After building and marketing websites for nearly ten years and working in technology, marketing and visual design for many years before that, you can imagine that I've seen my share of the good, the bad and the ugly.
Perhaps my mental frame is skewed a bit because of what I know (or at least think I know), but I see consistent problems with websites I see.
What's interesting is how many websites are close on being great but miss by a few key elements. I see this problem across websites both large and small. It doesn’t seem to matter how much companies spend… this issue is present on websites that are less than $1,000 and websites that are more than $100,000.
Read the following list then take a look at your website and see how you stack up against these issues. Note that these issues are in no particular order. They are just the order I decided to put them. So, don't place more weight on one because of where it sits on the list.
When visitors come to your website they need to know what they are supposed to do. Too often we make the assumption that if we build it, they will come. Then we assume that when they come, they'll know exactly what to do.
I promise you, if you don't tell them what to do, they won't know. If they don't know, they won't do it. Consider asking someone to buy something from you but you never tell them that you want them to buy or what you are selling but simply launch into a series of features/benefits.
If you make them work to hard to buy from you, they won't.
Imagery is content. We seem to forget the old adage that a picture is worth 1,000 words and so we end up talking too much. Great imagery makes all the difference. I'm not necessarily talking about great backgrounds and lots of colors. I'm talking about images on pages that make the page interesting. The imagery must match the text. It must mean something. A big banner for the home page and concepts graphics in appropriate locations make all the difference in the world.
I get so tired of seeing so many rotating images. Ads that move, banners that rotate, elements that change. Calm your website down a little. Don't think that everything has to move. In fact, sometimes the most effective approach is to have no movement at all. Sometimes just a bold statement or one big picture is all that you need. As you learn to focus your message better, you'll find that you can do more with less.
Just a little stat that might make this more compelling. "1% clicked a feature. Of those, 89% were the first position. 1% of clicks for the most significant object on the home page?" Check out this on rotating banners.
I'm sure you've come across the blogger or the business that is saying the same thing that everyone else is saying. In fact, there are many out there that seem to simply regurgitate everything that everyone else says. This is not only boring but it's completely ineffective. If you can't write, you should hire someone to do it for you. It's more important than you realize.
Think of it this way. If you want to be found at the top of the search engines, ask yourself the question, "What are searchers looking for?" The obvious answer should be, "Content!" So, if you don't write content that is compelling or unique, then why would the search engines or people care about you?
I don't know who ever thought this was a good idea. For longer than the Internet was a thing, people could put a CD in a computer and listen to music. Now that the Internet is a thing (and a big thing at that), people are listening to internet radio, watching movies and have other audio requirements. When they go to a website and a video starts playing or music starts, it instantly creates a feeling of frustration as that new audio competes with what they are listening to already.
Video and audio are good. Playing it automatically is bad.
Pop-up ads were invented because they catch your attention. The problem is that most people hate pop-up ads. So, if they are so hated, why do we keep seeing them? I'm sure that at some level they are productive. With the hatred have come technologies that allow users to avoid the pop-ups with blockers.
Websites that use pop-up ads – even for newsletters or new information – often are simply showing a lack of respect for their website visitors. If you use these, please use them sparingly and have a purpose for them. If you don't you'll just annoy your customers away.
Broken links and error messages can indicate that you are not properly maintaining your website. Because these issues can pop up out of seemingly nowhere, this a difficult one to avoid. You never know if there is a server issue that is out of your control. You never know if a site you linked to prior has the same content.
When you see broken links and error messages, get them fixed ASAP. Hopefully your website visitors will tell you so that you can jump on them.
When I talk about generic branding or obvious templates, I'm talking about a website that demonstrates an owner who doesn't care how his/her brand looks. I think that templates are a perfectly appropriate way to go for many businesses and organizations. In fact, I think that too many people use custom designs when a template would be most appropriate. What this really means is you should never use a template because it looks cool but instead take into consideration how it applies to your brand identity. Just because something looks cool, it doesn't mean that it's going to look cool with your logo pasted at the top. And, just because it's a template, doesn't mean it has to be obvious that it's a template.
When you are getting your website built, make sure that the designer at least takes the time to change colors, change fonts and change background images. Make sure that the design fits your brand.
Flash sucks. Any questions?
You'll never catch them. You might find one or two on this page. But it's important that you try to catch and fix. Word doesn't catch them all and if the ever-powerful Microsoft can't do it, then you shouldn't be expected to either.
Just because you are likely to have a mistake here and there, it doesn't mean you should take it easy. Proof everything. Then have someone else proof it. Then when you see an error, be proactive in fixing it. Don't just assume that no one else will see it.
I know that I said there were only ten. You get a bonus number 11. I used a stock photo on this post to demonstrate how cheesy stock photos can be. (In fact, you can laugh at those that don't read this post but point out that I have a stock photo). If you want a professional website, hire a professional photographer. Sometimes you can find stock photography that is not too cheesy or not overused but then you are going to pay almost as much as you would pay if you just hired a photographer.