I’m not going to bother with too long of an introduction for this post. If you’re here, you probably have an idea that your website isn’t performing as well as it could and you’re curious to see what makes for a sucky website.
Let’s get to it then!
Internet users are incredibly impatient, and if your site takes any longer than about 3 - 5 seconds to load, chances are your visitors have already clicked on to the next. Be sure to optimise your site and most especially rich media such as images and videos to limit the time your site takes to load.
Nothing frustrates people more than opening a browser tab and having a video or sound clip start up automatically. In fact, this was cited as the number one reason people would close a website with 93% of survey respondents agreeing.
A site needs organisation to help guide your visitors to the content they are looking for. This means clearly indicating sections using familiar navigation and where applicable using breadcrumbs to help people understand where they are within your site. Take the time upfront to build out your site’s information architecture and lay the foundations for a sound structure.
A home page cluttered with every piece of information or collateral you own is confusing for the user. You want to highlight your most important information up front and rather guide visitors to deeper information through effective site structure (see point 3). Bombarding visitors with too many can also lead to action paralysis. Avoid asking them to download an eBook, get follow you on social networks and join your email list all at once. Decide on a single desired action per page and focus on it.
On the other side, the coin is a site that offers visitors nothing in terms of the next step. Often we see websites where the only call-to-action is a 'Contact Us' form. This is not considered an effective marketing offer, as very few visitors are ready to speak to sales when first visiting your site. Create marketing offers that solve the issues and challenges your target audience are facing. These will organically generate leads for you to nurture to sales-readiness.
If you haven’t published on your blog since June 2013, you’re probably missing out on golden lead generation opportunities (not to mention search engine optimisation results). A site that looks like it’s been built and then abandoned to age is going to turn valuable prospects away. People are looking for businesses that can show they are abreast with industry trends, practices and information. It doesn’t hurt that search engines will favour sites that regularly update their website either. Commit to a blogging or content creation schedule as frequently as you can manage with your resources to ensure fresh content is added to your site at regular intervals.
Some websites can offer a restricted area for members, and that is fine. When you have to register as a user to access basic – what should be public – information, that’s a problem. People are protective of their personal data and will only give this over once they are comfortable with who they are dealing with. If it’s not paramount to delivering your initial message, don’t make registration a requirement.
Neon pink flashing text and a website that looks like it has been created using Microsoft’s Wordart is not going to do anything for your credibility. There is a massive trend towards clear, beautiful typography being used to enhance the website visitors experience as opposed to detracting from it. Make sure that the fonts you use are clearly legible and make for easy on-screen reading.
Much like fashion, website design goes through trends. If your site is still sporting features like rotating banners or flash animation intros, you’re not applying the latest design trends and will lose out to competitors who are adopting more up-to-date designs. Designers today are opting for larger visuals, scrolling pages, flat design, hyper- or monochrome colours and collapsing menus, amongst other trends. You can read more on website design trends here and here.
As I sit at my desk, I have four screens within arms reach. Two of those are mobile devices, and I will hop between desktop and mobile many, many times per day. Mobile browsing is increasing at a spectacular rate and site’s that are not optimised to cater to their users, irrespective of device being used to access them, are going to lose out to mobile-friendly competitors. Appease mobile users by developing your site with responsive web design that will deliver the most appropriate layout for the device they are using.
While I may prefer Firefox as my default browser, others may be more comfortable with Chrome or use Internet Explorer. Then there are all the versions of each to consider. Certain features and elements – annoying – won’t automatically work or function across all available browsers, and your developers need to apply coding to styling sheets to ensure optimal cross-browser compatibility.
No one likes to have a conversation with someone who speaks only about himself. The same applies to websites. Omit the ‘we, us, our’ approach and highlight the issues or challenges you can solve for your visitor. Make sure your content speaks directly to them, their needs and their interests.
If people can’t pick up in a few seconds precisely what it is that you are offering them, they’re bound to bounce. Take the time to refine your value statement and deliver this as soon as possible on your page, in clear, non-technical copy. ‘Best prices on the RandomTel F456X range.’ is not a strong value proposition. ‘We help reduce your communication costs and down-time.’ on the other hand gives a clear sense of what you are offering your potential customer.
Have you ever come across a typo on a website’s homepage? Can you remember how that effected how you felt about the company? Paying attention to basics like spelling and grammar can go a long way in ensuring your business doesn’t come across as unprofessional. While it’s important to be professional, it’s equally important to use conversational and ‘approachable’ language. Avoid using industry jargon that your potential buyers may not understand. They will simply move off to the next site that presents information in an easier-to-understand format.
KoMarketing’s 2014 B2B Usability Report found that 16% of responders would leave a website due to stock imagery being used, 30% claiming that it reduces the credibility of the business. While that may not be a huge percent, it certainly is a compelling enough amount to evaluate the imagery being used on your site and what message that may be sending out. We encourage our clients to opt for custom imagery, depicting real employees in company environments to relay a more authentic feel.
My web designer was quick to note that not all stock photography is terrible, and there are certain images that can be used that will not feel contrived. Be sure to include imagery rules within your brand guidelines on what styles should be used and those to be avoided.
Is there anything more frustrating that clicking on a link and not landing up where you thought you were going. As sites evolve it’s quite easy for broken links to happen. Take care to audit your internal links and ensure that you’ve updated links to the correct pages.
Another important aspect often overlooked is your error page. This is the page shown when you have a link that is no longer valid (see problem above). Often this is a generic page that simply says ‘the page you are looking for cannot be found’ leaving your website visitor lost as to where to go next. There are far more user-friendly options to apply. A great 404 error page will provide a list of options to get back to pages that are closely related to the page they were looking for or provide a search option.
When talking about optimisation of a website, we always put the user ahead of a search engine. But failing to optimise your site for search engines too means that you could be losing out on valuable organic traffic. Considering that most people turn to search engines as their first port of call when initiating a search, it is an important element to consider. Apply the basics of search engine optimisation, ensuring your keywords and terms are placed strategically in your page titles, page headings, anchor text and naturally throughout your copy.
Marketers that focus on conversion rate optimisation understand how important it is to find the optimal form length that satisfies both the user and the business requirements. Including a form with too many fields to populate for the offer at hand is a sure-fire way to put off visitors. Establish the bare minimum of information you need in order to deliver the offer and collect further data through lead nurturing efforts. Test with A/B tests which fields cause the most friction for an initial conversion and eliminate those for maximum conversion success.
So how does your site fair? Have you applied best practices to ensure you offer the best brand experience via your website or are you missing the mark on a few points? Share in the comments below.