What’s Wrong With My Website?

by Bill Purdin

Things we hear all the time.

“It looks weird.” [Client is using an out-of-date browser.]. “The colors are way off.” [Client is using an out-of-date screen.] “This site is so slow I’m yawning.” [Client’s computer is a really old one from home with out-of-date system software.] “The site is way too big, I have to scroll to see anything.” [Client’s screen is a 15-inch screen, way under today’s average of 26 inches.] “Why should I update? Everyone else is out-of-date too.” [Send this client to an out-of-date advertising agency where he or she will be happy.]

The point is that today’s Internet is a high-technology environment. It is not like a telephone you buy once and you’re done. Computers, smartphones, software, screens and everything else all need to upgraded constantly and checked almost daily. The saying that “the slowest rower rules the boat” cannot be allowed to “rule” the Internet. Either you keep up or you will be left behind (or thrown overboard).

This also applies to taste in websites. In the late 1990s Flash sites were the rage, today they are the scourge. No one wants any delay every time to they do anything and today content – not glitsy design – is king. People use the Internet in business for information, not entertainment. Get the information to them easily and seamlessly and they will be back. Trap them with fancy graphics, flash screens, and “enter here” buttons and log-ins and they are gone like one of those slowly dissembling graphics you used to love in the days of your Internet adolescence.

Look around at the most popular sites today. They are almost all content management sites. Every thing else is tiresome. The old over designed, out-of-date sites are like clowns all dressed up with nothing to do but act crazy. Believe me, people want content, knowledge, experience, good writing, fantastic photographs, and easy navigation in the sites they visit. Even simple dropdown menus that obliterate the copy under and around them are going away. “Keep it simple,” he said to the client, “it’s not about you, it’s about attracting people to your product or service.”

Believe it or not even automatically opening videos can radically reduce your traffic. CNN found this out the hard way. They moved from almost entirely html news articles and photos – with optional videos – to all videos, all the time – introduced with time-consuming commercials – and they paid a heavy price in viewership. Now they have corrected themselves. There is a place for all of these graphic wonders but that place is in the “optional” category, not blocking the front door. The urge to monetize everything is self-destructive.

Almost all successful business sites are simple in presentation, easy to navigate, with nice intermixed photographs, clear, not teasing, informational headlines, and plenty of “drill-down” copy for the inquisitive mind (the truly potential customer).

People who don’t read say “there’s too much copy,” or “people don’t read copy,” are just plain wrong, qualitatively.  It is true that most people who come to your site won’t read the copy. Who cares? Most people who go into a store, don’t buy either. But those who are actually looking for your products will take the time to read and look around around. Website readers know a simple truth, “I can always stop reading when the copy gets to be ‘too much,’ but I can’t invent more when the copy’s ‘not enough.'”

So, before you start complaining about your site to your designer, be sure you are not the problem. If your designer is designing a modern site for you (and this “modern” constantly changes), he or she probably knows a whole lot more about what is working and is not working than you do. Ask questions, listen to the answers, and then explore something new outside of and beyond your own forehead.

It might not be that your site is weird, it might be that what is weird is that you don’t know what is actually going on.

Just because you surf around day and night, does not make you a web designer. Anymore than living in a house can make you an architect or driving car can make you a race driver. Learning from the experts, that’s the way.

Oh, and one more thing: sites age more quickly than ever before. Five years old can now be more like a hundred years old in website years. Stay current, keep up with what your visitors are looking for.

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