By Robert C. Potter
Does your Web site keep people captivated, or does it send them fleeing as soon as they get to your home page? Do you offend your visitors with the following annoyances?
1. Automatic audio. Always give people the option of listening to any music or recorded information you have on your site. Don’t automatically assume that your visitors will be captivated by your voice or your music. Always give them the option of turning it off.
2. Spinning, flashing, or blinking ads. Flashing banner ads are the equivalent of a carnival barker trying to lure people into a sideshow. You don’t need to shout to people to get you message heard. Keep you ads limited and your content abundant.
3. Unnavigable sites. Do not expect visitors to jump through “link hoops” to get to your information. They won’t. Make your product, price, or service, clear, precise, and easy to find. Design your content so that even elementary school children can understand your site.
4. Excessive pop-ups. In this day and age, pop-ups are inevitable. But if visitors have to close multiple pop-ups to get to your site, they may leave and never come back. The same applies for “fly-in” or “hover” that bounce across the screen. If you have to use anything, incorporate a pop-up that loads when a visitor leaves your site.
5. A page full of dead links and 404 error messages. Keep your links up to date and take down the links that are no longer active.
6. Dark text on a dark background. Don’t expect your readers to work to read your content, because they won’t. They will leave and find the information they need elsewhere.
7. Use Flash judiciously. Unless you have a film site or a product that requires a detailed visual description, resist using Macromedia’s Flash for e-commerce. If you are using your site to sell a product, use high-quality, fast-loading photos and creative descriptions of each item. If you must use Flash, make your files as small and fast-loading as possible.
8. Solid blocks of text with no breaks between paragraphs. That may work in print, but it will not fly on the Web. People don’t read online content the way they read offline — they skim. Imposing blocks of dark text will put off your readers. Make your content clear and concise. Break up your paragraphs, and use plenty of white space.
If your site makes any of the mistakes enumerated above, it is not too late. Make the necessary changes as soon as you can. In fact, if you haven’t redesigned your site in the last 6 to 12 months, you may be due for a redesign anyway. And make sure that when you do redesign that you don’t fall afoul of any of these rules. Make sure to read Top 10 Web Design Mistakes for more information on this topic. In addition, for an overview, read Develop an Effective Small Business Web Site.
Robert C. Potter is a wholesale and retail surplus products specialist and the author of “The Ultimate Guide To Products For Resale.” You can find his 160 page e-book at productsforresale.com.