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What Features Do You Need to Be a Top-Performing Website in 2021?

Kirk Thompson


Author Image: Kirk Thompson
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Your website is your digital identity. It needs to represent who you are and what you do clearly, and it needs to impress viewers with every page. As a London-based website design agency, we know how important it is for brands to stay ahead of the curve in their digital platforms. In this article, we have included all of the essential components you need to deliver an impressive online platform. Treat it as your website design checklist.

We have divided it into two parts. In the first half, we discuss everything the user sees, which we web developers call the ‘front-end’. Customers expect companies to deliver engaging online experiences, not just information. Our Front-end Web Design Checklist is full of features to amaze your audiences, from AR experiences to custom animations.  

The second half covers behind-the-screen essentials, also known as the ‘back-end’. Scalability, speed and search engine rankings are all impacted by this part of your website design. Tick off all the features included here and your site’s performance will see the benefit.

Front-End Website Design Essentials

A 2004 study into human factors in computing highlighted the design features that impacted users’ first impressions of a website. The study showed that 94% of first impressions are design-related. Participants frequently cited the layout, use of colour and navigations aids as important factors influencing their overall opinion of a site. When people didn’t like what they saw, they rarely explored beyond the homepage. 

What does this tell website owners? Get your website design right and users are more likely to trust your company and stay onsite. Make sure you include:

  • A unique website design
  • Smooth customer journey
  • Immersive AR features 
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Bespoke Designs Make Brands Standout

A cohesive design, in which every visual element from buttons to headers and footers works as a whole, has the best chance of impressing users. There are many web layout templates available which can help you achieve this. However, an over-reliance on prefabricated elements can make your website look unremarkable. Opting for a unique style will set your brand apart.

Custom-built icons and buttons are small details that can make a huge difference to your overall design. Any element that doesn’t fit with your brand identity will stick out on the screen and feel jarring for the user. Detailed designs that take into account even the small elements will impress users. 

To keep your site consistent going into the future, create design systems that your team can follow. Similar to brand guidelines, a design system is there to ensure the visual elements of your site remain the same and in line with your brand’s visual identity.

You can create more than just visually stunning static elements. Use animations to make your pages more engaging. Scroll, rollover and mouse effects can help focus the reader, shape the user journey and provide extra visual interest. There are many animations plugins you can use, but custom-built effects are best. That way, you can tailor movement and effects to best suit your site.

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A Frictionless User Journey

When it comes to impressing your users, navigation matters. Understanding what your customers want from your site and making it as easy as possible for them to achieve their goal is essential. Unnecessary friction in the user journey increases the chance of them leaving to try out one of your competitors instead.

You can track user journeys to find out what people are trying to achieve on your site and highlight areas that need improvement. We did this with our client, Crucial Trading. Their long-winded navigation was creating a huge drop-off in traffic. Reconfiguring their site navigation transformed the user journey and led to a 988% increase in orders.

AR Experiences Captivate Audiences

AR (augmented reality) is the fusion of virtual models with real-world settings. Most smartphones and tablets are equipped for AR. The number of mobile AR users is predicted to reach 2.4 billion by 2023. This means that in 2021, the vast majority of mobile visitors to your website can take full advantage of AR experiences.

AR apps such as IKEA Place and Pokémon Go may have dominated the press, but you don’t need to create an app to take full advantage of the technology. Using Web AR, users can access AR features from directly within a web browser. Whether you want them to preview how a bespoke rug will look before you commit to a purchase or virtually try on a new pair of glasses, it’s possible with AR.

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We created an AR experience for Crucial Trading’s customers.

At KIJO, we use our 3D builder technology to transform 2D images of products into 3D models. We then integrate them into your eCommerce experience using plugins such as AR Quick Look for WooCommerce. Users can see products from every angle and position the virtual model in their physical surroundings.

Providing this level of interactivity and detail can transform the purchasing process and reap huge returns. Shopify has reported a 200% increase in conversions when AR is used for product visualisation.

Back-End Website Design Essentials

It’s time to turn our attention to everything that is happening behind the scenes. These website design features are what make your site perform optimally every time, for every user. Make sure your back-end design delivers across three key areas:

  • Website management – Your website needs to be quick and easy to update in-house.
  • SEO – Ensure search engines understand your site for better website rankings.
  • Loading speed – The best back-end design should withstand unpredictable spikes in traffic.
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WordPress: The Ideal Web Design Platform

A solid website foundation can make long-term website success, content management and platform reliability far easier to attain. WordPress is a CMS and website publishing platform that powers an incredible 39% of all websites in the world. We have been designing with WordPress for almost 20 years and use it for all of our website designs.

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WordPress is open-source, which means that the platform’s features are constantly growing and expanding. To add advanced features to your website you can peruse the existing plugin market where there are thousands of customisable features to use. When you need something unique, open-source products also make it relatively cheap and easy to create custom features for your website.

You won’t need to turn to your website design agency for every small content change. The CMS allows you to retain control of your content management and easily update your website. WordPress is perfect for businesses large and small, offering advanced permissions so that team members can only access what they need.

Expert SEO to Achieve Top Search Engine Rankings

Search engine optimisation is the process of improving your website traffic by making your website more attractive to search engines. Websites designed with SEO in mind are more likely to reach the important top spots and attract new site visitors.

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WordPress is the ideal platform for building SEO-friendly websites. Important features such as title tags and meta-text, that help search engines find and understand your site, are automatically included. You can also download plugins that will vastly improve your on-page SEO, such as Yoast.

Website Infrastructure That Delivers Fast Loading Speeds

How you design your website directly impacts your webpage loading speeds. The longer your page takes to load the more chance users will bounce. Pages that load in 2 seconds have a bounce rate of 6%. This means that only 6% of visitors to the page will click the back button. When the loading time rises to 5 seconds, the bounce rate is 38%.

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Source: Pingdom

When it comes to site loading speed, every second counts. At KIJO, we deliver loading times of 0.5s as standard and we achieve this with cloud hosting.

Compared to physical server hosting options, keeping your website in the cloud is more secure, flexible and delivers quicker page loading times. With cloud hosting, you don’t need to predict surges in traffic as the infrastructure can scale up as required. You won’t be sharing server space or relying on a single physical machine, improving your site security and reliability.

Hire a London Website Design Agency That Ticks All the Boxes

For long-term online success, you need a strategically built platform that is as easy for you to manage as it is for your customers to use. Investing in these website design features now will give you a reliable digital foundation that can adapt as your business grows, maintain an impeccable design and continually deliver quality experiences to your users.

If you think one or more of these features needs addressing on your website, or you’re looking for a complete rehaul, get in touch with the KIJO team. A website design agency in London, we have created custom-built solutions for our clients for the past decade. To learn more about what we can do for you, check out some of our previous projects.