We have reached the end of our series! Its true, so many little things can ruin your entire website. In the series I tried to touch on each of the most common pages businesses place on their site and then discusses the top ten worst things for each. Here we'll do a quick summary of those lists.
But what I want you to take away is this: your website is part of your branding. Make sure every page, every line of text exemplifies who you are as a company. That's the best way to create a great website.
Blogging has become an essential part of good online marketing. Most people have either connected a blog to their site or link to one hosted elsewhere. A blog page has many different aspects, which makes it easy to ruin. Here are my top ten:
1. Hiding the RSS feed
No visible RSS feed might be the most frustrating thing ever. If I find a blog that inspires me, I want to subscribe right then. If I search for 5 minutes and can't find the feed, I'll probably leave and never come back. If you want to retain readers, keep your RSS feed at the top and bottom of your page. (Also, consider offering email subscription, too.)
2. Captcha doesn't work to comment
I admit, I am guilty of this one. For two months no one could leave comments on posts because my captcha created impossible to decipher words. Finally someone told me and I fixed the problem. Check your captcha!
3. Requiring a log-in to comment
Most Wordpress blogs don't require a log-in unless you add a plugin for that, but some other blogs do. Sure, this deters spam, but it also deters serious responses. I know I will usually fore-go commenting if I have to take an extra step. Note: this is not because I am lazy, but because I am busy. Forcing people to log-in disrespects their time.
4. No structure in posts
Some blog pages show just part of a post, while others show the entire thing. I don't really have a preference, but if you show an entire post, make sure to give it structure. (Actually, give it structure anyhow.) By structure I mean paragraph breaks, headings... They call it, letting your writing "breathe." People except one idea to stop before you begin the next one. Structure helps signify those changes.
5. Design doesn't mesh with website
Sometimes blogs are embedded into a site, or just linked to the main page from another host. The design of the blog may not match the rest of the site. The clash of designs can range from disjointed branding to omg-my-eyes-are-burning. Strongly consider integrating your blog; or at least matching your blog with the rest of your site.
6. Blog content doesn't match goal of website
Your blog should play a part in your marketing. If your blog content is too personal or isn't useful to clients its not functioning in your favor. Make every post work for you in some way. Sit down and think about the goal of your website and your blog. They should be complimentary.
7. Fifth grade writing skills - sometimes you should pay for content
Not everyone can boast beautiful writing technique. I don't mean you need an English degree or the best grammar. Just make sure your writing is readable. If you just don't have good writing skills, consider hiring someone or buying content. Don't give up on a blog just because you can't spell, but if you're not willing to invest the time, pay someone else to.
8. Not using your own work (or at least claiming its yours when it isn't)
DO. NOT. STEAL. Copying may be the highest form of flattery but its not worth it. If you get caught, imagine how that would destroy your credibility. Plus its just wrong. You can point to other blogs and even quote them, just link back and give credit.
9. Not taking advantage of Titles
Even if you don't display entire posts on your blog page, readers will at least be able to see titles. Use your titles to keep people clicking! This is a great way to convert a causal browser into a possible client. Your posts may already have good information, but your titles aren't urging people to click RIGHT NOW!
It happens far too often. You spend hours adding links to your blogroll. You play with all the fun plugins and options. Its easy to suddenly have a blog just covered in random crap. Live by this rule, only add things you would click on someone else's blog.
So ends our series on How to Ruin Your Website! Was there any particular page you would have liked to cover? Which page do you struggle with?
Not all sites have an e-commerce section, but many do. Today, in our continuation of the Top 10 ways to Ruin your website series, I want to talk a little bit about your "shopping cart". Any e-commerce site has multiple sections from how products are laid-out to payment options, but I just want to focus on getting through the "cart" area, in other words the process it takes to get from a product to a sale. Not all e-commerce solutions offer flexibility, some are straight-out-of-the-box so to speak. But when you are making the decision, look out for these top ten.
1. Log-in Hell
I understand the need to have customers "log-in" so that you can have their information and contact details. But, this process should be as simple and intuitive as possible. If the log-in frustrates a customer they may give-up and never come back. If you require membership, give your clients an option to sign-up as part of their check-out process.
2. Not saving contact information
Give clients the option to save their information (leave me logged-in, remember my password, that kind of thing). Nowadays we all have 573 passwords we're supposed to remember. Don't let the reason you missed a sale be because a customer forgot how to log-in.
3. Deleting everything when there's an input error
This may be a personal issue but I really hate it when I spend 10 minutes carefully filling out my contact information, my credit card, etc. and then I mistype one number and the page reloads saying: there was an error with your credit card. Then, all the information I painstakingly added, vanishes. I have to do it all over again. This alone has made me give-up and use a different website before.
4. Not making the cart front and center
I don't see this often, so when I do, it stumps me. Put a link saying "Buy now!" next to every product. There should as many opportunities to click to purchase as possible. This does not mean tricking the client into purchasing, but it means make it easy to get the money.
5. Not giving prices up front
Prices vary for a number of reasons: tax, shipping, bulk ordering. However, simplify the question of cost as much as you can. Let them know if tax will be added. Give them an idea of what shipping costs average. Do not let the final charge completely surprise them. Also, make sure you include prices next to each item in a highly visible way.
6. Making the process more than 3 steps
If it takes more than 3 clicks to get from the product to making the payment, you need to simplify. Places you can cut:
consolidate like information (shipping & tax, membership & credit card information)
cut out unnecessary personal information requests
only ask for approval to bill their credit card once
Send an email confirmation instead of a page they can print
7. Long Load time
An e-commerce site may have heavy back-end coding. The reasons vary from lots of products to automated systems. These things can cause a slower load time. This is a hard problem to fix. You may need to find a new program or solution if wait time becomes an issue. Not all shopping carts are created equal. Don't lose clients because your page won't load.
8. No options:
The average person excepts your site to cater to them. Make sure to give them options. Marketing used to follow the rule: ask forgiveness, not permission. That philosophy went out with the 90s. Now people want to choose. So be sure to offer choices. You have a newsletter? Let them opt-in or out. Give them the opportunity to save their password, or let the site remember their log-in (or even keep them logged in for a period of time). Do they want an email receipt? Why not ask instead of assuming. These are just a few examples of options you can give your customers.
It happens. One misplaced bracket and it throws off the whole page. Check for coding errors. E-commerce requires multiple facets therefore it require extra time to debug. Don't be surprised if your web company charges extra to check these things, or be willing to walk through yourself.
10. Charging the wrong amount
The worst glitch that can ever happen is charging someone the wrong amount. If you charge too little, you have to charge a second time. If you charge too much, you have a pissed off customer. Much like site errors, these things sometimes happen. The best I advice I can offer you is deal with it immediately. As soon as the error becomes obvious, fix it.
I hate to add this but I will. Sometimes companies charge the wrong amount on purpose. They add a few cents or charge twice, just to see if the customer double checks. Its wrong. Don't do it. And if you ever do it and get caught, you'll be lucky to still have a company, so make sure to be honest.
How about some examples of good shopping experiences. If you spend money online, who do you like to shop with?
The next important page we'll deal with in our Top 10 Ways to Ruin Your Website series is the Contact page. Most websites have one. Usually a Contact page consists of some kind of form and also a list of other ways to connect with your business. So how does one screw up something so simple? Easy. Let's discuss the top reasons how.
1. Wrong Information:
Have you ever had this happen? You go to a Contact page, dial the listed number and get that lovely lady's voice on the other end: I'm sorry, the number you are trying to reach is no longer in service. (She sounds so pleased with herself, doesn't she?) If you change your number, update your site. There's no easier way to lose a client.
2. No Information:
Better even than wrong information, is none at all. You're excited about the company, you're ready to talk to them but... no contact information. This is particularly annoying when there is a contact form but no one answers your requests.
3. Contact form error:
Check your site. Make sure it works. Click through everything. If your contact form displays an error when they message you (even if the message actually gets through) a possible client can get very frustrated, even if the problem out of your control.
4. Never hooking up your email to your form:
A contact form must be connected to an email address. However, you can set-up a form without linking it to an email. In fact, funny story, we set one up for a client once and he gave us the email he wanted the message forwarded to. The problem was, he didn't actually have that email set up with his host. Lesson here: you do not magically have an email called email@example.com you can send things to. You set that up or pay a web company to do it for you.
5. Never checking the email connected to your contact form:
This isn't really a problem with the Contact page its self, but its worth mentioning. Actually I wrote a post just on contact forms a few months ago that talks more about this. If you have a contact form, check the email it goes to. Or connect it to your outlook, or forward it to an email you actually check, but make sure you get those messages! I know people who missed opportunities because they didn't stay on top of their contact form.
6. Requiring someone's birth certificate before they can use your form:
Okay, so I'm exaggerating a little. But you've seen what I mean. The contact form requires certain information (usually denoted with a "*") before you can hit send. Now, I agree, its a good idea to require some information, like an email or phone number so you can get back in touch with people, but don't expect people to give you their life story and social security number just to ask one question.
7. Making the form look too long:
This kinda pairs up with #6. You don't want to scare people away by requiring too much from them. If the form scrolls down two pages I'm probably going to skip it and look for another way to get in touch with you. Most people contact companies through websites to either immediately fill a need or ask basic questions. There should be as few roadblocks as possible to get in touch with you.
8. Hiding your phone number:
Apart from wrong information and no information there is much more sinister: purposefully hidden information. For some reason, certain companies only want feedback through one channel. So they put a phone number up but they hide it at the bottom or it takes two clicks to get to. Or they hide their email, or they hide everything but the sacred contact form. My thoughts are, give people as many ways to contact you as possible, but if you have a preferred method, list it. Or let them know that your response will be via your preferred contact method. AKA, please include you phone number in your email so we can call you back.
9. Excessive Text:
I'm not sure why people feel the need to write an introduction paragraph to their Contact page. But then again, I'm a fan of simplicity. It says (or should say) Contact at the very top of the page, isn't that enough ? But if you feel you must preface your information, than do so minimally. Get to the point as quickly as possible. Make sure your information or form still shows up on the screen without having to scroll down.
10. TMI (Too Much Information):
I mentioned earlier, you give people as many avenues to contact you as possible. But I want to add a disclaimer. Don't overwhelm people. Don't list 7 different phone number with no explanation. Don't list a bunch of names and then their emails addresses with their department. Make sure not to overload people, sometimes they just want to send one generic email and be done with it. Give your customers that option.
Note: If you do any trouble-shooting or have a customer service department you Contact page is SO MUCH MORE IMPORTANT! Everything I say here should be in bold for you.
Do you get contacted through your website? If so, which method do people use most often?
In continuation of our series on Top 10 Ways to Ruin Your Website, we'll deal with your About page next. Its a fitting next step from the Home Page post since its the second most common page on a website.
1. Huge pictures of you, in classic Realtor style
I'm not sure what it is about Realtors, but they really, really seem to like big pictures of themselves in business suits. Somehow they always manage to make their website look tacky and self-promoting (like Peter Klaven or something) . I know, their business requires a certain amount of self-branding, but at least try to make your photos look interesting. Random headshots of you smiling fakely won't win you extra points. (For laughs, here are the 10 Worst Realtor headshots, just in case you have never seen a Realtor's About page before.)
2. Writing for yourself not your audience
An About page can become an exercise in polishing your ego. Whether the page exists for business or personal reasons it needs to convey important information, not just look-at-me-and-how-awesome-I-am-ness. If you won some great awards, post it. If your company history differentiates you from the competition, share it. But don't spend two paragraphs on the how much your mommy loves you. There's a big difference between being ego-centric and informative.
3. Removing distinction between you and your company
I once went to a fantastic branding seminar by Kathy Garland (seriously, see her speak if you can). She talked about branding for your business and your personal branding. Sometimes your company comes with a lot of "you" in it. If so, express that. Giovanni's site is a great example of this. However, if your company has employees of any kind, you probably want to ease back on the Look-at-Me approach unless you include everyone. Stick to company facts.
4. Text over load
Include your year established, your specialties and maybe some highlights of your time in business on your About page. Realize than anything beyond that is fluff. If you write more than two paragraphs you run the risk of scaring your potential clients away. No one wants to read a history book when they just need a few details. If you worry a client might need more information than what you provide, just add a link to contact you directly.
5. Being Boring
Unfortunately most About pages sound the same as everyone else's. Even across industries, companies repeat the same drab cliques on their About page. La, la, la, la, this company has you in mind, la, la, la, la, we serve our customers first, la, la, la, we're awesome. If you write an About page, write something worth reading.
6. Not optimized
Optimize your About page with your text. Google pays attention to "searchable content" on your site. So if your about page doesn't use any of the words you want to be found for, you missed the boat. Think about words you want people to associate with your company. Words they might put into a search. For example, instead of mechanic, they put reliable mechanic or cheap mechanic or mechanic in Dallas. Then make sure to mention those words in your About page.
7. Repetition from Home Page
Don't make your About page just a repeat of your Welcome speech on the homepage. Nor should it be just an extension. Keep your elevator speech and your branding on the front page and use your About to tell your history and highlights as a company. This page does not exist to snag clients, this is the "read more" section.
8. No formatting
Basic as it sounds, many About pages have no format. A ton of effort gets put on the homepage, arranging stuff, then the About page has an image and a block of text. Set things up nicely. Draw the eye. Design still counts on every page and yeah, use paragraph breaks.
9. Failure to highlight the important part
Look, when a possible clients gets to your about page, they want to know more. They are looking for something deeper. A lot of times they read About pages to compare to other companies. Don't just give them a page all about you and not anything about why you started the company. They are specifically looking for background or what separates you from the competition. So give it to them.
10. No Purpose
Don't create an About page, just because you think you need one. Have a specific purpose for that page. Decide ahead of time what you are using that page for (awards? history? why the company was started? listing projects or people who you've worked with? what makes you different? your specialties?) then make it happen. Don't just put a list of random things you thought up while waiting in line at Starbucks. Write each word with purpose in mind.
Note: Its completely okay to skip the About page. More and more companies do it. They let their other pages say what an about page usually does. Or they label their About page with the purpose (aka, having a Services page to discuss that in-depth and a History page to give more background, or better yet a page just saying: why choose us?). Or they skip it all together and blog. Its really worth considering breaking the mold. Do you NEED an About page, or will those words look better under a different title?
Got an example of a terrible About page or photo. Share the link for all to giggle at!