It’s 2010. The internet is neither new nor revolutionary anymore. Given this, why is it that so many of the website mistakes that were around in 1997 are still plaguing us today? Should we not know better by now?
1. “Welcome to our web site. We are a company who pride ourselves on our meticulous attention to detail, hard work ethic, and speedy response times.“
Yes. Great. But what can you do for me? What do you sell? How can your product solve my problems or improve my life?
Think about the last time you walked into a supermarket, or any other shop. Were you met at the door by a group of suited people who wanted to talk to you about their company ethos? Or were you perhaps instead greeted by colourful displays of tempting items, special offers, and seasonal goods? I’m betting it was the latter. Your website is a shop, too – if you want to sell your product, you’d do well to treat it like one.
2. “NEWS! Our software is now Windows 2000 compatible!“
Okay, maybe that is a slightly extreme example. Seriously, though, how often do you visit a website, discover it’s not been updated in a year or two, and leave? It’s a scenario that’s all too common. Maybe you have been working hard on your software and neglecting your website. Perhaps there have even been a couple of new releases, which a site visitor might discover if they venture deeper into the site. But if your index page has a cheerful little “New for 2008!” graphic and your latest blog post was in March last year, it does not look good.
3. “Contact us at email@example.com or PO BOX 123 12.“
You expect people to hand over their money without knowing who you are, and without any real means of contacting you? Honestly?
Online shopping might well be deemed mainstream and safe these days, but that doesn’t mean that your visitors have turned stupid. Far from it – they’re probably savvier than ever. If they discover that you’re unwilling to provide them with a phone number or a real address, they’re likely to be just as unwilling to provide you with their credit card details.
4. “Yes, I will tell you how much this product costs if you are willing to click your way to the seventh level of hell my website.“
Why are so many people scared of making their product price easy to find? Do they believe that by forcing their visitors to read umpteen pages of empty buzz words, they will then be too exhausted to realize that the $99 you’re asking is actually quite a bad deal?
If it was up to me, the starting price would always be prominently displayed on the index page. Chances are that your visitors are working within a budget, and don’t want to waste their time looking at a $5000 application when they can’t afford to spend more than $50. If pricing is complicated and depends on a variety of factors, fine – but please make sure your pricing structure is clearly displayed and no more than a click away from any given page.
5. “The graphics? Oh yes, I had a lot of help from my cousin, my neighbour’s wife and my pet hamster, but most of them I did myself.“
Of all the places to save money, I am constantly amazed by how many people choose their website graphics. If you use your site to keep a log of petrol costs for your radio-controlled boat, or to share the latest rail-related news with other trainspotting enthusiasts, fine. Use any old jpegs you find lying around. If, however, you’re hoping to make a serious impression and make some money from your software: use a graphic designer. Today.