Sites for sore eyes

posted on June 23, 2012 in Website design & marketing

Ten ideas for the Website Hall of Infamy

  1. Corporate camouflage. It’s no good having the best-looking website ever designed if no one can find it. In other words, you need to address your whole internet marketing strategy. Many potential clients never look beyond the first page of Google – not much good to you if your website is stuck on page 20.
  2. SEO SOS. Having said that, don’t stuff your website with search engine optimised text. Good SEO writing is more of an art than a science, and should be done by a good copywriter, not some technical geek. After all, what use is it getting your site to the top of Google only to find that people can’t read it because the copy is indigestible, boring and unengaging?
  3. Run with the herd. Many websites look alike, particularly in the same sector. But that’s precisely what you don’t want to do. You want to stand out from the crowd, be different, be arresting. You have only a few seconds before your reader decides to move on – so make sure that he’s impressed, intrigued and hooked in that short space of time.
  4. In the stocks. A good way to blend in with everyone else’s site is to use stock shots (see our earlier blog, “Stock horror.”) Some of those sites don’t just use the same sort of pictures, they use the exact same ones. Stock shots are yesterday’s answer – and increasingly look like you can’t be bothered. And if you can’t, why should your prospect?
  5. Me, myself, I. One of the cardinal sins of websites is to write puffed up with pride at your company, its achievements and its place in the world. You know the kind of thing: “We take pride in having achieved…” “We are acknowledged leaders in our field…” “We offer unique solutions, drawing on our years of experience…” As someone who knew once said, “Clients aren’t interested in your stuff: they’re only interested in what you can do for them.” Turning a website around to the client’s point of view can work wonders – and boost sales.
  6. Assume makes an ass of you and me. Don’t assume that the reader knows anything about your company or what it can do. He doesn’t. Tell him why he should use you – and make it convincing. If there’s really something unique or extra-special about your business, that’s your USP (or unique selling proposition in marketing-speak) – and it should be shouted from the rooftops.
  7. Just walk away. Websites are not like brochures, printed and then finished. They’re more like a work in progress. You should always be adding new stuff to yours: news items, blogs and other quick pieces are useful here. Regularly updated sites give readers reasons to keep coming back, and drive up your search engine rankings. Conversely, sites that never change are a turn-off. When you see something like “Last updated January 2007”, it’s like seeing “This is when we last had an idea about anything.”
  8. Lost at sea. Making it hard to navigate is as bad for a website as it is for a ship. It should be quick and easy for your visitor to find her way around your site. The only direction that complex navigation, involving huge drop-down menus and many clicks, is likely to take your visitor is away from your site – for good.
  9. Who needs a dictionary? Even one typo, misspelled word or grammatical error is one too many; and yet some sites are riddled with them. This blows a huge hole in your professionalism. Unfairly or not, clients believe that a company whose website is put together in a slipshod way must have the same casual approach to business. And perhaps it isn’t unfair; I remember seeing a design agency website that offered “Copywritting” as a service. If they couldn’t even spell the word, it didn’t fill me with confidence that they would be any good at it.
  10. Busy, busy. On a website, less is more. Don’t have 30 or 40-word sentences. Don’t have so much on a page that readers need to scroll down. And certainly don’t put everything there is to know about your company on your homepage. The ideal homepage is punchy, gets straight to the nub of the matter, and draws the reader in. We’ve all seen websites, sometimes from companies that definitely should know better, with homepages so crowded that you don’t know where to look. As Basil Fawlty might have said, it’s only an introduction, it’s not the Gettysburg Address!