7 Website Mistakes too Painful to Ignore
Written by Joy Beachy
In the United States, 89% of consumers expect businesses to have a website, regardless of size or industry. But as any marketer will tell you, even in the Business-to-Business space, it isn’t enough to just have a website. People have become more savvy to using the Internet for a mind-boggling number of reasons, including consuming content. As uses for the Internet have expanded, so have expectations. What once was a flag in the sand marking your place as a business must now involve a slurry of planning, design, writing, programming, testing, and promoting. Websites take months to build, and still, mistakes slip in.
Fortunately, while common mistakes can have big consequences, once they are identified they can be fixed. Some mistakes are more glaring than others. The most painful mistakes, however, are the one that make the user experience unbearable, and cost you the ability to close the deal.
1. Misidentified Customer
Nothing wrecks a website faster (aside from never loading… we’ll cover that later) than lack of a clear, specific target audience. Who is your customer?
For publishers, this means taking a long look at who your website content is meant to serve. Is it your readers? Your advertisers? Your brand?
Businesses employing content marketing have to ask themselves a similar question. Are your customers your vendors or suppliers? Are they the elites in your vertical? Is it your CEO?
As Seth Godin says, “Answering ‘anyone who pays us money,’ is a cop out.” Websites that cater to anyone and everyone lack clear messaging and create a messy experience for visitors. It also becomes nearly impossible to track any measurable returns from the site. Instead, choose your target audience and create the content and layout plan that meets their specific needs.
2. Mobile Hostile
Even in the recent past, brands could shirk the responsibility of creating a good mobile experience if they believed their audience didn’t mind the pinching, zooming, and scrolling. No more. It’s true that expectations for a mobile-friendly experience have increased as adults come to depend on phones and tablets as part of their daily lives. But now Google is rolling out some big changes to its search algorithms, starting April 21st, to ensure the search results are optimized for the visitor’s device. Mobile-friendliness will be a ranking signal for Google, which will affect your ability to find new audiences.
You can test your mobile-friendliness by taking advantage of Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.
3. Keyword Krazy
Speaking of Google, search engine marketing is a viable tool for increasing your rank and interest to search bots. But if you’re still relying on hiding keywords in metadata, you’re doing it wrong. Similarly, if you’re cramming your top keywords in every other line, you’re going to drive your readers crazy. Instead, choose your words carefully, and craft consistent, quality content that uses these words. Consider your ratio of generic words to keywords to keep your density high – and verbosity low – and keep updating the content so it’s fresh and ready for the next search.
4. Offer Above the Fold
Though mobile and responsive design make it harder to always consider what appears “above the fold” on the screen on your site, first impressions are still critical. This means you need to be aware what your site displays at the top on multiple screens. A common painful mistake is to prioritize having an ad as one of the first things a visitor sees. (Even if your audience is your advertiser, this isn’t a good practice.) A more subtle common mistake is when businesses don’t take advantage of large, above the fold real estate to offer additional content, deals, links to a publication, brand promotion, or engaging media to keep visitors invested in their site.
Having an “above the fold” offering on a mobile site gets a little more complicated, but not impossible. The key is to be extremely strategic in your design so you know when a mobile user comes to your site, they are quickly connected to the content they’re searching for, and doing it in a way that promotes further engagement or shares. Adopting a “mobile first” approach can help in that planning.
5. Flat Design
A website is more than a simple summation of color, pictures, and text. It’s also mixture of strategic design, optimization strategies, and personality. Having a corporate feel screams “My site hasn’t been updated since 1997!” and leaves the visitor feeling like you haven’t invested in your website. Avoid that. Instead, make sure your site has depth and conveys your particular brand personality. Include multiple content types so visitors’ varying content preferences can be met. Create obvious ways for people to engage with your brand and your products immediately, rather than hoping they click through or search for what they want. Your design is your first impression, and a poorly designed homepage will cause your visitors to bounce. This is one area you will definitely want to consult people who have worked in this space, or outsource your design to a successful web design company.
6. Hiding Contact Forms
We get it: you don’t want to smother your audience with contact, purchase, or subscription forms. But it’s downright painful when a website makes it too hard to find or too hard to use a contact form. Think about the purpose of your site: if the purpose includes driving visitors to give you their information, you need a clean way to get it. Don’t make a visitor leave because they couldn’t find where to sign up for your services. Instead, plan for giving your contact forms prominence in a way that still fits within your design. Or, provide obvious and colorful call to action buttons that immediately connect the visitor with a clean, easy to use contact page. Also, avoid the painful mistake of forgetting to program your contact form to give an immediate confirmation once the form is completed. Not knowing if their information goes through causes instant frustration for users.
7. Slow (or No) Load
While many of us can remember the days of dial-up, many in today’s audience have never known the pain of the skeeeedoooodskeeeeedoo inherent to attempting Internet connection. Now your audience finds it painful waiting for the microwave to make dinner in three minutes, let alone waiting for their high-speed internet to load your website. It’s time to get real with the fast-paced world and start optimizing your site for quick delivery. You can test your site’s speed with tools like http://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/