Websites That Don't Make Sense - Top Ten Mistakes

Your website's purpose should drive its design and content. When websites don't make sense, it's often because design becomes the emphasis. The key to building a website that works—that makes sense—is to define upfront what the website needs to accomplish. This goal should be customer-centric, not company-centric. Design, content, and functionality should all support, not detract from, the overall goal. The overarching goals of most websites are to 1) provide information that customers want or need, or 2) allow customers to make a purchase. Don't put barriers between your customers and their objectives.

Mistakes in Website Design

Meaningless Splash Pages

Most splash pages are meaningless. Why? They stop visitors from immediately accessing your information or making a purchase. Why make potential customers wait just to look at your design or your brand? Splash pages can work very well when visitors need to select a country or a language. Otherwise, don't put obstacles between your visitors and their goal.

Icon Navigation

Some designs use graphic icons to represent navigation. The underlying page name is only revealed when the user mouses over it, or worse, clicks on it. Don't make visitors guess at navigation. They'll get frustrated, leave, and never return. You can only get away with this if your site's purpose is free entertainment.

Misuse of Flash

Flash is a great tool, but it's rarely used appropriately. You don't need to "set the stage" or "set a mood" for your website. People have already clicked their way to you. If it's about defining your brand, visitors don't care. You can add a "skip intro" but then how important is it if it can be skipped? Think very carefully before you add Flash content to your site—will it help your customers or impede them?

Illegible Text

It's 25% more difficult to read on screen than on paper; and the population is aging. Make it easy for visitors to read your content. Don't make the font size tiny because it "looks better," and make sure there's good contrast between the font color and the background color. People shouldn't have to struggle to read your content.

Distracting Design Elements

Do you have a busy background design? Animated graphics? Flashing, zipping bits that move across the screen? Do you have sound that starts immediately and can't be turned off? These elements may seem cute and clever initially, but what about each time the page loads or each return visit? These elements can soon become annoying. And it's unlikely that they are providing value to your customers.

Mistakes in Website Content

Content Not for Visitors

Is your content focused on your business interests or on the needs and interests of your visitors? If your content is all about self-promotion, company goals, company history, and business propaganda, you're not responding to your customers' needs. Your content needs to be written with their interests in mind, to solve their problems, and answer their questions. They know the difference.

Unclear Navigation

Are your navigation titles poorly worded, or even "clever"? Will your visitors know what to expect when they click on a page, or will it be a mystery? It should be quite clear to visitors where they're going. They'll only be frustrated otherwise. Also, keep in mind that English may be a second language to many of your visitors and they won't "get" your clever titles.

Too Much Material

Is your page cluttered and loaded up with content? Do visitors have to scroll forever to see it all? Is it hard to tell where to look first? Does all your content appear to have the same level of importance? Prioritize your content, organize it clearly, and develop pages that focus on one topic. Provide clear paths for your visitors to follow.

Lack of Quality Content

Do you have content worth reading on your site? Does it attract your visitors' Attention, keep their Interest, create Desire, and lead to Action? Is it well-written? Is it properly formatted for the web? You need original, creative content on your site—content that provides value to your customers. If your content isn't worth reading, you probably won't have too many return visitors, nor many purchases.

Lead Customers Off Site

Do you have a lot of external links on your site? Are they in your main content sections? Is it your intention to lead customers off your site? Will they know they're leaving? Be cautious about adding external links to your site. You may want to group them in one or two sections, clearly marked in some way as external resources or references. Don't provide easy access off your site.

Bonus Crossover Mistake: Design & Content

Can't Tell Instantly What Website/Page is About

If visitors to your site can't tell immediately what your site is about, it isn't working. People don't want to have to think, or guess, at where they are. Your design and content need to work together to instantly tell your audience who you are and what you can do for them. Each web page in your site needs to have that same clarity of purpose. Make it clear. Make it easy. Don't make it a mystery.

About Cool Plum Design

Cool Plum Design is a full-service web design business. We work with clients throughout the United States who need to represent their business online. We offer quality, customer-focused solutions integrating design, functionality, and content.

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