Websites come in so many different layouts and styles that it can be mind-boggling at times. That being said, when you see an out-of-date website, or one that looks like it was designed to be a fifth graders' school project you can't help but run away in horror. The thing is, many businesses out there have websites that make their visitors cringe, something you likely don't want.
Because there are no real guidelines as to what makes a great website, we decided to go in the opposite direction and highlight what makes a horrifying website. Below is a list of 13 mistakes that could lead to your very own Little Website of Horrors.
- The 'Under Construction' page - There was a time 10 years ago or so where putting an 'Under Construction' sign on your website was normal. But in today’s world where you can easily build and review websites on separate servers or create draft content in your Content Management System (CMS), using an 'Under Construction' looks unprofessional and reflects poorly on your business. Bonus point for optimizing your static 404 page: explain to visitors what happened, offer suggestions on how to get back to content they were looking for and include your site’s main navigation at the top. Don’t ever let it be a dead-end - scary!
- Auto-play videos - Yes, your new video for your website is amazing. I know you want to share it with the entire world, but there are few things more annoying than videos that play automatically. Nothing will drive visitors away from your site faster than a video that they don’t want to watch. Unless you’re YouTube, turn the auto-play off. Oh, and while I'm talking about this subject, sounds that play automatically are even worse than videos, making some visitors ump in horror. So, get rid of those as well.
- Not considering the customer’s perspective - No one knows your customers better than you, but when building a website, it can be easy to forget to take a few moments and think about things from their side. You might want to promote an awesome new service of yours, but is that service really the most important thing for your customers to know about?
- Not tracking web traffic and visitor behavior - Your website is a gold mine of data. If you’re not tracking where your traffic is coming from or how visitors behave on your site, you’re missing out on a ton of data that can be used to adjust and optimize your strategies.
- Missing a clear call to action - Every page needs a goal that helps drive people toward the overall purpose of the website. Take some time to think about what you want visitors to accomplish. Then use clear, visible calls to action that point visitors in the right direction.
- Missing clear contact information - Many people will be coming to your site to learn more about your business, but many will also just be looking for your contact info. Make sure your phone number and address can be found in several highly-visible areas on your site. You should also ensure that any contact forms on your site are easy to find and working properly. Beyond that, if your business depends on a lot of foot traffic ensure that you have a good map with directions clearly visible on the site, maybe even on the home page.
- Huge blocks of text - In general, website visitors don’t read; they skim. Website copywriting should take advantage of this by using short sentences and paragraphs. You can also use headings, bullet points, images and bolded phrases to help make long content more digestible and draw readers’ eyes to the most important information.
- Confusing navigation - Website visitors are very impatient and if they can’t easily find the information they’re looking for, you can bet they’ll quickly get frustrated and go looking for the answer on one of your competitors’ sites. The most important pages on your site should be easy to find from your homepage.
- Thinking that “if you build it, they will come.” - Having a website alone isn’t enough, you need a marketing plan to draw people in. Building a successful website takes a lot of hard work - SEO, social media, content marketing, email marketing, online advertising and many more channels should be used in conjunction to bring traffic to your site.
- Not paying attention to SEO - SEO might seem really confusing and scary but understanding it is a key part of building a successful website. Without proper keyword research, on-page optimization, local search optimization and link building, your website will appear lower in search results. In some cases, you might want to contract some outside help, but with a little bit of determination, learning the fundamentals of SEO is totally possible.
- Thinking social media is free - No, it doesn’t cost anything to create a Facebook or Twitter profile and nor does it cost to post on social networks, but that doesn’t mean social media is free. Creating a professional profile page might require the assistance of a designer or you might need to invest in tools to help manage your profiles. At the very least, building a strong social presence will require a lot of your time which is arguably more valuable than your money.
- Using a DIY solution or hiring a family friend - An unprofessional website can be spotted from a mile away. A DIY platform or a family friend who “knows” how to design websites might be easy on your budget in the short term but in the long run, they’ll only hurt your business. Your website is the face of your business and it needs to give your visitors a great first and lasting impression.
- Not updating your site for years at a time - Redesigning your website every five years or so means that you spend a lot of time with a website that is embarrassingly outdated. What's even worse is not bothering to update content. Leaving events from 2009 and having the last 'Recent News' article from two years ago is a major turn-off for many viewers. Your business is constantly evolving and growing; your website should do the same.
Do these website horrors give you nightmares? Don’t worry, Pronto is here to help. We’ve spent years building thousands of websites for small businesses so we know exactly how to avoid these mistakes and put your business on the path to success.
Struggling to figure out how your website can be improved? Speak to one of our experts or request a free, custom Internet presence report that can help diagnosing the pain points.