The 7 deadly sins on your website

Spiders webIt’s astonishing how few people actually THINK about their website visitors when they’re planning out their websites.  That’s why many websites don’t work; they’re focused on the website owner not the potential customer!

Try and put yourself in your potential clients’ shoes and think about what they are looking for when they arrive on your site.

  • How easy is it for them to work out if the website is likely to give them what they want?
  • How easy is it for them to find the product or service or information they were looking for?
  • How persuasive is the copy that is about that product or service?
  • How compelling are the benefits to the potential client?
  • How visible is the call to action?

So here are the 7 deadly sins:

  1. Too much going on.  This confuses your potential customer as they don’t know where to start and it means they have to think and make decisions – much too difficult!  They might just hit the back button and go somewhere easier to process.  Clean up your act – trim the number of options down to 2 or 3 and give the reader something to lead them towards those choices.
  2. No headline to engage them.  Welcome to our website is not a headline, neither is Home, or About or Services.  They are simply wasting prime real estate that you could use to tell your reader that there are lots of exciting goodies on this website and tempt them to explore a bit.
  3. Creative menus.  I know that Services is boring and What we do sounds better than About, but people know what these boring menu tabs mean.  They don’t have to think about it at all, they just click and they’re where they want to be.  Besides anything that has ‘we’ in it on a website is obviously nothing to do with your reader.  If you get too clever with menu names, people don’t understand them and often don’t bother clicking on them.
  4. We this and we that …  This may sound rather rude, but as a visitor to your website I am not at all interested in what you do – only in what I get.  So we do this and we do that doesn’t connect with me at all.  Now when you start talking about You can have this, or You’ll find that … I’m paying a lot more attention now you’re encouraging me to imagine what it would be like with your product or service in place.
  5. Copy that is flat, boring and unexciting.  How can you make widgets exciting? I hear you ask – well, if you desperately need a widget or your machine won’t work and people will be sitting around being paid for doing nothing, you should be able to find a way.  To write copy that really reaches your potential customer you need to know who they are – exactly – and you need to understand their problems, their wants and needs and then write content that persuades them that you can fix all that for them.  It’s all about ‘what’s in it for me?’
  6. Too much copy.  We’ve all heard about long copy websites, but they’re not brochure sites, they’re the sites that are virtually single page sales letters.  For ‘normal’ websites you need just enough content on the page to tell people enough to persuade them to take action.  They don’t need to know how you do what you do (any more than you need the detail of how the mechanic is going to fix your car).  They don’t need to know lots of details about your affiliations, awards and the hobbies of each member of your team.  They don’t need to know how proud you are of all your achievements (except perhaps on the About page – but briefly).  They just need to know ‘can you fix my problem?’ and ‘will it be fairly painless or, better still, enjoyable?’
  7. No call to action.  There are so many web pages where the message is quite clear until you get to the end and … nothing.  If you don’t tell me what to do next I might just flip to the next website on the list.  This means you need to know what you want people to do on each page of your website, then tell them to do it and make it easy for them so put the link under their nose don’t expect them to scroll about looking for the menu.

So that’s what not to do – just do the opposite to catch potential customers in your web.

5 tips on clicking and scrolling

Keyboard and mouseNo – not rocking and rolling – but the on screen equivalent!  Someone, somewhere made a ‘rule’ that you should be able to arrive at the page you want in no more than three clicks.  Then someone else also made a ‘rule’ that said a menu should not have more than nine or ten tabs on it.  If you have a website with a great deal of information the three click rule isn’t going to work here!

Then there’s yet another ‘rule’ that says that people won’t read more than two screens down a web page – so that means that pages have to have a small amount of information.  Besides, who decides how big the reading screen is?  In today’s world of smartphones, tablets, wide screens and notebooks how long is a screen?  Establishing where the ‘fold’ occurs is almost impossible.

So what is a poor website owner to do?  Here are my tips:

1.  Think carefully about the structure of your website before you start adding content (ideally before you ask a designer to create the visuals).

  • What is a logical arrangement of pages so that people can find what they are looking for easily?  
  • More clicks are better than more menu tabs, which many people just find overwhelming.  
  • However, the subpages need to be found under main menu choices that are obvious.

2.  Ensure you are clear on the purpose for each page .

  • What do you want your website visitor to DO when they’ve looked at the page?
  • How much information do you really need to give them in order to persuade them to do that?  
  • Only include the essentials – people don’t need to know how you do what you do, only what they get.  
  • And don’t forget your call to action.

3.  Don’t bury key pages in sub menus

  • You should include Home, About and Contact on the main menu.  
  • Also anything that you want people to find easily – FAQs, Case studies, blog.  It doesn’t mean that you can’t also link to these pages from other pages further down the pecking order on your menu, but if you think people will want to get to those quickly, put them where they can see them.

4.  Don’t fall into the trap of clever page names – stick to the obvious, it cuts down on people having to think about whether that page is what they think it is.  Some may not bother!

5.  If you have five services don’t create a page where they are all on a single page, one below the other.  

  • If they don’t see what they are looking for in the first screen or two, some people won’t bother to scroll any further and you could miss out on a lead.
  • Blogs and articles can have longer pages – people expect to see these on a scrollable page.

Just because tablets and smartphones are easier to scroll on don’t assume that everyone is viewing your site on one of these.  Acknowledge web-users comfort zones.  Make it easy for people to get around your site and it will work much  better for you.


Creating a website for your reader

Sometimes when I look at websites I wonder what the site owner was thinking when they put it together.  It’s rarely aimed at the reader.  If a website isn’t easy for the reader to understand quickly and find their way around easily, what else could it be for?

Hmmmm … no can’t think of anything else.

So does your website deliver for your visitors?  Check this list:

  • Nothing too whizzy with moving images that stop your reader actually reading about what’s on offer
  • A clear headline that gets their attention and creates enough interest for them to want to read further
  • Language that is focused on the reader (you) not on the site owner (we).  There’s nothing worse than ‘we do this, and we do that, and we are really wonderful’!
  • One menu with, maybe, some additional navigation to specific sections or pages.  Not one at the top, one at the side, one in the middle, one at the bottom, etc. etc.
  • Menu tabs with names that make sense to the reader – not just to someone who knows your industry well.  So no techie language or obscure terms.
  • Not too many choices on the home page to confuse your visitor.  Avoid the patchwork quilt effect with lots of boxes, icons, logos and links.
  • Interesting visual images – not nasty stock images that are the same as all your competitors sites.
  • A call to action on every page – and don’t ask people to do something and then expect them to search for what you’ve told them to do.  Page links embedded in the text, phone numbers right after ‘call us’ etc

This is all good common sense – but I guarantee most websites ignore it and lose lots of potential business simply because the visitor can’t be bothered working that hard to fathom it all out.


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