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Not to be harsh, but the reality is that plenty of businesses out there are running websites that do a serious disservice to their brand images. Whether it’s because their designs haven’t been updated in the past decade or that their sites don’t render properly in a mobile environment, it’s important to be aware of the pitfalls that affect both beginning and more experienced website owners.
Let’s get right to it: here are 23 reasons your website sucks – along with recommendations on how to fix the specific issues that are currently plaguing your site:
Your Website’s Design
1. Your site’s design is outdated – It isn’t 1996 anymore! If your site is packed full of frames, beveled-edge tables and animated gifs, it’s time for a redesign. Given the number of website templates and website building programs that are available today, this redesign doesn’t have to break your budget!
2. Your design elements are distracting – Your website’s design should complement its content, not overpower it. If you’re concerned that your message might not be getting through, ask test subjects to take the “5 second test” to determine whether or not your design elements are too distracting.
3. Important information is buried beneath the fold – The average new visitor only spends a few seconds deciding whether to stay on your site or to browse elsewhere. If your site’s most important information is buried beneath the fold, there’s a good chance it’s being missed.
4. You’ve used too many ads – When used tastefully, ads can generate extra revenue streams that support your web business. But when they’re abused, they become a visual assault that turns off visitors and prevents them from engaging further with your website.
5. Your site lacks white space – Adequate white space provides the visual relief needed to make website text readable. If you’ve crammed too many elements into a single page – whether it’s too much text or too many design elements – the absence of white space frustrates users and causes them to click away before they can engage with your business.
6. Your text is difficult to read – Using fonts that are smaller than 12pt or that are printed against a background color without sufficient contrast (as in the case of black text on a red background) is an easy way to annoy your visitors by making your site’s information harder to consume than truly necessary.
7. You still use a Flash intro – Yes, I know your Flash intro looks “fancy,” but the reality is that these splash pages annoy users and complicate site access on mobile devices that don’t support the animation program. Get with the times, and get rid of this unnecessary website feature!
8. Your color choices don’t support your site’s goals – Different colors evoke very different emotions in website visitors, which is why it’s important to utilize the principles of color science in your website’s design. As an example, your personal finance website shouldn’t be built using reds and purples – instead, for best results; it should feature the color green, which is mentally associated with both wealth and money.
9. Your site auto-plays audio or video clips – Nothing pisses off website visitors quite like audio or video clips that start playing unexpectedly. While clips without auto-play run the risk of not being viewed, sites that use automated multimedia stand a much greater chance of having visitors click away before engaging in their content.
10. You have no clear calls-to-action – If you want your website visitors to do something (for example, buy your products or sign up for your email newsletter), you’ve got to tell them to do it! Adding calls-to-action to support your site’s primary goals is an important part of running a profitable website.
11. Your design elements prohibit proper search engine indexing – In order to get your website listed in the natural search results, it needs to be accessible to the search engines’ indexing programs (or “spiders”). Because plenty of different coded elements can prevent this from occurring, it’s a good idea to check your website against the Search Engine Spider Simulator. If your site’s content doesn’t appear, analyze your code to determine what’s preventing the search engines from properly accessing your website.
12. Your site isn’t cross-browser compatible – Don’t just build your website in one browser and assume it’ll work well in all the others. Instead, check your site using a tool like Browser Shots to ensure that all viewers see the same thing.
Your Site’s User Experience
13. Your site’s content isn’t well-organized – Finding information on your site shouldn’t be some sort of “Where’s Waldo” scavenger hunt. Spend some time making sure that your page organization is intuitive and well-thought out so that your users don’t have to spend time bouncing from page to page looking for the information they want.
14. Your website is slow to load – Simply put, long load times irritate users. There are a number of different things you can do to speed up your site, but if you don’t take the time to implement these techniques, chances are you’ll continue to lose visitors over your modem-like load times.
15. Your site contains too many broken links – Broken links aren’t just a disadvantage from an SEO standpoint – they’re also hugely frustrating for users who rely on your site’s internal links to find the content they want. Depending on the platform your site is built on, there are plenty of different broken link checking tools available; give one a try today and clean up any broken links you find.
16. Your content contains grammatical errors and misspellings – Nothing says, “I’m a trusted authority figure in my industry,” like a website that’s chock-full of errors… If you aren’t able to effectively proofread your own content, ask a trusted friend or family member to give your text a once-over in order to uncover any damaging mistakes.
17. Your content brings nothing new to the table – Ideally, if you’ve built a website, it’s because you have something new to offer the world – whether that’s a new product or a new idea to share. If you’re only regurgitating what you’ve seen on other sites, there’s no reason for visitors to come back time and again in order to engage with your brand.
18. Your site hasn’t been updated in months – Website visitors don’t trust sites that haven’t been updated in months. So if your sales or traffic are sluggish, it might be time for a new blog post, news update or other new article.
19. Your navigation is confusing to visitors – Your site’s navigation bar should help visitors to more easily find the information they’re looking for – not send them on a wild goose chase of disorganization. To figure out whether or not your site’s navigation is effectively helping visitors to peruse your content, ask a friend to try to find a specific piece of information on your website. If it takes more than a minute or two of searching, you’ve got navigation problems that need to be resolved.
20. You haven’t installed social sharing tools – Having visitors share your articles on social media websites is a great way to promote your brand and drum up new visitors. However, readers aren’t usually willing to go out of their way to do this, so make the process as easy as possible by installing social sharing tools that appear alongside your individual articles.
21. Your site isn’t mobile-ready – Mobile web usage is booming, and if your website doesn’t display properly on these devices, you’re needlessly frustrating visitors and likely losing business as a result. Thanks to tools like GoMobi, creating a mobile-ready website has never been easier. Talk to your web developer about the various tools that can be installed to make your site more device-friendly.
22. You aren’t enrolled in Google’s Webmaster Tools program – The Google Webmaster Tools program offers a wealth of information to participating site owners, including the ability to receive messages directly from Google should your site violate the engine’s Terms of Service. It’s free to enroll in Webmaster Tools, so get signed up today!
23. Your site’s platform and plugins are out-of-date – Platforms and plugins that are out-of-date not only represent potential user experience issues, they can bring about major security risks as well. Do both your site’s performance and your users a favor by periodically checking to be sure any scripts you have installed are up-to-date.
If this list sounds overwhelming, don’t panic. Many of these issues can be solved with a single change – as in the case of upgrading your outdated design to a responsive website template whose colors better suit your brand and enable easy mobile access.
But whether or not your site’s issues are the “easy to fix” kind or something a little more complicated, it’s important that you regularly address all of these concerns and make updates as needed. The process may be time-consuming, but it’s a vital part of maintaining your brand’s authority and your site’s overall performance.
(This article originally appeared in Gator Crossing, The Official HostGator Blog.)