“Great business websites rely on a relatively short list of features and functionalities.”

The list might include eye-catching design, arresting photography and compelling content. But while those things are nice to have, they won’t matter if the website does not get the basics right.

Dean Ramler, the founder and CEO of Australian online furniture retailer Milan Direct, says a great business website is never really finished. You might get the right structure in place, but as your business grows and changes, so the demands on your website will evolve.

For Milan Direct, the growth in its furniture range from around 100 products to thousands led to the development of a new website 12 months ago.

If you are scoping out a new website for your business or thinking of a redesign, keep the following things in mind.

1. Easy navigation

For Milan Direct, and like many other businesses, easy navigation is key to the success of the site and the business.

“One of the main things we wanted was easy navigation of the products, so on our site we’ve now got really clear categories on the top which you can hover over,” says Ramler.

“It’s an easy-to-use site for our customers, giving them the ability to find what they’re looking for really easily.”

Creating the “best user experience for the customer” is imperative, making sure customers make as few clicks as possible to make a purchase.

2. Good search

Another key element for Ramler’s site is good search functionality given the thousands of products available at Milan Direct.

“We want people to be able to quickly and easily find what they’re looking for. In our search bar, if you type something like ‘red chair’, every red chair on our site will come up, so the search is working really well,” he says.

3. Clean design

While some businesses aim for showy, complicated designs, Ramler says it’s better to keep it simple.

“A lot of websites try to take the focus away from their products with flashy designs, whereas we’ve tried to keep it as basic as possible so the products can be the main feature on the site.” 

4. Social media

No matter what kind of business you’re running, social media is a key part of a successful website.

“Web 2.0 is all about interactivity and communication that’s two ways, so social media and blogs are really important on a site because you want to give your customers a platform to connect with you and contact you,” says Ramler.

“It shows that your company is real, it’s live and people are there behind the website.”

5. Consider your customers and stay true to your brand

When it comes to building a great website, Ramler says to keep the customer, and their experience, in mind.

“Also, create a website that is true to your own brand and identity and personality,” he says. “The Milan Direct website matches the same theme as all of our print advertising, EDMs and Facebook – it’s all exactly the same brand and message.

“The site should be unique to your company and not somebody else’s."

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