Every business needs a great website to engage and inform customers. Websites that provide quality, reliable information about your company increase its credibility by showcasing your brand and establishing who you are and what you stand for. By creating a strong online presence, you also form an effective way of establishing new leads and increasing sales of goods or services.

So, the question is: What makes a great website? How do you capture the attention and business of the customers you’re seeking? We began by identifying top-rated websites using a mix of sources, notably the Bowen Craggs Index 2020 report, to create a list of 20 websites rated highly by the online community.

We then analyzed the details of each website, from the number of words and images on the page to locating navigation bars and logos, in order to detail the anatomy of these great websites. We also conducted an initial survey of 1,004 consumers and ran a website classification task on MTurk to explore the perceptions of typical everyday viewers. Here’s a look at the interesting results we uncovered.

Key Takeaways

  • According to consumers, the most important aspects of a great website are an easy-to-use menu, quick loading pages, and easy site navigation.
  • The most trustworthy site was Bayer, while the website that was thought to have the most positive impact was Well Company.
  • The most influential website was BP, while the least influential website was Verizon.

Speed and Clarity Matter Most

When visiting a website, people want to be able to quickly and easily find what they need. According to the majority of consumers, the top three characteristics of a great website are an easy-to-use menu, fast loading speeds, and easy site navigation. Navigational confusion and slow loading times often lead to frustration for consumers, causing them to lose interest and the business to lose sales. It’s also important to have high-quality photos and legible fonts.

In addition to a website’s speed and clarity, the majority of Americans agreed that a company’s stance on moral and ethical issues makes a difference. Almost 7 out of 10 people said that it’s important for a brand to be environmentally friendly, and almost 80% reported that it’s important for a brand to take care of its employees with fair wages and hours. These results show that positive company culture and philosophies are just as important as visual and navigational elements on a website.

Don’t be afraid to publicly share your company’s stance on important issues. We found that nearly all of the websites of the top corporate brands we analyzed had a climate strategy linked to their homepage.

Prior studies also support our findings: 79% of consumers continue to seek out products that are socially or environmentally responsible, and 89% would switch brands to one that’s associated with a good cause if product pricing and quality were similar. Being an environmentally and socially responsible leader in your industry can help to drive business success, too.

An Examination of the Best Websites

As we analyzed the elements of the top 20 websites currently online, we noted several trends they had in common, such as a similar layout, SSL security certificates, and fast loading speeds. Most businesses featured their logo on the top left corner of the page, which makes sense as people tend to read from left to right, top to bottom. Seventy percent also featured a navigation bar at the top of the page, with 16 out of 20 websites having a menu that was easy to find.

Words matter greatly and work hand-in-hand with design elements to convey important messages to your audience. The most important information on your website should be the easiest to find. The words you choose should be engaging and helpful for your customers and clearly set the right tone for your brand.

The average word count of top website homepages varied widely from 279 to 2,822, with an average of 1,086 words per homepage. Understandably, the number of words seems less important than the meaning behind them.

As for the use of graphics and photos, 13 of the 20 sites contained large banner images on their homepage. The total number of images on the homepage ranged from 1 to 40, with an average of 15 images per page. The images that made the most positive impact on consumer sentiment were those that featured people. The websites whose photos of people made the greatest impact were Bayer, Curology, and Unilever.

Interestingly, Nestlé and Bestow featured fewer images but still ranked in the top five for high consumer sentiment. Nestlé’s photo of a man and his dog and Bestow’s photo of two smiling children shows that the choice of image matters more than the number of images on your webpage when it comes to leaving a good impression of your brand.

The Impact of Websites on Consumers’ Feelings

Do you think a website has the power to change preconceived notions about a business? And if so, how much can it alter a consumer’s feelings?

To measure the influence a great website can have on consumer sentiment, we first asked consumers to rate a brand’s trustworthiness and impact on society based solely on a brief written description of that company. We then had consumers review each brand’s website and rate them based on the same criteria. The results were eye-opening.

Building trust between your business and your customers is vital to long-term success. Our data clearly illustrates that consumers can feel that a company is more trustworthy simply by scrolling through its website. Trustworthiness scores improved across the board, with Bayer, BP, and Shell presenting as the most trustworthy businesses out of the top 20.

BP experienced a 37 percentage point increase in their trustworthiness score after consumers viewed their website, doubling their original score to 74%. Sixth-ranked Hover also doubled their score, increasing from 35% to 70% of consumers feeling that they were trustworthy.

Websites have also been proven to change some consumers’ feelings about a company’s impact on society. Well Company, Curology, and Bestow ranked highest on having a positive impact on society. Bestow experienced a 39 percentage point increase after consumers viewed their website, the highest increase of all the companies we analyzed.

The Most Positive and Influential Websites

Taking both trustworthiness and impact on society into account, we scored the top 20 corporate websites on the impression they left on their customers. We used a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the worst and 10 being the best. These great websites were chosen from researching multiple sources, but primarily the Bowen Craggs Index that ranks corporate websites each year in criteria ranging from construction to how well the website serves society.

We also compared consumer sentiment rankings before and after viewing the company’s website to see which ones had the most and least influence on brand perception.

Based on consumer scores before and after viewing their websites, BP had the most influential website, followed by Bayer, Nestlé, BASF, and Shell. Websites that failed to increase their scores as much included Hover, Jamm, Origami, Well Company, and Verizon. Here were some interesting website insights:

  • Bayerranked highest for trustworthiness which helped it claim the top spot for consumer sentiment. Bayer’s home page features a large banner image addressing climate change and agriculture.
  • Bestow, though fifth on the list for consumer sentiment, actually ranked number one for seeming to have the most positive impact on society. Bestow is a life insurance company that doesn’t require a medical examination. Their very simple homepage features a nostalgic image of two children playing.
  • BP’s website pulled consumers in two directions. BP ranked high for trustworthiness but low for impact on society. Their website makes heavy references to energy, climate change, and a net-zero carbon movement.
  • GSK’swebsite features a video exploring the inside of a science lab, molecular imaging and COVID-19, and vaccinology news.

We observed the main difference between these two groups was that the more influential websites featured people, pets, and environmentally friendly policies, while the least influential focused more on products and tools. Consumers appear to appreciate making a personal connection to a brand through the use of images on its website and the knowledge that it shares the same concerns about the environment.

Great Websites

A great website should adopt your brand voice, clearly communicating who you are and what you have to offer your customers through carefully chosen images and words. The website should also be secure, easy to navigate, and able to load at lightning-fast speeds. Including photos with people and/or pets increases the likelihood that consumers will have a positive response to your brand. Compatibility across devices is also extremely important for all users to have an optimal experience.

Keywords related to your products or services are important to include on your website as well. They help search engines to more easily find your business, which drives more potential consumers to your website resulting in increased sales and profits. At Best SEO Companies, we understand how important it is for businesses to have an SEO-optimized website. Rely on our proprietary rankings of the best SEO companies to find a reliable SEO agency today.

Methodology and Limitations

We used a mix of sources to create a list of 20 websites rated highly by the online communications community. In particular, we relied on the Bowen Craggs Index 2020 report, which ranks websites on an index of several criteria, ranging from messaging to how well the site serves the media, customers, and society. Here is the full list in which Bowen Craggs rates each site:

  • Construction
  • Message
  • Contact
  • Serving society
  • Serving investors
  • Serving the media
  • Serving job seekers
  • Serving customers

We also researched top startups and smaller companies and randomized their websites and descriptions in a survey to measure consumer sentiment. We performed an analysis of each website, gathering data such as the number of words and images on the homepage, location of the navigation bars and logos, as well as the number of people contained in each image in order to look at how consumer sentiment may change based on different aspects of the website. The most and least influential websites were calculated by finding the difference in the consumer impression score before consumers viewed the website and after consumers scrolled through the website and explored each site’s homepage images.

We conducted an initial survey of 1,004 consumers ranging in age from 19 to 80, in order to explore consumer perceptions of our previously selected top 20 websites. The mean age was 38. 42% of our respondents identified as women, and 58% identified as men. We first asked these respondents to answer questions about what aspects of a website they liked the most. Then we asked them to read brief descriptions of each company and rate impressions of trustworthiness and positive impact on society. Next, we ran a website classification task on MTurk where 100 consumers explored the homepage of each brand’s website and recorded how they felt about its positive impact on society, and separately, another 100 consumers explored each site and rated it on perceived trustworthiness.

Survey data have certain limitations related to self-reporting. These limitations include telescoping, exaggeration, and selective memory. We didn’t weigh our data or statistically test our hypotheses. This was a purely exploratory project that examines first impressions of brands.

Fair Use Statement

If you want to help your readers learn more about building great websites, you can share the results of this study for any noncommercial use. We only ask that you please include a link back to this page as a credit to our team of creative analysts.