To begin with it is important to put the term ‘successful’ in to context. If you think your site will be successful when it starts to compete with imdb.com, ebay.com or amazon.co.uk then it could be a few years before you reach that. However, the 3 attributes to achieve the site’s goals remain the same whether you are adobe.com or a blog about drink coasters.
1. The idea
Without the big idea, there is nothing but blank space or a collection of disparate scripts and elements that make little sense being on the same page. The relationship between you and the idea is important as well; are you interested in it or knowledgeable enough to do something about it? I have had ideas for websites in fields I know nothing about (e.g. a free marketing resource centre for small law firms) so I have killed them instantly because I know I won’t be able to see it through to the end.
2. The need
If you build it they will come. True, but only if there is something in it for them. What will you bring to the party? A new idea, a new product, lower prices, a funny way of doing it, a more effective way of doing it..?
If there is no demand for the idea or you are doing what has already been done countless times (e.g. an SEO blog, you can’t move for those!) with nothing new added, it will be like trying to break through a brick wall with only your fists. You might get through, but it will take a long time and it will hurt.
3. The drive
If you think creating, maintaining, developing and marketing a website is quick and easy, run for the hills! I wish it was, but it’s not. In fact it can be very hard work when you couple it with your day to day jobs and social commitments.
And that’s not all, once it is up and running will you care enough to maintain it long term, fixing bugs, testing the UI, adding new content, fulfilling orders, and upgrading the hosting as the site takes off?
I honestly believe that without all 3 of those components a website can never become successful. It may launch and it may have a short term spike in traffic, but for long term success those 3 need to be there.