Very few of us have the time to spend worrying about yet another demand on our hours and resources… playing around with the website. You were told you needed one, so you got one with your business name and phone number and email like an electronic business card… and forgot about it. But unlike a business card you aren’t looking at it every time you hand it to someone. It hands itself out to hundreds or thousands of potential clients, representing you every time it does.
While this is of course exactly what your website is supposed to do, it is worth it to occasionally take another look and make sure that your site is still saying the things about you that you want it to. Following is a list of nine common pitfalls that business sites often fall victim to.
1. Bad Layout and Design
Maybe you bought a template design ten years ago that’s hopelessly out of date, or maybe you got your daughter’s boyfriend who builds computer networks to make you a site on the cheap, but when you compare your site to your competitors’, (and you know your clients are) it just isn’t as impressive as you used to think it was. Many of us like to think that our hard work, honest dealing, and customer service will bring our people back again and again, and customers are more impressed with that than a fancy website… and that’s true. But the customer on your website has probably never met you. He’s looking at the face you’ve given him online and deciding whether to do his business with that face, or the more pleasing, more successful looking face of your competitor. Even the best prices in the world won’t save you when all websites cost the same to look at.
2. Grammar and punctuation
Grammar and punctuation are really important. If your site is full of mistakes it makes you look like you don’t care enough about your business to put your best foot forward. For good or ill, people equate proper grammar with intelligence, and for you that means having confidence in who they choose to do business with. You should always be yourself, but you don’t want poor grammar being the wall that keeps customers from seeing your ability, or your door.
3. Music and sound
Unless you have a good reason to have music or sounds playing in the background on your website, skip the temptation. If you have a good reason (i.e. you sell music) let the visitor choose when the music plays. Visiting a website that automatically plays music is annoying and is probably announcing to someone’s cube mates they aren’t working. They are sure to close your website. Fast.
4. Poor coding
(Bear with me here.) If your site was built several years ago, you may have some old coding and broken links. Tables and inline styles are indicative of old coding as well as using images of words instead of actual text. The problem is readability. Search engines have a tough time navigating through old coding techniques, so you won’t rank as well as you could in the search engines that customers will be looking for you on. You’d hate to be actually bring business to your competition at your own expense simply because you hadn’t updated your coding and he had. Additionally, your site is probably loading more slowly than it could… which means that people only will be more likely to skip it and go somewhere else.
5. Poor navigation
Your navigation should be the same on all of your pages so your visitors can get around easily. If each page brings them a new look they have to get used to, they will get lost easily and be more likely to leave.
Navigation of cute pictures instead of text is also a bad idea. Your visitor is forced to mouse over each navigation area to see where they will be going. This is called “mystery meat” navigation. It’s very fun and artsy for a game, but it isn’t fun when you are a goal-driven web visitor. It’s frustrating.
6. Not answering user’s questions
Think about why people are visiting your site. Are they looking for answers, pricing, or information? Are you providing it? If you aren’t someone else will.
7. Over use of technology
You may have seen something really cool on someone’s website you want on your own. Maybe it is flashy, spinny, or flamey. But, ask yourself how it benefits your visitor. Will they know how to navigate this neat piece of tech? Does it require a plugin to work? Will it work on all browsers? Will it make your pages load slower? Will it become a distraction to your message? Always consider, “How does this help me?” vs. “How can this hurt me?”
8. Under construction
The words “under construction” equate to “We didn’t plan”. Instead make a simple page with basic information and your logo while you work on your new site. Or better yet, don’t tell anyone about the new site until it is done. If your site is undergoing routine maintenance, provide information on the maintenance page that gives and estimation of when you’ll be back online. A simple date can be the difference between a customer returning to you later or assuming that you are out of business.
9. Missing contact information
Most people’s primary goals for their website is to get visitors to contact them. Make sure they can do that easily! Have a webpage dedicated to the ways a customer can contact you (phone, email, map, twitter, facebook, etc.). Now make sure it is easy for them to find on every page of your website. TIP: Most people look for this in the upper right. Be certain you list every way you want customers getting ahold of you.