9 Reasons Your Website Might Be Terrible
I was browsing the internet fifteen minutes ago and ended up reading a thread on reddit about a guy’s friend who spent $15k on a website from a design agency.
$15k is a lot of money for a website, so I was intrigued. There are websites that justify that cost, and I wanted to see if this was one of them.
What I saw was one of the worst uses of fifteen-thousand dollars I’ve ever seen. It’s pretty much up there with rappers getting platinum veneers on their teeth or the local boy-racer who spends ten grand doing up his £500 Fiesta.
You can click the link in the first line if you want to see it. I won’t link to it here because if the company can waste $15k on this terrible website, then they could possibly send a lawyer to bother me or something.
Obviously, the following advice is general and not aimed at any one site in particular. These are the biggest errors that I immediately noticed, in no particular order. You’ll want to avoid all of these.
No Clearly Identifiable Message
Generally, your website has a few seconds to give a reader an idea of what your site is all about. People judge things on immediate appearances, which is sad, but that’s life. Websites are no different.
What this means is that your key features/benefits/unique selling point should be immediately apparent. Now, if you’re a professional company looking to get corporate clients, then you can have one of those big flashy headers that have a headline like, “Turn Your Company into a Million-Dollar Turnover Sensation” slap-bang in the centre of your home page.
You don’t have to do that though. If you’re a blogger, then you probably won’t want to do that. You should have a nice-looking header, a navigation menu and some on-topic headlines or similar on your first page though. Those need to be on-brand and make it clear what your site is about.
My homepage is far from the best, but the above combination of article links and navigation menu make it clear that you’re on a site about writing and business. (At least I hope they do.)
It Takes Forever To Load
Nobody has an unlimited amount of time, and aside from that your site is definitely penalised by search engines if your site doesn’t load.
The reason for that is that the spiders that the sites send only visit for so long, and if your site doesn’t respond, it’ll assume there’s something wrong on the page. Ergo, your site drops in rankings.
A lot of your site speed is out of your control; it’s down to your webhosts, your domain registrar, the CMS you’re using… but mostly, page load speeds are down to design choices.
Don’t have tons of videos that autoload, don’t have massive pictures that haven’t been resized for the web and don’t use loads of custom fonts, plugins and other weighty things that aren’t necessary and make your page take forever to turn up.
Related to the last point, having auto-loading videos is just terrible. Having things that move – unless it’s specifically a video page with a single video – is a recipe for disaster. It takes people’s focus away, you have the aforementioned loading problems and it’s distracting and annoying.
This extends to sliders, moving images and things that jump out at you as you scroll. If I like something and then it’s gone, I’m not going to wait for it to come back. If I wanted to be surprised by thins that jump out at me from the screen, I’d watch a horror show.
Your website shouldn’t be a horror show, by the way.
A lot of websites that have been designed by agencies are filled with haughty words that mean very little. That’s largely because said-agency is trying to justify their exorbitant fee.
When it comes to content writing for a website, observe the rules of the road:
- It must be simple to read
- It must make sense to anyone reading it
- If it can be shorter and simpler, it should be
Obviously, there are caveats to the above, but if a reasonably-educated person can read a paragraph on your site and not have a clue what it means, you’ve failed spectacularly. Bear in mind a lot of online content readers aren’t reasonably educated and convoluted statements aren’t just unnecessary, they’re really bad for business.
Side Note: This is exactly the same no matter what you’re selling. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling 99p e-books or £100,000 cars; you need your writing to be clear and simple. “Our clients are different” is not an excuse and it’s incorrect anyway.
No Clear Route To Buy (If that’s the Intention)
Similar to the USP point from above, (But not quite the same) is that your website is a funnel where you need to point out to the reader what they need to do next.
If you’re trying to sell things on your website, then you need to point your reader gradually towards buying. If a piece of content on your website doesn’t do that, then it’s a failure.
Too Many Popups (In Too Short a Time)
The site I used as a springboard for this post didn’t commit this crime, but many sites do. Just the other day I wanted to read a tutorial for something-or-other. I loaded up this guy’s page, and I had three pop-ups fill my screen before I’d even read the first word.
This is overkill, and people won’t put up with it. They’ll click the red cross quicker than you can say, “Subscribe here.”
Before I’ve read your site, I don’t want to join your email list. I’m not interested in your one-time offer and I don’t want to follow you on Twitter.
Why would I do any of those things for someone I don’t know and who hasn’t even let me look at his site yet?
So pop-ups; don’t do a lot of them and set them only to popup after the reader has been on the site for a while. If in doubt, use Thrive Leads. It’s fantastic and gives you complete control over your popups (as well as other stuff.)
Spelling mistakes are terrible. I was going to write a paragraph about how if you’re a luxury brand, you can’t afford any spelling mistakes.
That’s true, but it doesn’t matter whether you’re a luxury brand or not. Readers will think you’re stupid, less trust-worthy and less professional if you have spelling mistakes.
Now, if your site has thousands of words, chances are you’re going to make the odd error here-and-there. People will forgive that, and it’s just one of those things you need to fix when you find them.
Don’t think that’s true of your home page or your key text. Case in point:
Nobody is signing up to that.
Links That Don’t Work
Broken links make people think you’re untrustworthy. Links to empty pages or “Coming Soon” sections aren’t acceptable either.
It’s better to leave those things off your website than have a “check back later” page. Nobody is going to do that.
As for broken links, it happens as time goes on. Fix it if you find broken links to external sites.
As for broken internal links, image links or – god forbid – commerce links (like “Buy Now” buttons,) don’t do it. Fix them now. If you have a “Buy” button that goes to a wrong page, people will think you’re a scammer immediately. You will lose them as a customer and reader forever.
Weird Things That Look Untrustworthy
Trustworthiness is a key factor that separates robots from human readers.
If your website doesn’t look right, then people won’t stay very long. Big red images that look like warning signs, no boilerplate links (terms and conditions etc.) and other things like that just make people feel off.
If your site deals with purchases, you need a security certificate. You need those buttons that say, “100% secure” and you need to mention shipping. You need to talk readers through the process of being a customer.
If you don’t do those things, you’ll lose business. People are wary of buying stuff online, so any indicators that your site is illegitimate are a death sentence. Especially when you consider there are god-knows-how-many billion websites to choose from.
BONUS: Your Site Needs To At Least Nominally Work On A Mobile Device
A lot of internet traffic comes from mobile devices. Phones, tablets, wireless washing machines.
If your website doesn’t work on a mobile device, then you’re losing probably half of your customers immediately. If it won’t load, it’s a no-go automatically.
I would suggest creating a mobile-responsive site, but that all seems very complicated and techy-speak.
Most WordPress themes have mobile-responsive design built in, which means that your site will look fine on a mobile device. Also important to note: Most WordPress themes are about $50, and so if you’re spending $15000 on a website from a supposedly professional agency, there’s no excuse for your site not working on mobile devices.
We’ve discussed some pretty big website issues, and given some easy fixes for said issues.
Running a website is a complicated business, and you can optimise and redesign endlessly and still be able to do better.
However if you miss out on the big mistakes I’ve listed above, then your site will probably be good compared with a lot of the competition anyway.
A final takeaway thought; if you’re going to outsource your web design (or anything else) to a professional or company, make sure they know what they’re doing by following the advice I gave in this article on freelance portfolios. It’ll save you money, time and years of your life.