Previously, I asked if your website fails and suggested some ways to assess the state of your online presence. You may have convinced yourself that your website is up to muster, but not so fast – the assessment process isn’t over!
Even if your website on the whole is a success, there are some extremely common pitfalls to avoid. Failure is an absolute, but success lies on a longer more complex continuum. Does your website work as well as it could (or should)? Reaching your online potential means identifying and correcting mis-steps made in the past, I’ve assembled a list of some of the most egregious practices:
Nothing will make a web designer sick to his stomach faster than a client who loves the now infamous ‘comic sans’ font. Haphazardly applying clever fonts to your website and marketing materials is an all too common misstep for small businesses. Keep it simple, even though most document suites now come with hundreds of fonts, most of them are hard to decipher, poorly sized or just plain inappropriate for professional marketing both online and in print. Leave the font selection to the pros. To paraphrase Jeff Goldblum from Jurassic Park: “just because we can, doesn’t mean we should!”
Maybe you’re very busy tracking your inventory, stacking boxes and updating your filing system. Perhaps you haven’t noticed, but the internet has changed since 1995. The trap here is telling yourself that this steady march of progress doesn’t effect you, that a website that worked in 1995 still works today. In a sense that’s correct, a website doesn’t need its alternator replaced every 70,000 visits, but other people’s tolerance, expectations and standards have changed.
This means that your visitors expect sites that are easy to use, they will (and do) judge you in the context of the sites they frequent most. These websites such as google, facebook and yahoo spend millions of dollars developing the most user friendly navigation systems they can. You can’t compete with their spending, but you can make sure that your website is clear in purpose and easy to use. The key to good user interface is navigation. Your menu must MUST be prominent, coherent, easy to read and easy to interact with. Having a substandard navigation system is one of the biggest errors a small business can make.
The internet is filled with derelicts that have been abandoned for years. Avoiding websites that are not maintained or represent defunct businesses is probably something you are so accustomed to that you don’t even know you do it. The fact is that most people sub consciously search for clues that they are wasting their time on dated material and should navigate to a better website. Make sure you keep everything regularly up to date at all times, even a copyright in the footer can be enough cause for your visitors to look for more carefully groomed pastures.
One of the most frequent mistakes made by web developers early on, and even today, is to force a website to conform to a template. You can see this clearly in websites that follow the highly traditional: home, about, contact structure. These ubiquitous links are haphazardly slapped into millions of websites without regard to their appropriateness. The key features of your business, your strengths, and your calls to action should be the most immediate and prominent aspect of your online storefront. Don’t force your round business into a square website, make sure you are putting your best foot forward and satisfying your website objectives.