Websites are the foundation of a good marketing platform and I spend hours of my life discussing & contemplating them. Too often, we become enamored with what is possible and lose sight of what is important. There are so many shiny gimmicks we could employ that it is essential we S-T-O-P and focus, lest our website become overloaded with the unnecessary and downright distracting.
Here are 12 things you should NEVER do if you want your new website visitor to stay on your site for more than a few seconds:
1. Require an email sign up to view your site
This is the equivalent of requiring people to sign into a brick and mortar store with their contact information. NO ONE would shop there. Think like Apple Stores: make it easy and comfortable and not only will they stay, they’ll return.
2. Forced video
This is so obvious it almost makes my head explode. Picture yourself sitting in your office waiting on an important client and sneaking a browse around the web all the while looking ‘busy.’ Bam! Someone’s voice is suddenly filling your office blowing your cover.
3. Forced music
The same principle as #2 applies here. No one should ever be forced to hear something they weren’t expecting for so many reasons I don’t need to explain.
4. Impossible to navigate
“Don’t Frustrate the Customer” is the golden rule of sales. Your website needs to be easy to move around; there’s nothing worse than finding a good page, navigating away, and having no idea how to get back. Simple is the key.
5. Pop up ads and surveys
Reading your valuable content only to be distracted by pop up ads means I leave, pronto. Surveys are something I’m seeing more and more of when I visit sites. That’s like running around asking everyone at a cocktail party for their phone number before they know your name. Remember how busy you are; do you have time for random surveys? Do everything you can to keep your visitor wanting more, not wanting to leave.
6. Links opening in the same window
Often this mistake is made do to programming ignorance and not intention, but under no circumstance should you draw your visitor away from your site with no easy way back. If you must have a link to an external site, make sure it opens in a separate window so your viewer can get back to you quickly. And take them away sparingly; they may not come back.
7. Too much text on the home page
Again, remember how busy everyone you know is and don’t fall in love with your own prose. Be direct, to the point and damn well interesting or you have no hope of keeping them there.
8. Visual overload
Please dear God… do not try to put every single thing your business does on your home page. Focused and clean is the goal. No one will read every single thing on one page anyway, so aim for bold and simple.
9. Nauseating movement
It is easy to become enamored with all that is possible rather than staying focused on what is important. Just because your programmer can make your logo spinning in 3D doesn’t mean she should. If it’s not essential, don’t do it. No gyrating graphic ever sold anything.
10. Impossible to locate contact information
Your website has replaced the phone book for most of us, and very often we visit your site so that we can call or email you. Make this easy and put it right out there in plain sight. If I have to look hard I might find someone else to do that job for me.
11. Too many affiliate ads
I think most people can appreciate that you may have ads on your site. Some of them even bring a sense of integrity and gravitas to your brand. Too many never does — it cries out ‘I don’t really care about you, customer, I’m in this for the passive dinero.’ Be careful.
12. Disrespecting the visitor’s time
You may have 295 fantastic pictures of your work, but trust me; they don’t all need to go on your website. Besides forcing the visitor to plow through them all it means your site takes FOREVER to load. What’s the one common denominator between every human being you know? They’re TOO BUSY! We don’t have time to wait for your site to upload.
These helpful hints may seem obvious but every one of us runs into the rule breakers on a daily basis and we most likely quickly click away. In a nutshell: keep it plain, keep it simple and always respect your visitor’s time.
What click-away annoyances have you come across?
Featured image courtesy of Έλενα Λαγαρία licensed via Creative Commons.
Photo illustration work: Paul Biedermann, re:DESIGN