Web Design Requirements Checklist: 10 Must-Haves for Every Marketing Website

By Andy Crestodina

An effective website has to do a lot of things right.

Think about your ideal visitor. Something happens in their life that sends them looking for help. This is the moment of truth. They need what you do. They open a browser. Here’s what happens next…

  • They search. Do you appear in search results?
  • They click on your website. Does it load quickly? 
  • They may be on a mobile device. Does the site display properly?
  • They may have a visual impairment. Is the site accessible to them?
  • They may not want to be tracked. Does the site comply with privacy laws?
  • They read the page copy. Does it compel them to become a lead?
  • They fill out your form. Does it integrate with your CRM database?
  • You have a new lead. Does it record in Google Analytics?
  • You realize that a page should be updated. Are changes easy to make?

If the answer to any of those questions is no, it is not a high-performing website. There are many consequences: low traffic, low conversions, high costs, wasted time and legal risks.

The best performing marketing websites with the highest ROI check every one of those boxes. But often, these requirements aren’t documented, much less discussed and planned for.

This post is a list of the 10 most critical website design requirements. They are the basic requirements that translate into design specifications and technical requirements. Nailing these is the key to every great website.

Here they are in a simple web design requirements checklist. Use these as questions you ask your possible web partner, or as requirements to add to your website RFP.

1. The site ranks in search engines

Sites are built to rank or they aren’t. SEO is not something that you can add later. The process of building a search-friendly site affects the navigation, the inventory of pages, the copywriting and even the programming. When these are requirements of the project, SEO is far more likely to be a success:

  • Keyword research takes into account intent, Domain Authority, SERP features and the positioning of the brand.
  • The sitemap reflects the research, with many pages targeting many phrases.
  • Copywriting indicates relevance for the target phrases.
  • SEO-focused UX elements, such as E-A-T and FAQ are considered.
  • The web development process considers schema, core web vitals and relevant SEO plugins.

The requirement isn’t to just “do SEO” or to “fix our SEO” but to integrate a search-first mindset into the web design process.

2. The site converts visitors into leads

Qualified leads are the goal of every B2B marketing website. The percentage of visitors who become a lead is the “conversion rate” and if that number is 0%, no amount of marketing can help you. Anything times zero is zero.

Lead generation is really the overall goal, not a specific requirement. But it’s driven by many other requirements, including:

  • A seamless, intuitive user experience that guides visitors through the website
  • Persuasive conversion copywriting techniques
  • Compelling, specific calls to action that trigger visitor psychology
  • Landing pages for paid traffic that align with conversion best practices

These are critical success factors for every lead generation website. No amount of cheese can fix a bad mousetrap.

3. The site integrates with our systems

No website is an island. Look for opportunities to connect the website to your internal systems. From real-time ERP system integration to simple social sharing plugins, integration is a standard requirement.

  • The website will connect with the CRM system (minimum).
  • The website will connect with all of our other marketing technology (ideal).

Once integrations are in place, they save time and create opportunities. Integration means no manual process for entering leads into the CRM. That work is tedious, time consuming and error prone. And when marketing automation is connected to the website, actions on the website can trigger those email nurture sequences.

Integrations can also improve the experience of visitors. For example, when the careers page connects to a job board, visitors see current openings. When an ecommerce website connects to the inventory system, shoppers can see what products are currently in stock.

4. Results are easy to measure

Performance measurement is built in. That means more than just confirming that Google Analytics (GA4) is installed. It means that it’s set up to track the performance of the redesigned website. This involves a specific set of requirements:

  • Confirm that the GA4 tag is set up and firing from the Google Tag Manager container
  • Events are tracking properly and events that correlate with success are tracked as conversions
    • The website is constructed to work well with GA4
    • Conversions bring visitors to thank you pages (no on-page thank you messages)
    • Site search interactions are tracked (i.e. Standard query parameters are used or the non-standard parameter is added to Advanced Site Search Tracking
    • Modal windows, sliders and accordions are generally avoided (i.e. every topic has a page with a URL)
    • Embedded videos, downloads and exit clicks are all tracked within Analytics (i.e. special setup is handled for non-YouTube video players)
  • Selected partner with walk through the GA4 setup and measure the performance of the website redesign project
  • Explorations and Looker Studio reports are created to measure KPIs and success metrics

That might sound like a lot, but the right partner is data-driven and highly motivated by this work. They insist that these requirements are met. Otherwise, how will everyone know if the project was a success?

5. Content is easy to update

Digital ink is never dry. Every website should be free, fast and easy to update. Changing text, uploading images and creating new pages should never require the help of a web developer. This is why WordPress exists. It makes websites scalable.

  • A content management system (CMS) is in place
  • Page elements throughout the site are all managed through the CMS (nothing in content areas is hard coded)
  • Training is provided to all team members who manage content
  • How-to documentation for making updates is provided

When there are web development costs post-launch, probably the site wasn’t built to be flexible. Forethought was missing. The only changes that should incur design or programming costs are changes to the templates, headers/footers or new integrations. That work goes beyond content management.

6. The site is mobile friendly (responsive design)

Every website has mobile visitors. It may not be a lot, but if even 5% of visitors are using mobile devices, that’s likely thousands of visitors over the lifespan of the website. You shouldn’t ignore the needs of thousands of people who want to learn about your business.

  • The website will be a mobile responsive design (display properly on all screen sizes)

Years ago, cross-browser compatibility was often listed as a requirement. Today, it’s not just browsers, it’s devices. Yes, the site must display properly in the five major browsers, but also on hundreds of different screen sizes.

Although “mobile first” is a popular buzzword, it really isn’t the point. It doesn’t matter if the mobile or desktop versions are designed first. What’s important is that the site is easy to use on every screen.

7. The site is accessible to people with disabilities

Everyone can use the website. That includes people with mobility and visual impairments. Again, it may be a single digit percentage, but that’s a large total number of people over time.

And the changes that make it more accessible for the few will also make it easier to use for everyone. 100% of visitors appreciate legible text sizes, strong color contrasts in UX elements.

  • The website will meet WCAG Level AA accessibility standards,

It’s the smart thing to do, it’s the right thing to do. It’s also the legal thing to do. Web developers who build sites that do not meet accessibility standards add liability to their clients’ businesses. There is risk in ignoring this legal requirement.

8. The site complies with privacy laws

Your website shouldn’t create legal risks. Here is another legal requirement for marketing websites: they allow visitors to opt out of tracking.

This is handled through a cookie consent widget, usually a banner at the bottom of the landing page. It connects to Google Tag Manager, where marketing tags (Google Analytics, Facebook pixels, etc.) are managed. Websites are also required to have prominent privacy notices wherever visitors type in their information.

  • The website will have a cookie consent banner that integrates with Google Tag Manager.
  • The website will link to the privacy policy under all forms.

Your web designer isn’t a legal advisor, but every web company should understand these basic requirements. For years, they have been the law in Europe, Canada and California. If you have any website visitors in those areas, this applies to you. So… that’s all of us.

9. The site loads fast

Four seconds is way too long to wait for a webpage. Even three seconds is too long. Slow loading pages are bad for user experience, bad for rankings, bad for conversions, and therefore, bad for lead generation. Every credible web design firm (and every digital marketing agency) knows this and and knows how to build pages that load fast.

  • Pages will be optimized for last load times
  • Core Web Vitals will be checked for key pages and issues will be addressed

As with SEO and accessibility, this isn’t something that can be done later. It’s something the designers and developers think about all the time. They know which elements and which CMS plugins speed things up and which ones slow things down.

10. The design and messaging are true to the brand

Your story is different. If we all had the same brand, there would be no need for custom web design. But your story is unique. The history of the company, the reason it was formed, the people on the team, the way you do your work. These are all specific to your brand. And the website has to reflect this.

  • The website design will be faithful to the brand standards (colors, fonts, visuals)
  • The website copy will be faithful to the brand story and the copy (voice/tone and story)

This is one requirement that every website designer understands in their bones. Every one of us has a process that gets to know the unique differences of the client. We all have ways to find that story. And then we tell that story with text and pixels. This is the heart of the work we all do in the web business.

Then there are the post-launch requirements…

The launch is just the beginning. After the site is live, the focus shifts.

  • The website hosting will be secure, backed up, monitored and updated
    To do this, they’ll need both a reliable hosting partner and internal team members with skills in server administration, security updates, SSL certificates and DNS management.
  • Ongoing support will be provided in a timely and responsive manner
    To do this, they’ll need a help desk with a full-time dedicated support team. They should also have someone in a client success role. If this is missing, the project team may get pulled away from your project to support past clients.
  • The web design firm will provide guidance on digital marketing trends
    Things are always changing, especially in search engines, analytics and generative AI. All digital agencies follow these trends. The best digital agencies share their insights through an active content marketing program. If the web firm has a dead blog, that’s not a good sign.

There are moments when you think to yourself, “I just need a new website.” But within those five simple words are a deep set of requirements. If the goal is to build a high-performing lead generation platform, one that will support all marketing efforts online and off, one that will drive results for 5+ years, then you need to check every single box on this list.

9 out of 10 is a failure.

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