You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Just like a good, solid handshake, your website is the first impression people have of you and your business, and having too many problems with your website is the equivalent to a limp handshake. Who likes a limp handshake?
If your business is creating something extremely unique and specific (like designing and installing pneumatic and mechanical waste handling systems for paper mills, for example) where there is not a heck of a lot of competition, then your website does not necessarily need to be at the top of your priority list.. However, if, like most business, you exist in a sea of competitors, then the investment in a professional and user-friendly website is a small price to pay for putting your best foot forward to potential customers.
As you read through this list, keep in mind that I am describing my perspective of poorly done websites from the point of view of a Content Strategist. This means that I am explaining how this looks from the point of view of the site visitor, and not necessarily the point of view of a programmer or graphic designer. More on that later.
Here are a few signs that your website needs some help:
1. It resembles the Las Vegas Strip.
In a word: it’s spammy. Spammy is a relatively new word in the English lexicon, referring to a site that has way too many. Especially heinous are the websites that have all their relevant content under the fold; meaning that advertisement takes up the entire top portion of the site and the site visitor must scroll down to see what they came to the site for in the first place.
Ads and back links can be tastefully added and should be part of a balanced approach to revenue and SEO, but the last thing you want to do is assault people with Vegas style advertising before they can even get to the information they need.
2. The width of the website does not fit into a normal sized monitor.
This is just bad design, pure and simple. A narrow website means you have less space to get your point across and less area for your potential customers to get their questions answered. Narrow pages allow for less working white space (see below) and detracts from the overall appeal and usability of the site. On the flip side of this problem is a website that is too large to fit a screen, requiring the user to scroll left and right to read the content. That’s a big thumbs down as well.
The optimum width of a website is between 900 pixels and 1,000 pixels. This size looks good on a normal size monitor as well as a tablet. The BEST option, however,which looks fabulous on every size device, from large monitor to smartphone, is a website programmed for responsive design. What this means for your visitor is that, no matter what size screen people use to view your website, it will look great. No more of those teeny tiny words to read or touching the wrong link with a fat finger on a smartphone. All the elements of a responsive design website automatically re-configure and optimize to fit the screen size. I could go on and on about the cutting-edge benefits of responsive design. The best example (of course!) is our own at Maya Creative Group, found HERE.
3. There is not enough white space.
White space is the space between letters, sentences, paragraphs and images and, not necessarily the color white, it is simply the space left between the stuff. Designers call this “working white space” and it is necessary for a couple of reasons. Firstly, white space gives an uncluttered, sophisticated look to a website. For proof, take a look at websites selling very high-end items: there is almost always an abundance of white space between words and images. Secondly,intentional use of white space gives the visitor to your site a more pleasant experience by making important items easier to see.
Using white space not only means your site looks super sleek, but also that you are making your website more accessible, meaning that people of all ages and sight abilities can easily navigate through the content. There are many considerations when creating an accessible website. For more details on accessible design, go HERE.
4. The website is slow to download.
The average internet user will wait about 5 seconds for a website to download. After that, you’ve lost them. Most of the time, slow downloads are caused by high resolution images that have not been optimized for the internet. This can be easily fixed on PhotoShop, or even free programs found online for resizing photos, like PicMonkey. Really, anything over 200K is too big. Remember, slow downloads mean less traffic and fewer potential customers.
5. The font on your website looks like it came from an old typewriter.
Most people don’t give fonts and typography a second thought. Or a first thought, for that matter. But, like music for the ears, fonts lend a visual feeling and ambiance to a website and should reflect the overall theme of the site and your business. In addition, certain fonts are actually a lot easier to read, and this should be considered, especially if you have a lot of text and/or your target population is older.
While an entire article (books, actually!) could be written on fonts, I will share some very basic information about it. There are two main categories of font: serif fonts and sans serif fonts. It has been shown that for the web, sans serif fonts, which lack the extra embellishment at the bottom of the letters, are easier to read. The curvier serif fonts should be saved for headings and titles, and not used for large blocks of text. Just remember, font style does matter, for both the readability and feeling of a site, and is another consideration in creating an accessible website.
6. A wall of words.
How many times have you gone to a website, thinking you have found the information you seek, only to be met with a HUGE WALL OF WORDS on the first page. A bit daunting, isn’t it? Are you one of the few people who wade through all the text to find what you’re looking for? Or, like most busy folks, do you surf off the page, looking for greener and briefer pastures?
Having a lot to say is great, but it must be formatted in a way that is easy for your visitors to digest. Bullet points, headings, bold print and images are great tools to use to break up the text and make it easier to read. Hitting the space bar every once in a while helps, too.
These six problems all stem from bad design and lack of a solid content strategy, leading to a poor user experience. User experience refers to how well and how easily a site visitor can navigate through your website and get their questions answered. You may know more and have more than any competitor in your field, but if you can’t communicate that on your website, you are losing business.
There are many other common problems, such as the use of Flash, old information on a site, a sloppy navigation bar, misaligned photos, low resolution images…I could go on and on. But the above six problems are, for me, the big red flags on a website that say, “Help!” And guess what? The team at Maya Creative Group can!
Hollie Niblett is the Content Strategist at Maya Creative Group in Costa Rica.