We encounter so many bad websites. And so many developers who build bad websites. And so many business owners who waste their marketing budgets on websites that have no hope of bringing in business. So here I’m going to tell it like it is. Enough with pussyfooting around because the customer is always right – don’t do this to your website.
1. I can’t read your website on my mobile phone
40% of internet browsing in South Africa is now done on mobile devices. You must have a website that is easy to view on mobile and tablet screens. If you want to rank on Google, it’s a primary requirement – because Google actually penalises those sites that aren’t mobile optimised. So if you’ve gone to the trouble of updating your old site with SEO, but you’ve kept the old unresponsive design, you will have wasted your money.
2. Your site is slow to load
Actually, if I have to spend more than a few seconds watching that little circle going round & round, I move on. And so will all your visitors.
Less is more. Stay away from busy, gaudy backgrounds; don’t crowd unnecessary images onto your site; get your developer to optimise the images and the code for faster loading times. Best not to have more than 3 or 4 big slider images on your page. In fact, the trend is already moving towards just one great header image on a page because users get irritated and distracted by the constant movement of sliders.
If you have a big gallery of images, set it up on Facebook or Pinterest; a link on your website can direct users to view your images there.
3. The text is difficult to read
Font size too small, colour too light, not much variation between headings and body text, too much text, no sub-headings, long paragraphs, long sentences, formal and long-winded style. These are all guaranteed to put the user off.
Everything on the web must be an easy and quick read. And if you publish longer articles or detailed studies, then make it accessible for the reader – use large font, photos, infographics, generous white space, frequent sub-headings. People scan and skim-read on screen; make it easy for them.
4. White text on a dark background
Quelle horreur!! This is such a terrible mistake. Have you ever seen a newspaper where all the pages are in black and the text in white? No? There’s a very good reason for this. It’s because reversed out text, i.e. white text on a dark background is difficult to read.
Many developers don’t get this and will happily create vast tracks of dark backgrounds with white or lighter coloured text just because their clients ask for it. You can get away with it for a headline or a short paragraph that needs to stand out from the rest, but never apply this to the body text on your site.
5. No SEO (search engine optimisation)
Now you might have your reasons for why you think you don’t need SEO (the most common one we get is that the site will just be an online brochure for the people who already know you). So you don’t bother with it – after all, you need to keep your costs down …
But it’s marketing suicide. It’s as short-sighted as not listing your business phone number in the telephone directory (in pre-internet days) because people know where your shop is! Just get over your resistance to SEO and let the professionals make it easy for people to look you up online.
6. Bad page titles
This is another SEO mistake. Imagine a user has a lot of tabs open on his screen. He wants to click back to your page, but he can’t find it because your tab says “Home Page” instead of “Affordable and Reliable Furniture Removals | Mini & Maxi Movers.” Get it?
Furthermore, Google can’t get it either if you don’t have keywords in your page titles. Page titles are the first thing to be crawled after your domain name. It’s the #1 step for SEO.
7. Your site is stagnant
You created it in 2012 and you’ve done nothing to it since then. No news, no articles, no new projects, no promotions, no price changes, no new products, no tips & insights. Nyet. Nada.
Users are not stupid. They can see immediately when information is stale. And Google can see this too. In fact, a site like this will probably rank on page 1,329 in the search results. You’re certainly not getting any return on that particular investment.
8. You have broken links
This is probably the worst mistake of the lot. Imagine you are actually sufficiently interested in something on a website that you click through to more information, only to get a 404 error, page not found. How would you respond?
Regular maintenance on your site is essential. Pay a technician the fee for one or two hours a month to check the site, fix broken links, do the updates and backups, and monitor the security. A website is a technical tool – it needs to be serviced if you want it to work properly.
9. Poorly Designed Sales Landing Pages
I confess this next paragraph was written by Theresa Sheridan – I can’t say it better than she does:
“To me, this falls into the same category as monster truck commercials, used car salesmen, fingernails on a chalkboard and infomercials……you get the idea. It is non-stop scrolling and scrolling to read all about a certain product and how great it is, and miles of scrolling later, you finally get to the bottom line.”
We all need sales pages and landing pages (this is a page dedicated specifically to a product offer). But people don’t want a life story when they’re trying to make a purchase or download decision. Use other pages on your website to expand on your authority and credentials. Your landing page or sales page should be short & sweet; stick to the relevant benefits and vital information, and put in a strong call to action to help the visitor to make a quick decision.
10. You wrote the content yourself
Let me guess! You know your business better than anyone else so you know exactly what to say. You don’t need some copywriter to tell you. Sure, someone can check the grammar and spelling, but no need for anything else.
So the website content has no keywords, no catchy headlines, no focus on what the customer actually needs, no compelling calls to action, no stand out information, no personality, no energy.
Worst of all, when someone lands on your site for the first time, they first thing they see is a welcome note in big letters, like “Welcome to Dube Cold Meats.” Eish. Rather make it “We produce prime quality cold meats for the hospitality sector in Gauteng” – then visitors will know immediately whether they have found what they need.
Talking about stale content, I wrote a short piece of advice about website content in June 2014, but it’s still just as valid today. You can read it here.