After building and marketing websites for nearly 20 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, but I see consistent problems with websites.
What’s interesting is how many websites are close to 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 $5,000 and websites that are more than $100,000.
Take a look at your website and see how you stack up against the following issues. Note that these issues are in no particular order. They are all issues. So, don’t place more weight on one because of where it sits on the list.
1. No Clear Call-To-Action
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 indicate what they should do, they won’t know. If they don’t know, chances are very high that they won’t do it. Consider asking someone to buy something from you but you never tell them what you are selling. You simply launch into a series of features and benefits.
If you make them work too hard to buy from you, they won’t.
2. No Visual Interest
Imagery is considered to be content. We seem to forget the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words and so we end up talking too much. Great imagery can make 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 concept graphics in appropriate locations make all the difference when it comes to the effectiveness of your website. Notice that even something simple as this list has headings with shorts bits of text. It’s intended to make it easier to scan and gather the most important information you might want to read.
3. Too Many Moving Elements
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 little-to-no movement at all. Sometimes just a bold statement or one perfectly-selected picture is all that you need. As you learn to focus your message better, you’ll find that you can do more with less. Fun fact, over the years of building websites, I’ve learned that a super tiny percentage of people (as little as 1% of visitors) will look at a hero banner based the first slide if the slide changes. It’s hard to focus and doesn’t help them know what to do.
4. The Content is Not Compelling or Supportive
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 to read, but it’s completely ineffective. If you can’t write in a way that engages your readers, you should hire someone to do it for you. It’s more important than you realize, even for SEO purposes.
Think of it this way. If you want to be found at the top of the search engines, ask yourself the question, “What are people searching for?”
The obvious answer should be, “Content that answers their questions.”
If you don’t write content that answers questions and provides compelling solutions, then why would search engines or people care about you?
5. Your Website is not ADA Compliant
It’s taken far too many years for developers to understand the importance of building for a variety of audiences. Is your website WCAG Compliant? If not, you need to do a lot of work. I’m a big fan of simple compliance testing tools like the WAVE Accessibility Evaluation Tool. See how you stack up.
6. Irrelevant Pop-Ups (or Too Many, Too Often)
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? At some level, they can be productive—like when they offer something relevant to the page a user is viewing.
Websites that use irrelevant pop-ups 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 potential customers away. A properly placed pop-up can provide profound results (almost all alliterated there). But overuse can have a negative impact.
7. Broken Links and Error Messages
Broken links and error messages can indicate that you are not properly maintaining your website. Because these issues can crop up out of seemingly out of nowhere, this is a difficult one to avoid—unless you have someone monitoring your site for these (like a talented market who knows how to support you).
When you see broken links and error messages, get them fixed ASAP for the sake of people visiting your site and for your search engine rankings.
8. Generic Branding or Use of Obvious Templates
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 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 the design to fit your brand. Customization on a template—good. Out of the box template—be cautious.
9. Misspellings and Grammatical Errors
It’s important that you try to catch and fix all misspellings and grammatical errors. We suggest using a paid version of Grammarly.
Proofread everything, and then have someone else proofread it. Then when you see an error, be proactive in fixing it. You aren’t going to catch them all before you go live but fix the issues as you find them.
10. Obvious Stock Photography that Doesn’t Fit Your Brand
If you want a professional website, hire a professional photographer to take photos that you can use on your website (especially if you are a B2C business). Alternatively, hire a designer who knows how to choose appropriate images that aren’t cheesy stock photography. Some stock photography can be a great choice if it’s tasteful and fits your brand.
To be clear, I’m not saying that stock photography is bad. Sometimes it’s the right way to go. However, if the photography is obvious stock photography then you likely are going to turn people away. Need an example of obvious stock photos? See Hide the Pain Harold.