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10 Danger Signs of an Underperforming Website

Find out what your customers want from you on the web, then give it to them. That’s my first rule of success on the Internet. Is your website doing all it can for you, or are you breaking the rule? Take five minutes to look at your website with a critical eye and see how many of these danger signs you can identify.

  1. Is your site organized like your company? Unless you’re a department store, your site visitors probably don’t think about your company in terms of its divisions. They have a need and they think you can solve it. If your site’s main navigation has categories like Sales, Marketing, Engineering, or the worst one – Solutions – then it’s not user-focused. Your site should be organized to coincide with your customer’s needs.
  2. Is About Us the first link in your navigation? About Us is an important section, particularly if you’re a publicly traded company and have loaded up your About Us section with pertinent press releases, copies of your annual reports, and other investor relations info. But it’s not the most important information for your customers (you do have a product or service to sell, don’t you?) and it’s not a section that most visitors will visit frequently. Check your website stats and see what percentage of visitors are hitting this section compared to others. Odds are it won’t merit top billing.
  3. Does your mission statement appear on the home page? Your mission statement is critical to you and to all of your employees, but your customers just want to get their questions answered quickly and easily. Don’t slow things down with internally directed content. Put that stuff in the About Us section.
  4. Is there more than a page of text on your home page? People don’t read. I’m sorry to say this, as I’m a writer and a reader. But the evidence is in, and it unequivocally shows that website visitors skim, especially on your home page when they’re still trying to figure out what you have and what you can do for them. Big blocks of text, particularly if they’re more than a screen-full, simply won’t get read. Eliminate words, use subheads, use bullets. Make your content short, to the point, and easy to read. Find more detail in my post Seven Tips for Writing for Websites.
  5. Is your home page title “Welcome”? The title is what appears in the bar along the top of the browser window when you look at a web page. If it says “Welcome,” it is not doing its job and it’s wasting your money. That title space is a valuable opportunity to say something meaningful – “Discount Toner Cartridges” or “Advances in Recombinant DNA” – to your visitors and to search engines. This is true of all the pages on your site.
  6. Do you have a splash page or animated intro before getting to your home page? It is the antithesis of good user experience to force a visitor to watch something you want them to see. There are good ways to push information and content to your visitors and customers. But this isn’t one of them. And there is an appropriate way to use Flash and animation on your website. But this isn’t it. If your site has an animated intro, eliminate it before you go home today.
  7. Do most of the links on your pages say “Click here”? Nobody takes classes on how to surf the Internet (none of your customers, anyway). They learn by doing. And we’ve all learned that an underlined phrase in blue type is a link. You don’t have to tell us “click here.” Instead, the blue underlined phrase should tell us what will happen when we click it: Get a Price Quote, Download a Spec Sheet, View a Demo. Make it easy for a visitor to skim your text and decide what action to take. (How you word these text links also affects search engine optimization, but that’s a different article.)
  8. Do you use more than four colors on any page of your site? How comfortable and easy is it for a visitor to use your site? Too many colors confuse your visitor, and this problem is often found in conjunction with other user experience problems: banner blindness, animation avoidance, and pop-up purges (all of which mean that users avoid anything that is slick, fancy, and looks like an ad). Eliminate visual confusion in whatever form and your users will have a better experience. Bonus: Your website will look more professional.
  9. Is there a photo of a smiling woman or two people shaking hands on your home page? This is just one example of the scourge of the stock photo. Photos and other visuals can add interest to your site, relieve the eye, direct a visitor’s attention, and support your company’s brand. But not if it’s a generic photo you pulled from a royalty-free photo website. If a photo, chart, or other visual on your site is not communicating specific information that is relevant and useful to your site’s visitors, eliminate it and use the space for content.
  10. Is there a search feature on your home page? Unlike the first nine questions, the answer to this one should probably be “yes.” A large percentage of website users are search-centric: The first thing they look for on a site is the search box. If you have extensive content, you should use a search box, put it in the upper right corner (where users expect it to be), and make sure it works. Try some misspellings, type in the terms you think users will search on (remember they may not know your model number or the name of your branded service), and see how well your site is serving search-centric users.

You might also be interested in 10 Questions to Ask About Your Website and Design Your Website for the People Who Use It.

1 Comment

  1. […] an annual report. (If you suspect your site might be one of those, use the checklist in my post 10 Danger Signs of an Underperforming Website to find […]

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