When you’re creating a new website or redesigning an old one, it’s important to remember that it’s not all about you. Your website has to speak to your customer, both in attractiveness of design and quality of content. Let’s not annoy them, so be aware of these “don’ts”.
- Automatic music: Unless you’re a musician or your entire business revolves around your music, you don’t need to be playing background music on your website…and if you do, please, please, please don’t set it to auto play. Do your customers a favor and give them the option to turn it on or off. Be sensitive to the fact that many people use their computers in quiet areas, like libraries or at work. If your site has an automatic video or sound clip, the first thing these viewers are going to do is hit the back button to get away from the sounds before their boss fires them for surfing the internet at work. Let your design and your content do the talking.
- Links that don’t work: This is a no-brainer. If you’re going to put a link into your page, make sure it goes to where it’s supposed to go. Better yet, make sure it goes anywhere. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve clicked on a link and gotten a “page does not exist” message, or have been sent to an unrelated page. Sure, we make mistakes sometimes and external links will change without notice, but try to pay attention to this and check links occasionally to be sure they’re still working.
- Too much contrast/color: This is like when you see someone and think, “did they look in the mirror before they left the house today?” The best websites use simple color schemes with 2-3 colors, often taking advantage of various shades of the same color. Contrast is important because it brings attention to the most important features of your site, but it can easily go bad. For instance, if you want a light, clean look, you might go for a light grey background and bright social media buttons. This contrast of color on grey makes people easily see your points of interest, and helps guide their eyes as they explore the site. When you use extremely bright yellows with equally bright purples, reds, and blues, suddenly you have a color explosion – and not in a good way. You can check out our color series, where we outline how each color on the wheel can help or hurt your site, depending on how you use it.
- Spelling errors: C’mon, man. Typos tell your readers you either don’t care enough to spellcheck your work, or your spelling and grammar skills suck. Either way, it doesn’t help you. Take the time to proofread, and get a second set of eyes to check it out too. If you want your website to help you find customers, make the effort.
- Too much text: These days blogs are a dime a dozen. Whether professional or personal, blogs are a great way to get thoughts out on the web and give some personality to your work. If your post is focused on instruction (like this one), you can get a bit more liberal with the length of your posts. But overall, try to keep your posts concise. Use paragraphs and aim for 200-500 words. This leaves enough content without making the viewer lose interest half way through the post. It’s also important to make your text “scannable”, meaning break it up with headlines and bullets. People are more likely to scan an article today, and it’s better to be scanned than skipped altogether.
- Flash: There was a time when using flash was a way to show off your coding and computer prowess. Today is not that time. More often than not, using flash creates distractions for viewers, and can actually reduce the usability of your site. Instead of using Flash, we can use jQuery for items like scrolling photo boxes. Just say no to Flash.
- Ads, ads, ads: Your site is supposed to advertise your business. It’s a marketing tool, helping you to network a wider range of potential customers, and it gives you a chance to put all of your information in one place. Having ads on your page can certainly be another income generator for you, but be mindful of your objective. Do you want clients to sign up for your newsletter and hire you, or do you want them to click that ad so you make 12 cents? Hmm…
- ALL CAPITALS: This is nothing new, but I see it all the time. Words that use all capital letters suggest that the writer is shouting. So when your main page says “WE’RE THE BEST IN THE BUSINESS, YOU NEED TO BUY OUR STUFF NOW” it comes on a little strong to readers. Always remember that your online presence depends on how people read and view your material – whether that’s on your website, on social media, or in an email. Shouting at people is not going to help you.
- Pop-ups: Having a “Subscribe Now!” pop up screams “please look at my work!”, or “please hire me!”. I KNOW these are popular, and I KNOW they convert to subscribers, but damn, it’s irritating to start reading an article and be interrupted by a giant popup. If you absolutely must use them, at least give your reader 30 seconds or so to get comfortable before you try to get something from them (in this case, their email address). Gain their trust first, or you’ll just lose them. A kinder solution would be to link to a separate subscribe page on your website – and it’s a no-brainer to have a simple optin box that you place prominently on every page of your site.
- Safe and ho-hum: Your site is your place to unleash your creativity and show the world what your business is all about. Does your website reflect who you really are? Are you playing it too safe? Yes, you need to know what your customers want, but you can (and should) also inject some of your personality into things. Clean and organized doesn’t have to mean bland and boring. Even minimalistic sites, when done right, are incredibly powerful. Experiment with different color schemes that match your logo, browse through various website themes online, and always ask for an opinion from someone you trust that has a good eye for design. A website that’s too blah won’t do anything for your business.
What all this means for you
Your website is a critical tool for speaking to your customers and growing your business. There’s a few simple goals that you want to remember when making a website:
- Make the visitors comfortable: You want online customers to get a clear picture of you and your business. The purpose is to help them understand how your business can be useful to them, and why you’re different from other companies out there.
- Be professional: Definitely make your website unique and use it to show off the personality of your business, but remember that it is a professional space. Imagine your site as your online office. You can hang pictures of your kids in your office, but you might not want toys scattered all over the floor. Keep it clean and professional with a splash of personality.
- Be Concise: We all know how easy it is to get distracted on the web. One minute we’re checking email, the next we’re reading The Oatmeal and watching YouTube videos of napping puppies. Keep your readers engaged so they don’t get bored and move on to something else.
- Have fun:
Life is too short not to. Love what you do and every day will be a good day.