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What Makes a Successful Web Site – The 5 F’s

by on 24 June 20125 Comments

Successful Web Site - Five F'sIt’s possibly one of the most important things any business, large or small, needs to do – whatever the nature of your business.  Your web site.  Yet so many businesses still do it badly.

So what makes a successful web site?

I’ve been working in the online space for many years.  I’ve been involved in online product development in some shape or form since about 1999, before the first Internet bubble burst.  In that time, as an executive responsible for digital technology and product management, I have been responsible for many different web sites or online products – some simple, and some highly complex.  I’ve been lucky enough to work with some great people, and consequently been involved in several award winning sites.  Including some of the biggest and most successful business-to-business and consumer sites in the UK.

So what is it that the most successful web sites all have in common, regardless of their nature?  What are the key ingredients that you must pay careful attention to if you want your web site to be a success?

I have come up with five ‘F factors’ to help you remember and focus on the things that matter the most.  Here they are:

  1. Findable
  2. Functional
  3. Fast
  4. Friendly
  5. Financial

It might sound obvious.  But look at many web sites today, and still you will find many where clearly these factors have not been given enough attention.  Maybe including your own.

Here’s a brief explanation of each ‘F factor’:

1. Findable.  How are you going to make sure people find your web site.  Broadly speaking, I think you have 3 big areas to think about.  Number 1, by far, is Google.  Get an expert in SEO (Search Engine Optimisation).  You can’t afford not to.  If you can’t afford to hire one, you need to work with an SEO agency.  Number 2, is Marketing.  Whether it’s traditional marketing or paid search ads on Google, the old tried and trusted marketing techniques work hand-in-hand with your web site.  Your web site gives people a destination.  But you still need marketing to get them there.  And last but not least, number 3 is Social Media (the new form of word of mouth, the most authentic and therefore the most powerful form of marketing).  Make sure your online presence includes social networking sites (such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube), and that your web site makes it easy for people to share your site with their friends.

2. Functional.  Of course this is the minium that any web site needs for it to be worth people visiting your site.  But what do I really mean by functional?  I don’t mean that it has to be rich in functionality.  In fact, functional could mean there is very little functionality; but at least enough for your site to be genuinely useful.  Whether it’s content and information, or functional tools, your site needs to help people with specific goals or tasks.  Who are the users for your site, what are they seeking to achieve, and how does your site help them to do that?

3. Fast.  It might sound obvious.  But so many web sites are too slow.  People don’t want to wait around for your web pages to load.  These days people consume a huge amount of content, online and on the go, and they are busy.  They haven’t got much time for you, so use it wisely.  Over the years, I have seen first hand that improving the speed of a web site significantly increases the amount that it’s used.  Whenever I needed to give online growth a little push, the ‘easiest’ way to do it was not by adding some new and innovative  functionality, it was simply to make it faster.  It moved usage up every time, and there was a direct correlation between the speed of the site and the number of page-views it got.

4. Friendly.  What do I mean by friendly?  I mean easy to use, as in user-friendly.  And just simply friendly.  When people visit your web site, they don’t generally want to feel like they’ve walked into your corporate headquarters.  Or worse still, the stairwell in your corporate headquarters.  They want to feel like they’re being personally greeted by a friendly person in your front-of-house.  So think carefully about how easy it is for your visitors to achieve their goals.  Think carefully about how friendly and welcoming your design and choice of language is.  And think carefully about what you really want them to do when they get there.  Does your web site gently guide them in the direction you want them to go in, or does it just throw a lot of information in their face and hope they figure it out?

5. Financial.  What are the financial objectives of your site, either direct or indirect?  How do you get value from each and every visitor?  Is it through advertising?  Is it by selling them something?  Or is it less direct, for instance by generating an enquiry or lead?   Make sure you know what the goals of your site are.  The beauty of the web is that everything is measurable.  Whatever your goals, whether they’re financial, or things that may lead to a future financial benefit, know what they are and measure them.  Then focus on optimising those outcomes.  You can do that by testing different ideas and looking at the effects on your metrics.  You can do that by A/B testing or multi-variate testing to show different users different things and see which is most successful.  Make sure your web site has explicit goals, and focus on optimising them.

So that’s it.  That’s my 5 ‘F factors’ that I think make a successful web site.  Findable, Functional, Fast, Friendly & Financial.

How does your web site measure up in each of these areas?  And what are you doing to improve it in each area?



  • Gavin says:

    Re Findable I would add watch out for the Finks! There are a lot of Charlatans out there in the SEO space. The basics aren’t magic. Hmmm… maybe there are 6 F’s: Fresh and relevant content

  • Kelly Waters says:

    Thanks Gavin. You’re right, choosing the right SEO is a challenge in itself. In terms of content, I was thinking that’s part of Functional, i.e. it’s functional if it provides useful information. But actually I like your 6th F for Fresh. I might just add it…


  • Iain Lennon says:

    How about “Funnel” as an extension of “Friendly” – a site that is designed to respond to, guide and rewards the user for converting through stages of engagement : from the unfamiliar visitor to the engaged user or buyer.

  • Steve Williams says:

    Shouldn’t we have “secure” in there? Can’t think of a synonym beginning with F though.

  • Kelly Waters says:

    Hi Steve, I don’t think secure is something that makes a site successful, although obviously it does need to be secure or not being secure could be something that makes it unsuccessful. In terms of an F for that, how about Fortress?!


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