For reasons both personal and professional, I see a lot of websites. Additionally, as I look around, I see more web designers than ever before. However, for every really impressive website I see, I see three that make me pull my hair out for reasons that are all easily avoidable. Think about it...you've probably seen some of these too:
• The triumph of form over function
This seems to be the one I see the most often. A website design that is simply awesome at first glance but, after that incredible intro page (that often takes far too long to load for even the fastest computer and web connection) there's no follow through, leaving one having to look too hard for what one came to the site to find. In the Internet age, a user's attention span can often equal that of a four year old and, if a website frustrates a user right off the bat, chances are pretty good he or she will move on pretty quickly.
• Information Overload
Though it could be lumped into the category above, the website creating information overload does just that; there are so many links (be they vaguely titled or simply lacking what the link title promises) and sub menus that a visitor can't quickly find what they're looking for. Just because you have the bandwidth available doesn't mean you have to use all of it sharing every little detail about your company, product, or service.
• The "Coming Soon" That Never Comes
With all the web designers out there these days, it's not hard to put up a website. However putting up a website that says "Under Construction" or "Coming Soon" and leaving it up for more than 10 days is just a waste of both your time and the potential website visitor's time. What's true in life is true on the web: You only get once chance to make a good first impression. If your website remains nothing but a "Coming Soon" sign for too long, don't expect visitors to keep coming back.
So, how do you avoid being lumped into one of the above categories? Consider that a good website should be like a sign in a retail store, in that it should inform, direct, and/or promote. In this day and age, your website may often be the first contact you have with your customers, so make sure it provides pertinent information in an easily accessible format. Remember that a snazzy web design won't tell your customers a thing about your business, other than the fact that you hired a good designer. If they take the time to visit your site, make it easy to find the answers to the questions they might have. If you're not sure what to provide, consider answering the questions you hear most in the office and/or on the phone.
All that good information can go to waste, however, if your customers can't find it once they get to your website. Hence, make sure your website also offers a flow directing visitors to what they're looking. I can't tell you how many times I've landed on a website following a link or banner ad, only to discover the hook that drew me in is nowhere in sight, leaving me to search around to find what brought me there in the first place. Just as a brick and mortar retailer will put his sale items at the front of the store, a good website puts its' main attraction(s) front and center.
Finally, make sure your website actively promotes your business. Simply putting up a website with photos of your business and About Us and Contact Us links won't cut it. Remember that your web copy needs to sell your business, goods, or services. And though the person who designs your website may be an HTML wizard, it doesn't mean he or she is capable of writing effective promotional copy. If you or someone on your staff can write it, great! If not, find a professional copywriter who can, because what doesn't effectively promote your business is a waste of your bandwidth and your customers' time.
With all that said, remember that there are plenty of websites out there that are both eye-catching and effective. Now, consider your own website. Does it offer your information to visitors in an easily accessible format? Does it make it easy for visitors to find what they're looking for? Finally, does it tell your story and promote your business?
There are a lot of websites out there that can really dance. But if your website isn't dancing and singing, then it may time to look for a producer for your company's web show.
Once, while trying to solicit some business, a Copywriter/Creative Director looked at my portfolio and said, "You're not a poet." While I understood his meaning, I've always tried to emphasize performance over poetry in my work. (Plus, you rarely see Maya Angelou schlepping Hefty Trash Bags.) Thus, "You're not a poet" became both a badge of honor and a rallying cry. So, what follows are random thoughts on advertising, alarming alliteration, a plethora of punditry, and absolutely no poetry!
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Spin A Website That Will Catch Customers!
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