If you haven’t figured it out by now, there’s very little chance that the Internet is going away. 85% of Canadians look for LOCAL businesses online and that doesn’t take into account those businesses whose sole location is the web. So you need a website. Easy, right?
Not so fast. It’s one thing to have a website, it’s another to have a web presence and it’s another thing altogether to have a positive web presence. There are some very simple things you can do to make your website look good and conversely, there are some very simple things that you can do to make your website look bad. Some bad things are egregious and obvious. Some are a little more subtle. So with that in mind we’ve compiled the list of 7 Things That Make Your Website Suck.
I’m not talking about the s word and the f word and the mf word and the like. I’m talking about the content and character of your words. Let’s start with the content.
Do you know who you’re talking to? No. Seriously. A good website knows its target audience. It speaks directly to them in language that they understand and can relate to. For example, if you’re a doctor your website is going to be all about medicine. Great. But if your customer is a patient, you don’t want convoluted doctor speak, you don’t want it to read like a medical journal. You want it to speak to the customer; the patient.
There’s a couple of quick and simple fixes with this.
- Don’t use jargon. Any word that is industry specific that you would hear at a conference but would never use with a customer is out. End of story.
- Don’t use a $5 word when a $1 word will do. Your customer doesn’t need to know how smart you are. They need to understand what in the hell you’re talking about.
- Don’t put them to sleep. Web copy isn’t like long form marketing. It’s quick. It gets to the point. There’s no twist plot ending. Don’t write like it’s a mystery novel. Get to the point. Make it clear.
So that’s the content of the text. Let’s talk a little bit about character. Words are meant to be read. So if they can’t be read, they’re useless. Here are the keys to good use of text.
- Does the text stand out form the background? This is often important when overlaying images with text. Is the black text sitting on top of a shadow? Is the white text sitting on top of the sun? Scroll around and make sure that contrast is up to snuff.
- Use fonts that match your business and are easy to read. This isn’t an 18th century love letter, it’s a website. So if you want people to read your content, use a font they can read with ease. And also make it match the theme of your business. Is it too strong, too bold, too soft or too something else for the product or service you’re offering.
Lost In Translation
A good website is one that allows or guides the user to where they need or want to go. A bad one doesn’t. So navigation is key. Do I have to scroll until we’ve all got flying cars before I get to the content I want to get to? Do I have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out how to use your menu? Here’s how you do navigation.
- Keep it simple. Have a menu. Have it somewhere where people can find it and if people find themselves somewhere else, make sure they can get back.
- Keep it clear. If I’m looking for services, I should be able to find “services” or “options” or “products” or something somewhere on your site and it should be easy. It’s fine if you have a search function on your site, but don’t make me use it every time I want to find something.
- Don’t make me dig for the content you know I want. It’s fine if you want to make me jump through a couple of hoops but if I can’t find it because you buried it and I’ve gotta go all Nicholas Cage National Treasure to find it, you messed up.
Getting people to your page can be a HUGE challenge. People pay a LOT of money to get people to their page so when they get there, don’t make them feel like they’re lost. Make them feel like they’re home.
My Grandma’s Couch: A Lesson In Background
I’m not going to lie. I love background images. I’m a fan of simple solid colours, but there’s something really special when a site gets it right with a background. There’s also something really wrong when they don’t.
First off, why are you using an image or a background texture? Is it relevant or do you just like pictures of ducks? Do you really like triangles and so you decided that your website should have triangles in the background even though you sell bouncy balls? That’s wrong. Here’s what’s wrong with backgrounds
- They’re busy
- They throw off contrast
- They’re unrelated
- They’re unnecessarily eye-catching
- They’re blurry
I loves my grandmother’s couch. But that brown and red 1970’s floral print would make a terrible website background. Don’t use your grandmother’s couch as a background for your website.
A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Terrible Words
Images are good. Pictures are good. People can quickly and effectively relate to pictures. But that can work the other way too. When you use the wrong image or bad images, you’re also telling a story. But it’s not a good one.
So here’s how you choose pictures that work for you.
- Don’t pick blurry pictures. If you’re great uncle dick sent you a facebook picture he took in the dark of a rock he found that reminded him of your business and the picture looks worse that the bigfoot video we’ve all seen, that’s not ok. Thank great uncle dick for his picture and move along.
- If you sell socks that are made of some special Australian sheep wool, why is there a picture of a cow on your website. High quality, HD pictures don’t mean jack squat if they’re not related to your product.
If your images don’t meet these criteria, don’t use them. Plain and simple.
Automatic For The People
One time I was building a site for a friend of mine. He built his own fantasy hockey platform and I built the site that powered it. He gave me carte blanche from a design perspective and I was really happy with what I came up with.
And so was he.
Except for one little thing.
I thought it would be funny if when you launched the site, it played the Stompin’ Tom Connors classic, The Hockey Song.
Repeat after me.
Don’t. Auto. Play. Anything.
I did it mostly as a joke with a friend but I’ve seen way too many sites that have a video that automatically plays, with or without audio. Autoplay video bad. Autoplay audio worse.
Let me give you a scenario.
So you’ve got a website for a golf and country club where users can log on and book tee times. Great. It’s super pretty. It’s super functional. It’s everything you want it to be.
When you load the website, there’s an automatic video that plays, with music, giving you an aerial tour of the course. Stay with me.
It’s 4:37pm. You’re at work. You’ve decided that you’re going to be sick tomorrow and you’re going to go golfing so you bring up the site to book a tee time and that’s when that music starts blaring. You quickly turn it down but your boss heard it and they recognize it because they golf at the same club. Guess what? You’re not sick tomorrow and you’re not golfing.
Or, it’s 11:18pm. You’re at home. The kids are finally asleep and your spouse is laying down watching whatever mindless Netflix series they use to cope with life. You pop open your laptop. You’re going to have a “meeting” tomorrow and it’s just going to happen to go a little late. Oh. And it’s going to be at a golf course. You go to the site at which point that music kicks in, waking your children and interrupting your spouse’s show. Guess what. You don’t have a meeting tomorrow and you’re not going golfing.
No one wants to be told that they have to do something. And that’s exactly what autoplay content does.
No One’s Sitting At Their Desk
For the 18-34 demographic, less than 15% of traffic is on desktop. Mobile traffic has now exceeded desktop as the primary interface between user and web. So why does your website look like garbage on mobile?
Things change. Fast. That site that you built just a couple of years ago might have looked ok on a Blackberry or on a Krazer running Opera, but on iOS 11 it looks like hot garbage.
The sites that are killing it are the sites that offer great experience on both desktop and mobile. Sometimes this means choosing platforms and content that can cross pollinate and sometimes this means creating content for each individual platform but what this never means is looking at a site on your phone having to zoom in on every piece of content because it looks like you’re viewing it from space.
Hello, Is It Me You’re Looking For
This one’s a little more subtle and a little more dangerous.
Your site, at some level, is designed to sell something. You’re selling a product or you’re selling a service or you’re selling an idea or you’re selling you. So where the hell is the checkout.
Website are not billboards. They’re not just a way to get people’s attention. They have to be a tool for converting visitors into customers and that’s where a call to action comes into play.
Think of a call to action as the “what’s next” button.
What’s next? Buy this.
What’s next? Read this.
What’s next? Download this.
What’s next? Oh. I don’t know. I didn’t really think that part out. I mean I guess you could look around. If you want. Or whatever. Hello? Oh. I see. You’re gone and I’m talking to myself.
If you don’t give your visitors something to do next, they’ll leave. And there’s an ok chance that they’re not coming back.
What Have I Done?
It’s ok. Breathe. If you went through this whole list and you realized that you do these things, fix them. That’s the point. They’re all pretty easy things to fix so whoever built your site or whoever maintains your site should have no problem helping you sort them out. The important part is knowing.
Now you know.
And knowing’s half the battle.