metric can be defined by your Google visibility: How do you rank in the Google search engine? How many keywords are you targeting? How many of those keywords are you getting ranked on? How big is the keyword universe that you’re competing in?

  • Google Visibility Index

Your conversion metric is defined by your capture / conversion rate: How well are you turning website visitors into email subscribers? How many people come to your website and leave only after they’ve given you their email address? Check out our recommended 3C conversion architecture.

  • Email capture rate

Your engagement metrics are your retention rates: How many of your email subscribers are staying and engaging? Is the content you’re publishing satisfying their needs? Are your numbers going up, or down? Using these three numbers, you can determine your email retention rate, that is, what percentage of your email subscribers choose to stay subscribed. To find out, use this calculation for a month’s worth of data to determine your monthly email retention rate:

  • Email retention rate
    (# of subscribers – bounces – unsubscribes)/# of subscribers

Your monetization metric is your revenue per subscriber: How many orders are you getting from that email list you’ve been building? How many people click through your email to your website and actually complete buying something?

  • Revenue per M (RPM) emails sent
    Email revenue divided by emails sent, often a single effort.

Does this all make sense? Don’t spend time designing a website without determining your goals first. Don’t do it without figuring out how you can measure and improve those goals with your new website design, either.

What else would you add? Leave us a comment and let’s discuss!


Leave a Reply