I started thinking about some of the common mistakes I see businesses make with their online presence. So I asked some of my social networks what their biggest pet-peeves were. Together we came up with a list of 100 blunders that businesses make with their online presence. (To make things simpler, I quoted people with their twitter or plurk alias and linked to the site on their profile.) Normally I don’t point to myself in my blog posts but today I’ll say if you see one of these errors on your site or the site of a loved one, feel free to contact Veribatim and we can help you out!
Now, without further ado, a really long list:
1. I typ gud: Typos happen. Make sure to have more than one person comb your site (or newsletter!) for errors. If someone emails you about an error: fix it!
“not sure it counts, but we decided against one local school for our son based on multiple spelling errors on the website.” -etherjammer
2. The Sleeper: It you’re just posting flat facts, don’t expect people to follow you hungry for more. If your business is +100 people, either find or hire someone to write your blog.
“BORING!!! damn.. how do people actually stay awake reading them???? you need CREATIVE WRITERS writing CREATIVELY. blogging is like sex- not everyone can do it right but everyone thinks they ROCK.” -reneguerrero
3. The “Duh” Moment: List your obvious important facts.
“Business sites tend to leave out the simple, important bits of info. LOTS of sites don’t list hours of operation, WTF?” -UnholyKnight
4. Ghost Town Blog: If you’re going to bother starting a blog, don’t post twice and then give up. Have a littler persistence.
“…lack of content.” -Tarliman
5. The Song that Never Ends: Back ground music can cause issues, especially without an obvious off button. A business site should never interrupt or annoy a client. Random midi files playing on repeat are the number one reason for me to leave a site.
6. Who’s There?: Why have a website if no one can call or email you? List relevant contact information.
7. Who’s There? Part 2: Contact forms: It doesn’t work, goes to an unchecked email… whatever. Its almost worse than not having information up.
“…there’s no excuse for no contact form.” -ablereach
8. Flash Intro Fail: A flash intro can be a total waste of time, but if you’re going to put one in, at least add a skip button.
“Flash intros that have nothing to offer about the company, and then including a SKIP button. If you have a skip button, obviously it’s not all that important of a feature on the site.” -Glyphrunner
9. Nose to the Screen: Text that’s too small to read. 12 pt. font is the smallest you should go. I always have my parents tell me if they need their reading glasses for a frame of reference.
10. Dating Yourself: Make sure your site updates regularly, your information is current.
11. Imaginary Friends: If your company has changed staff, make sure you update the email address. This also applies to general info@ or contact@ emails. They aren’t much use to your client if no one actually checks them.
12. Rainbow Bright: Hot pink, neon green, brown… use normal conservative colors for your sites basics. If you desperately need an outrageous design, pick a bright accent color. But, seriously, your website shouldn’t look like a tye-dye T-shirt.
13. Ad-tastic: If you spam your readers with so many ads they can’t find your content, they may miss your site all together.
“Pop-ups and in addition too many adds squeezed into every corner of a website especially when all the ads have animation.” -williamedia
14. Home Run: Sometimes, basics are key. Have a home button or make your logo link back to your main page.
15. Treasure Hunt: Make information on your site easy to find. If one thing draws people to your site, put it front and center. Don’t bury info just to keep people around longer.
“Deliberately making contact info hard to find. Or deliberately hiding your phone number to encourage ppl to e-mail instead.” -Ginkgo
16. Disappearing Act: Don’t forget to keep current with your domain and hosting. Losing a domain to a squatter can hurt your business. Not to mention the cost of reprinting anything with your website on it.
17. Gophers: Many people put some kind of blocker on for pop-up ads, but even knowing they are there can hurt your reputation. Advertise some other way!
18. You’ve Got Mail: If you put your email somewhere on your site… Check it! Don’t leave a possible sale hanging!
19. The Nullifyer: The navigation on any website should be intuitive. Links should correspond logically and clearly.
“Biggest issue I run into, actually is Nav[igation]. If you can’t find or make your way around the site the content is meaningless.” -Big Poppa
20. Bad Spy: Stay far away from Tracking Cookies. It should be obvious why.
21. Private Club: Some sites require a log-in to access certain features. That’s great, but don’t make your entire site log-in protected, at least have an about section or some reasons why they should give you their email!
22. UnHooked: So what if someone comes to your site, checks out your blog, thinks everything looks cool but then they can’t “opt-in” for more information. Make sure your RSS feed is highly visible, that its simple to register for your newsletter, ect. If you’ve hooked ‘em, make sure to reel ‘em in!
23. Not-So-Invisible Cloak: Never, ever put “invisible” keywords on your webpage. Its tacky when someone scrolls down and Google will penalize you for trying to outsmart their bots.
24. Doesn’t Play Nice With Others: Occasionally a website won’t be tested for multiple browsers before going live, and even worse is when its meant for an obsolete version of Internet Explore. (Sidenote: Please update to your latest version if you haven’t!)
25. Twitchy: Be careful in using excessive animation on your site. Sure, it looks cool, but it can be distracting or take forever to load.
26. Impossible to Decode: Ever seen a captcha that was impossible to read? If you don’t know, good captchas look like this:
27. Dead-ended: Internal links that don’t work can be frustrating to a client. Make sure everything in your site goes where its supposed to.
28. Webslave: I can’t tell you the number of horror stories I’ve heard in the past from business owners who didn’t keep copies of all their information (logins, passwords, hosting company info), they just trusted their webmaster to take care of it all. Then one day the guy disappears, so suddenly they can’t change or fix anything. Or better yet, he does something to piss them off, and then decides to hold their site for ransom when they hire a new developer.
29. 3rd Grade Reading Level: Basic grammar, get some.
30. Write On: This goes with #29, but its more specific. If English is not your first language, please find someone to write your content. I have friends fluent in Spanish but they say they still have trouble writing complex documents. It’s just harder. Lots of great companies started outside of America, but I bet they hired English-speaking residents to make their site. Be professional, do it right.
31. Name Dropping: A few companies assume no one actually reads their site. So instead of writing understandable content, they write simply for SEO. Usually the site has a loose sentence structure and repeats keywords throughout: This Crocs sentence Nike is a Microsoft example.
32. But Mom Said I Could!: Remember when you were little and wanted to go out to a late movie? You asked your dad, and he said no. You ask your mom and she said yes. Then your mom and dad talked (they always did!). They find out you got a no but kept asking. Clients will do this too. So make sure all your internet verbage matches. If you write an email about a sale, make sure your website and store reflect that, and vice-vera. Keep all your literature consistent.
33. Subject to Change: If any information on your website has the risk of changing, at least put a visible notice somewhere on your site. Arguments over this just aren’t worth it.
34. Show me the Money: Be very careful about listing prices for products or services on your site. In fact, if you are not sure you can maintain the prices you list don’t list them at all.
35. The Rabbit Hole: Make sure the directions and map you put on your site are accurate. There is nothing more frustrating then getting lost even when you take the correct turn.
36. Dead Men Tell No Tales: Every once in a while check links you’ve created to external sites, even on your blog.
37. Unworthy Relationships: Some websites allow advertising on their site that undercuts what they are offering (aka adult material on a family site, or advertising someone who does the same thing as your site, etc.) These kinds of ads won’t sit well with possible clients.
38. Unworthy Relationships (Part II): The same thing but backwards: Advertising on sites that are unrelated to yours, it has the same result and probably won’t earn you much traffic.
39. UnProfessional Professional: I hate to be the one to say it, but most people think they can design and can’t. It’s something about the arts, people think they can sing (when they can’t) and do it anyhow, or write creatively… design is the same. Leave the designing to the pros. The same goes for coding, in truth, you can tell pretty quickly if a site was created by a web tutorial. Buckle down and find a pro if your business is important to you.
40. The Broken Watch: Some websites are technical wonders but force you to wait twenty minutes before you can see it. Your front page should load as close to “instant” as possible. Check in other browser and slower connections.
41. Mirror, Mirror, on the wall: If you must have a website built in flash, pay the extra money to put up an html mirror site. That way all your information remains searchable and Google friendly.
42. Attack of the PPC: If your company does “pay per click” advertising, spend the time and money researching the company. Don’t get scammed.
43. But it’s Pretty: Design and content should compliment each other. Don’t put a design on your site that’s unconnected to the subject. Certain designs make people think of certain things and you want the right emotions and images to be portrayed by your site. If you’re unsure get a professional (See #39). i.e. No fluffy bunnies on your business management consulting firm.
44. Mr. Personality: Be careful about crossing the line between personal and business information. If you are a one-man show your business may be directly connected with your personality and that’s fine, but make sure there’s still a space between the two. If you really want to share, keep a personal website that’s separate.
Pet Peeve: “personal stuff (not informed opinion but memes) on business sites” -classicalgeek
45. Seizure-Site: Keep bright flashing graphics to a minimum on your site. You’ve seen the painfully red to white transitions… it’s not a joke that these can cause seizures for some people. Image the lawsuits possible there.
46. Super-Sized: Your screen should never have more than one scroll bar. If you have supersized your text or images, or not left room for advertising… And if you do have it, please consider getting a real web designer who can fix this easily.
47. Framed: Frames, don’t do it. This makes your site look cheap (and it probably is).
48. No Way Home: Be careful about links that take your clients away from your site. Make sure it is obvious that they are not an internal link.
49. Window-Happy: Its one thing to have links open in a new tab, but new windows can take too much time to load and be distracting. Be care not to have your links open up with too many “pop-up windows”.
50. Naked Code: Ever open a page that looks like this:
This means no one actually looked at their pages before publishing them. Review your site!
51. Chain Links: It’s not very hard to create a hyper link. You know where there is underlined text describing the link instead of http://…. First, it looks cleaner and has more description. And it keeps you from having a link three lines long.
52. Opps, I meant to do that: Possibly worse than a dead link is a link that’s wrong. Though it is funny.
53. My eyes; they burn! Be careful about making your site too busy. Too much text, graphics and random clip art crammed into one page can make your client’s eyes bleed. Spread your concepts over multiple pages, it will keep them reading and stop them from stabbing out their own eyes with a spork.
54. Split Ends: Some sites cater to more than one audience, as in they have clients they want to sell to and vendors they want to carry products for. Trying to structure a site for more than one type of reader can be tricky at best, often this calls for having multiple sites, or splitting sites into portals. If you market to more than one audience make sure you aren’t confusing both groups and selling to none.
55. Under Construction: This blunder speaks for itself. Under construction should not be confused with “coming soon” or placement pages. Under construction pages are best withheld until they are completed. Putting up a “sign” with under construction on it and then leaving it for a year just promotes your company as having an inability to follow-through.
56. Shape-Shifter: It happens, you hire a company to build a website and you are unhappy with the results. Be careful though, not to hop through multiple companies and constantly change the design of your website. This can be disorienting. If you give your site a face-lift be sure to commit fully instead of flip-flopping to another company or template every month.
57. Text-Morph: Like the Shape-shifter, but with your content. If you completely change the information on your site regularly, reader will become confused and might even think the company or its owner ship has changed. If you like variety, get a blog.
58. Cheap: A word about templates. They look cheap. They aren’t good for your SEO. If you are going to bother paying for a website for your company, make sure to do it right.
59. TMI: TMI stands for “too much information”. No one needs to know the entire story of your company, every project and your financial history. Also, leave your audience wanting more, it helps start a conversation. Don’t over-indulge and scare people away.
60. The Single-Hitter: Don’t try to fit all your information in a single page. A page that scrolls down forever can be irritating to read. Space things out and keep people on your site. If you’re going to bother paying for a site, take time to have an about page, a contact page and a home page at least.
61. One of these things is not like the others: Navigation bars are a blessing. They can help organize your site and information in a way that makes sense to potential clients. So don’t screw it up! One of the more disorienting things on a website is when you click on the “products” page and end up at the map. Make sure your links go where they need to.
62. And now, for our feature presentation: Intro pages might be the most useless thing I’ve seen besides initial flash sequences. You’ve seen them: Click here to enter this site! Don’t make your reader click a second time to get to the meat of your site, make it the first thing they see.
63. WTF?: This should never be a reaction from a potential client. If someone spends a minute on your site, sixty seconds, they should be able to tell what it’s about. A confusing site does not result in sales. It might look artistic, or modern, or have a creative lead-in but if you can’t tell what the point is… you probably lost the sale.
64. Noise Violation: Don’t put instant start videos on your site. Having someone “walk” onto the screen and talk about your product is annoying. It’s also hard to turn off, so usually results in the immediate click of the back button. Most people multi-task while online, and interrupting their music, or podcast or news on TV will just irritate them. If you must have video, let the reader push “play”.
65. Here’s Your Sign: Don’t treat your potential client like an idiot. Sure, there are people out there who don’t understand a shopping cart, or how to use their credit card online, but that number continues to dwindle. Assume your reader has average intelligence and don’t belittle them. (Especially with emails that have questions-I’m looking at you tech companies! I already made sure my computer was plugged in!)
66. Legalese: Quite a few sites out there require some kind of legal jargon to use the site or download a product. If your site requires this go to a lawyer. Don’t download some agreement off the internet, get something real and specific to your company. If you ever have to fall back on the legal stuff, you want it to stand on its own.
67. Multiple Person-ality: It’s great to put testimonials on your site. Even better if you can get clients to write positive review on other sites (Google, forums, and so on). Not great if you do it yourself, pretending to be a customer. Even less, if you get caught.
68. Look! Its ME!: This one relates to #44. Just like you don’t want to intertwine business and personal information, be careful what kind of links you post on your site. Social media can get you in trouble this way. It’s fine to post these links, just make sure you keep them business friendly if you want to mix the two.
69. Bad User!: Sometimes, sarcasm bites. Check out a whole post about it from Chris aka etherjammer. This story made me cringe and laugh at the same time so I’m just linking to it instead of quoting Chris.
70. Selling Air: Many companies have an e-commerce part of their site. If you sell products online, be sure you have them in stock. It sounds like common sense but nothing is more frustrating than being told days later that what you ordered isn’t available anymore.
71. Gotcha: This happens on and off the internet: hidden fees. However, now hidden fees are synonymous with “shipping costs”. Be up front about them, make sure they appear on in your cart early on.
72. Wait a minute Mr. Postman: Don’t keep your clients waiting, if your company is small and not doing bulk shipping, you still need to ship on time. And if you do have any issues, send your client a friendly email explaining what’s up. This prevents angry phone calls later demanding where the product is.
73. Opt-In to Spam!: Most companies have learned to ask clients to opt-in instead of sending emails without asking. However, now, some companies think that by opting-in, clients have asked to be spammed. Be courteous with the private emails your subscribers give. Even if they “opt-in” they don’t want to hear from you every single day about the newest sale. Opt-in does not = free-for-all.
74. Help!: Once money gets on the table, people change. They become defensive, argumentative and snippy. That’s why if your site has an e-commerce section, make sure to have help specifically for that. Unfortunately, not all e-carts are simple to use, and if an error happens a client can become particularly frustrated since it involves their checkbook. Help stop internet anger at the source; link to FAQs.
75. Hi I’m -Insert Name Here-: Once, I interacted with a political party website. I emailed them though their contact page and got an auto-response. It said something along the lines of “thank you for emailing the — party of Texas, your email is important to us” and such. But at the end it said “Sincerely, Insert Signature and emblem here“. Obviously no one had read their auto-response. But I got a good laugh out of it.
76. The Doctor Will See You Now: I think “appointment” software is really cool. I love the idea of seeing when my doctor is available without ever being put on hold. But, if you’re going to use calendar software like that on your website, make sure it works! I have in the past month walked into an online appointment only to be told they didn’t have that in their books (even after I got an auto-confirmation email). So I ended up wasting over an hour and I won’t be using them again.
77. Stupid: I can’t think of anything better to call this one. It’s funnier when big companies do it, but I see small companies make this mistake all the time, too. Think before you say things about the internet. Don’t make generalities about the kinds of people who blog (when you have a company blog on your site) or about social media (when that’s where your target audience is) or other stupid technology comments that are just waiting to come back and bite you. You never know who’s listening.
78. Prove It: The internet is full of passwords, and that makes it easy to forget one or two. It happens. But some sites seem to ignore the fact that we’re human and require you to jump through a hundred hoops, list your social security, your mom’s maiden name, your address, the name of your dog who died ten years ago, your bank account and your high-school locker combination… and then you end up having to call tech-support to beg for your account back.
79. OCD: Don’t require every single detail of a person’s life before they can use your service or contact you. People often don’t want to share that much, it makes them nervous. People are also lazy and easily distracted, if you waste too much of their time they won’t bother.
80. Internet Killed the Video Star: It may just be a personal pet-peeve but I hate “dead” youtube links. That’s when you can see the embedded video, get all excited about watching it and then: This video is no longer available.
81. Cheating: Don’t cheat the system. Don’t put keywords in your code for popular search terms that don’t actually have anything to do with your site. Like “Paris Hilton” for your Rugby tips. Google will find you-and then you will pay!
82. Asymmetry: Make sure the graphics and designs on your website match the rest of your branding.
83. Comment Hate: Don’t misuse other people’s blogs as a place to spam your link. Create a link back to your site be leaving legitimate comments that others will read and click on.
84. Permission-Based Posting: Never put client information or comments on your website without seeking their permission first.
85. Rage on the Machine: If you have a blog or a comment form on your website, chances are you will get spam. You may also get “trolled”, where some one intentionally tries to make you angry for the fun of it. Never lose your temper in response to these things. Take a few minutes, breathe and let it go or just delete it.
86. Status Quo: Wait, you really don’t want to change? Shunning improvements will only hurt your company in the long run.
“Non-profits not willing to change to grow and improve only so that they can control things and keep them ‘average’.” -Clay_Harrison
87. Stock it to me: Ever clicked on the help or contact us section of a website and seen that stock picture of a woman on a headset, smiling? Yeah, it’s not original or reassuring.
“That stock photo of a woman call center employee. That screams cheesy!” -UnholyKnight
88. Spam your Friends!: Facebook apps are notorious for this. “You can only use this widget or service if you email it to ten friends!”
89. Frequently Unanswered Questions: If your site involves anything other than static information, you probably need an FAQ or help file. People get frustrated having to email you a question and wait for a response. By the time you get back to them they may have found another site.
90. The Ridiculous Question: Possibly the worst thing to hear when calling Customer Service is, “Have you been to our website?” I usually reply, “Yes, I’ve been on your website… that’s where I got this number.” If someone took the time to call, they want to talk to a person, not search for the answer on your site. Or better yet they already spent twenty minutes on your site and finally gave up.
91. Outsource Hell: If your site requires tech support or customer service, employee your own people there. Outsourcing has any number of issues. You can’t understand their accent, they don’t actually know anything about the company so they just give general answers, the client assumes you’re cheap… Hire people to answer your phones if you ever want repeat business.
“I don’t have any problems with people in India having a job, but quite honestly American companies need to use American call centers. If anything, it’ll improve the ability to understand the person on the other end.” -Glyphrunner
92. Download-n-Play: Avoid forcing your potential clients to download plug-ins. Shock-wave, Flash and other non-necessary space-eaters can deter traffic. If you do put valuable information in a plug-in make sure to put the same content in text form elsewhere.
93. 90s Retro: Keep away from anything on your site that screams “I was made in the 90s!” This includes hit counters, rotating icons, obviously tiled backgrounds and the pointless “guest” books.
94. www.thisisthecoolestwebsiteevah.com: The domain for yourcompany.com is not always available. And sometimes a short, quirky title can be even more effective, but make sure your domain is still related to your business.
95. Fonts R Fun: Business sites should have clear, easily readable text. Use special fonts, bolds, all caps, italics and underlining sparingly. Special Note: readers will assume underlined text is a link.
96. The Right side of the Line: Along with funny fonts, try to keep the alignment of your text the same through the site. If you center your text, do so everywhere. If you use quotes, do it the same everywhere on your site.
97. You are a Pirate!: Give credit where credit’s due. The internet is not like high school, failing to link or properly cite someone’s idea will not get you kicked out of school, but its still a form of plagerism. Link back to concepts that aren’t yours.
98. Turn off the Lights: If your company happens to go under, or you change your domain name, take down your site. Out-dated, abandoned sites are everywhere (which means someone is still paying for hosting… which confuses me). If you still have a site like this, take it down, make a note or forward the domain. If no one’s home, don’t leave the lights on.
99. I’m Cool: Despite all the things I’ve mentioned about keeping up with the times and talking to real internet professionals, you don’t have to be on the cutting edge of technology to have a great business presence online. Some companies try so hard to relate to the younger generations that they just end up looking silly (aka, Lolspeak does not automatically endear you to teenagers, nor does a Myspace page with lots of bling). A professional, informative website that comes across as earnest and approachable can be far more effective than poking everyone on Facebook.
100. Who needs good advice?: I actually got a lot of responses from my social media questions saying things like: “It irritates me when I try to help a company with <insert internet presence need here> and they won’t listen.” Not all of these people were professionals, some were just making suggestions. I know I’ve given free advice to companies last year who aren’t around this year. If someone offers you a suggestion or feedback, take it, or at least listen respectfully.
Bonus Blunder: After I wrote this list, I found one from Rammi, she hates “companies that aren’t friendly internationally. Not just the US has an Internet connection… lack of customer service overseas. I hate phoning premium-rate US numbers.” To which Glyphrunner replied: “Ahh. The amusing thing about that is that your call will just be routed to a center in India!”
Hope you enjoyed this list (laughed, cried, bothered reading all the way to the end). Have one to add? Feel free.