What’s the real secret of a successful website?

I was asked recently what the secret was to an effective website.  After building hundreds of websites over the years, I know the success of a website is determined before one even builds it. It starts with asking what the purpose of the website is and its target audience.

For example, about 4 years ago we where asked to judge a number of medical websites with price tags ranging from $5,000 to $110,000. We were given a copy of the website, the participants' entry forms and a scoring sheet.  The very first question was “what was the purpose of the website”. It was that question that set the context for judging the whole site. And guess what?  The winner was not the higher priced one. It was the website that clearly had a purpose and everything was focused to that end. The results were exceptional.

So, before you begin to build a website, ask these questions:

1.     What is the purpose of the website?

2.     Who is the target audience?

3.     What information do they seek and how do they prefer to see it?