With nearly 80% of the North American population being internet users, it is vital for companies, groups and organizations to have an online domain. However, making the below mistakes with your domain can significantly negatively affect your success.

Your website is often the first impression a potential customer has of you and if your site looks like it was made in 1997, there’s a good chance that will be the only impression that customer has of you.

So take a good, long look through your website and if it contains any of these annoyances, you may want to have a re-design meeting with your webmaster.

  1. Pop-up ads: Back in 2002, I interviewed with a company that created pop-up ads. I didn’t get the job, but wished I had for several years, as the company had grown from 5 to 300 employees in a short time and had an awesome office in a swanky location. The company went bankrupt 7 years later because guess what? NO ONE LIKES POP-UP ADS! Okay, that’s not the only reason they went bankrupt, but they helped solidify the general population’s hatred and distrust of pop-up ads because they are annoying and raise the concern of spyware. Bottom line is if you must have ads, keep them simple and embedded on the page; never opt for pop-ups.
  2. Confusing navigation: Have you ever been to a restaurant that labels the bathrooms in a clever way, rather than “men” or “women?”  When you need to use the restroom, the last thing you want to do is have to figure out which door to go through.  This is what it’s like visiting a website and couldn’t figure out where to go or how to get back to the home page.  It seems like common sense, but oftentimes, websites can be incredibly difficult to navigate.  Make sure you have a navigation menu on every page with a clear link to the home page and that your navigation menu is clearly labeled.  Clever can be fun, but when viewers have trouble navigating your site, chances are they won’t come back.
  3. Music: Unless you are a musician or work in a music-related field, it’s not really necessary to have music on your website.  It’s even less necessary to have the music automatically play when the page is opened.  What goes hand in hand with auto-play music is a player that is difficult or impossible to find.  These are both a serious no-no.  Maybe the visitor is already listening to music so your auto-play music will scramble with theirs or perhaps they are in a quiet room or at work and the auto-play music will frighten them.  Either way, auto-play music is usually unappreciated and disliked.
  4. Obnoxious graphics & design: I was recently researching fast pitch clubs and came upon a wealth of sites using some of the most obnoxious graphics known to man.  The sites reminded me of my first website back in 1997 in which I demonstrated every cool HTML and java script skill I had all on one page.  The page was loaded with brightly colored backgrounds, colored text of several different fonts and flashing graphics that could not be stopped.  While I am excited to see my skills have greatly improved over the past 15 years, the sad thing is that pages like my first one still exist.  And they are extremely obnoxious.  People don’t want to be subjected to seizure-inducing flashing graphics or strain their eyes trying to read your funky looking text.  Look at some popular sites such as Google, Amazon, Facebook, or Wikipedia.  What do they all have in common?  They are simple, clean and in the top 10 most popular websites.  Follow their lead and yours will be more popular as well.
  5. Flash-heavy content: So maybe you’ve advanced past the obnoxious graphics phase and gotten a very impressive Flash section on your site.  That’s great, but what if your visitor does not have Flash installed or is browsing on a device that does not support Flash?  You’ve immediately alienated a potential customer or viewer.  In addition, search engines cannot read Flash content so if you are relying heavily on flash to display your content, your site will not get indexed.  If your site relies on Flash for navigation, users may be required to reload and start from the beginning if they click on the wrong link.  When used correctly, Flash can be a great addition to your site, but don’t rely too heavily on it for anything or you will lose viewers.
  6. Lack of content: Websites should evolve, but they should also have some content before going live.  Have you ever navigated through a site only to find that several of the pages you visited were “under construction?”  As a rule of thumb, do not publish a page unless it contains content.  I would rather take the time to contact someone through the site for more information than view page after page of unfinished pages.  If this is your company site, by publishing unfinished pages, potential customers may start to wonder what else you can’t finish.  Leave your best impression by filling pages with pertinent content before publishing any pages.
  7. No contact information: You may not feel there is always a need for a website viewer to contact you, however you should always have a way for them to contact you.  If you have a business site, you most certainly need a contact page so customers can find a way to contact you.  It is also important to provide multiple ways for customers to contact you through business sites.  The easier you make it for customers to contact your business, the more likely you are to get business from them.  Simple as that.

Best Practices

  • Keep it simple.  If users of your site cannot find what they are looking for within a few seconds, they will generally go elsewhere.  Make it as easy as possible for them to navigate.
  • Use Google Analytics to analyze viewer behavior.  If you notice viewers leave your site after a few seconds, find out why and fix it.
  • Keep it up-to-date.  Review your site frequently to ensure content is fresh and current.
  • Test your site.  Have a variety of people test usability and report on what they liked and didn’t like about your site.  Ask everyone from your tech-savvy cousin to your grandmother to check it out.