One of the problems with being a small business is that you are working with a very limited budget for marketing, which unfortunately often means that you cut corners on your website. And unfortunately, many small businesses are still hiring web designers who are creating web sites the same way they were ten years ago. These web designers haven’t advanced in a world of rapidly changing technology. And there are a lot of them! With that in mind, as I work with businesses to help them create a solid online presence, I spend a lot of time looking at their websites. And sadly, I see a lot of really bad websites, or at least websites that feature some things that make me cringe.
Here are 8 things I really don’t want to see on your website when I look for your business online:
1. Stock Photos – Why don’t I like stock photos? Two reasons: first, when you open up a website that is using stock photos, you can almost hear a voice screaming, “I’m a Stock Photo!!!” Seriously, you can tell which photos are stock photos. Second, take a look at this stock photo:
See those people? They don’t work in your office. In fact, they don’t work in ANY office. They aren’t real. I mean, they are real people, but not real office workers.A lot of web designers, and small businesses, will cut corners, and costs, by using stock photos, rather than spending money to hire a photographer. While I have a lot of photographer friends who will do this kind of work, it is possible to get nice pictures without actually hiring someone. When I look at your website, I want to see photos of you and your staff in your business. Not models where everything is just too neat and orderly. Seriously, you’re not fooling anyone.
2. An “About Us” page that tells me nothing about you – Not only do I want to see your picture, but I want to know a little about you. If I read your “About Us” page and still have no idea a) who you are, or b) what you really do, then I’m probably not going to do business with you. That means I want to see names of key players, including pictures. I walk away from a lot of businesses online, especially local small businesses, if I can’t find out who works there.
3. Outdated information and calendars – I was looking at a website the other day and clicked on their events tab and saw the calendars for May and June….2010. Yep. Last year’s calendar of events. When I see this, it tells me one of four things:
a. You don’t really take your website seriously
b. You’re not doing any more events
c. You don’t want to pay your web person $100 an hour to make the changes
d. All of the above
Regardless, I should never see this. If I visit you in your brick and mortar business, will you have last year’s calendar on the wall? (And I’m not talking about the June 1987 issue of Highlights Magazine in the dentist’s office. Those things are timeless!) It’s important that you keep your website up to date. In many places it is the first place potential customers will go for information about you.
4. Dead pages – If I click on a link in your navigation menu, or anywhere on your home page, and I get some kind of error, and not what I was looking for, well, again, we have a problem. The links on your page should take you somewhere; preferable where I think they will take me. If I click on your “Services” tab, I need to find out what services you offer. And almost as bad as a dead link is a placeholder page that says “coming soon.” That is forgivable for a short period of time, but I find that most of the time those “under construction” pages end up being there permanently.
5. The 1990s – Yeah, we left the nineties behind a long time ago, but apparently there are some web designers who are still embracing that decade. Ugly, templated sites with hideous colors and a lot of…nothing.
6. Clip Art -Clip art was OK in pre-computer days for organizations that were putting together low budget newsletters. It was even OK in the early days of websites when there weren’t many other options. But even worse than clip art is animated clip art!
Believe it or not, I actually found this particular beauty on the website of a local web designer. Needless to say, I wasn’t very impressed with most of the sites they created. In fact, not only did a lot of their sites look like the 1990s, but many of them even had…
7. Auto-loading music or videos – If I hear music or audio when your page starts loading (after it finally loads, most likely), I’m outta there. I don’t like “elevator music” in elevators, offices, or when I’m on hold, so I certainly don’t want to hear it on your website. Especially if it’s a Midi file. Yeesh. This also includes videos that start talking to me right away, or of course, Flash videos. There are better ways of accomplishing these sorts of things on your website these days, but they should never start playing right away. If I want to play them, I’ll hit the play button on my own.
8. A lack of contact info – This goes along with #2. Give me your address, a phone number, and an email address. That’s all I ask. And if you don’t have a physical location, leave out the address but give me some hint as to your general location. Are you in Philadelphia? Pennsylvania? The 48 contiguous states?? Give me something. If I have to spend a lot of time finding a way to contact you, I probably won’t bother contacting you at all.
Now, go take a good, hard look at your website. Are you guilty of any of these offenses?
This is the year 2011. We have come a long way with technology, and it is possible to build and create a nice looking, functional website without spending a lot of money. We live a good part of our lives online. Your website is often a customer’s first experience with your business. First impressions are important. Your online “storefront” is just as important as your brick and mortar storefront.
Are there any other things that make you cringe when you visit someone’s website? Anything that makes you close out of your browser as fast as possible?
- Small Business Tip Tuesday: Finding Social Content While Saving Time (inklingmedia.net)
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- Pros and Cons of Facebook As Your Website (spinsucks.com)
- Small Business Tip Tuesday: Be the Black Sheep (inklingmedia.net)