It’s 2014, and for many people, your business website is one of the first ways we interact with your brand or service. If your website doesn’t deliver, I consciously (and subconsciously) assume you won’t either.
But my customers aren’t the type to check websites first, you say, or the type of business I’m in doesn’t demand websites. 5 years ago, I may have conceded that you were right. Today, there’s not a single “type” of business nor a single “type” of customer I interact with where I know the Web can play a critical role in how you’re perceived.
Unfortunately for businesses trying to keep up, having a bad website may be worse than having no website at all! Let’s take a look at a few ways you can screw up your Web presence and drive off customers. These are my personal pet peeves, but they are independently verified through anecdotal evidence to be completely accurate.
1. Autoplay Video/Music
You’re happily browsing along during your snack break at the office, when you come across a website that assumes you have no problem letting everyone else in the office know what you’re doing, too. It starts playing music, running a video, auto-slides in an introduction from the CEO, and flashes an offer in your face, complete with a blaring alarm.
If it feels appropriate to take over my computer’s speakers without warning, then I feel appropriate exiting your website immediately. It’s a very rare occasion when I don’t exit out of the offending website in seconds just to stop the sounds–be it video, music, or anything else.
You’ve lost the opportunity to communicate your message to me in any meaningful way, and I’m likely to remember the experience if we ever have a chance to do business again.
2. Intrusive Advertising
If you happen to be a news outlet, blog, information resource, or any other type of business site that displays ads, think twice about whether you want your traffic to return.
Think it doesn’t matter? There are a handful of very specific websites and blogs on the Web that I will not visit because of a bad past experience on their site. Here are just a few examples of what I consider overly intrusive advertising:
- Any type of ad that opens in a new pop-up window. These have been taboo for a good decade, so please get with the times.
- In-window pop-ups that take up the entire screen and have exit buttons that are impossibly small or difficult to find. These are particularly problematic when trying to view your site on a tablet because the entire ad often doesn’t fit in the screen.
- Banner ads that push your content to the bottom of my screen. If you’re going to take up 3/4 of your front page with one ad, why bother putting up content at all? I’m not coming back.
- Video ads that start playing automatically–see #1 above. Unless I’m on YouTube, or have clicked a video on your site, please don’t play these for me.
- Whole-page ads where you need to “continue” to the actual site, or worse yet–have to wait 12…11…10 seconds to continue through.
Believe me, I understand the need to support your website financially. However, if your business model requires you to bombard us with advertising to the extent outlined, I will just find an outlet with a more efficient business model.
3. Multi-page Content
It’s all about page views and cycling through ads, but if you’re going to make me view 9 pages to read a single article, I can’t bring myself to do it. This is especially true when browsing on my phone (even with 4G speeds). To top it off, I know you’re going to throw in a full-page ad between page 3 and 4, and probably another one just before the climax at page 8.
If you’re going to continue doing multi-page content, at least offer a button that allows me to see the entire article “on one page.”
4. Heavy Multimedia/Flash
This one is very near and dear to my heart, because architectural websites are notorious for excessive Flash, useless animations, indecipherable navigation, and a multitude of other Internet sins. The most obvious and increasingly costly downside to this is simple: you’re locking out anyone with an iPad or iPhone from getting to your website. On this blog, that represents 30% of total traffic on any given day. Can you really afford to lose 30% of the people who try to find out more about your business? If the answer is yes, just please refer them to me.
For the rest of us who can still view your site, multimedia can easily go overboard. Make sure your flashy graphics serve a purpose–either entertaining us, or informing us about what you offer. Your skills in “website design” are unlikely to impress someone looking for a roof replacement or a new doctor. Spend the money (and guide your visitor’s attention) on what matters.
5. 1990’s Formatting
Thankfully, it’s a rare treat to find a website that looks like it was formatted in the 90’s, but it still happens. High-contrast colors, flashing banners, overboard visual clutter, 9 fonts and sizes of text, are all slowly on the decline.
Today’s web is sleek, understated, high in quality of graphics and typography, with clear and direct content and purpose. If you want to compete with your contemporaries, your website should do the same.
Building a high-quality website used to mean tens of thousands of dollars and weeks of man-power to get the text and graphics organized for the “website people.” Today, you can build a website that’s decent and doesn’t detract from your message in under a day, and often for less than $100. Or, you can still hire quality programmers and designers, but for a fraction of what it used to cost only a few years ago. What’s your excuse?
My message is simple–if you show up in jeans and a tee to a black tie party, you won’t be taken seriously. When you show up in today’s market with a terrible website, or don’t show up at all, you can expect the same treatment–from me, and increasingly–from everyone else. The good news is–the fix is completely within your reach!