Last week, I did a Web site critique on a new site for a new publishing-related business. Many people wonder why their Web site just sits out there in cyberspace doing little or nothing for their business. I do critiques for people who need an objective opinion on how to fix their sites. Here are 9 simple solutions for Web site problems I often see.
1. Poor use of color. Sadly, many business owners are not designers and I've often wondered if some of them are actually colorblind. Color should enhance the overall site design, not detract from it.
2. Cheesy graphics. Unless you happen to be a cartoonist, don't include any image that even remotely resembles a cartoon on your Web site. If you need to ask whether or not the clip art looks bad, it probably does.
3. Fuzzy photos. Just because your grandson's nephew owns an Instamatic does not mean he is a photographer. Only use sharp, visually interesting images on your site. Get a professional photo taken of yourself. If you're on a budget, consider finding a photographer who is willing to trade photos for your products or services.
4. Useless animation. Unless you happen to be a Flash developer and create animations as a service, ditch Flash or any other form of animation on your site. Most users hate it, and search engines really hate it. Most Flash is pointless, hard to navigate, and dramatically slows down your site. If you can use plain HTML text instead, do it. Don't let a developer who wants to "learn Flash so he can add it to his portfolio" talk you into animation in the first place.
5. Inconsistent, confusing design. Even if you aren't a designer, you probably can tell the difference between a Web site that's pleasing to use and view versus one that is not. If you aren't a designer, it's worth it to pay someone to at least create a Web template, so all of your pages are consistent.
6. Weak copy. With a Web site, the words are the first thing people see and are arguably the most important element. You need to explain your Web site's reason for existence, so people can tell within the first 3 seconds what it's about. Otherwise they will click away, never to be seen again.
7. Lack of a "banana" or call to action. In his book, The Big Red Fez, Seth Godin suggests that every Web site needs to have a "banana." He equates Web site visitors with monkeys and the banana is the incentive to interact with the Web site in some way, whether it's sign up for a newsletter, perform a search, make a reservation, or buy a product. The banana needs to be extremely obvious and easy to use.
If you are using your Web site to sell anything, you need to tell people to buy. Sure, it sounds obvious, but not having a "call to action" is a common mistake. Give people the reasons to buy, and then ask them to do it.
8. Mystifying descriptions, benefits, and navigation. Visitors to your Web site should never be confused. If your Web site visitor can't figure out what your site is about, or move around easily, she will leave. A confused mind does nothing.
9. Missing credibility boosters. The lack of trust on the Internet is well deserved. Hackers and online vermin are everywhere, so you want to include credibility boosters to help overcome concerns. Include testimonials from happy clients, third party "trust seals" from the BBB and security companies, and of course, your own credentials.
None of these problems need to be difficult or expensive to solve. With a few changes, your Web site can start working for your business instead of against it.
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