I know, everyone makes mistakes and by tripping around the Internet you’re face-to-face with hundreds of them every day. When you decided to create your own website, though, I am certain that the thought, “This site will be great” went through your mind several times during its creation.
Websites are like one enormous advertisement. You might not be “selling” a single thing – but that doesn’t mean you’re not advertising. You have some really great information, or your products are beyond fantastic – if you can’t advertise this fact in your web design and layout, though, you won’t have any visitors to make the site worth your time.
Nearly half of all your potential visitors and customers are lost when you have a poor web design; if you can’t capture your visitors’ attention within about 60 seconds of hitting your page, they will hit the back button and move on to another website. Within those first 60 seconds, a visitor will judge your site’s content based on how it looks – they are hoping to see professional quality and seek visual clues that tell them what they’ve found is appropriate to what they’re looking for.
Brutally Honest Web Design Review
It’s usually more difficult to honestly evaluate our own work, so if you don’t think you’re up to the task, enlist the help of a friend. They need to be brutally honest with you and review your site based on these questions:
- What is your first impression of the website? What sort of “environment” does it give the feeling of?
- Do the graphics look high-quality and clear? Are they appropriate?
- Does the layout work – is it easy to navigate and read?
- Are font sizes and colors consistent throughout the site?
- Based just on the design, what do you think the content of this site “should” be?
After getting feedback on these questions, seriously evaluate the answers you’re given. It’s easy to become attached to our own work and think that our own ideas are brilliant, but if they’re sending the wrong message … well, you get the idea.
Making adjustments based on the feedback you’ve received should do a great amount toward getting longer-staying visitors. After all, you’re not succeeding if 50% or more of your visitors hit your page and immediately hit the back button. One way of determining if you’ve got a problem like this is to check out your website statistics.
Most statistics programs, like AWSTATS, will show you not only how many visitors you’ve had, but how long they stayed on your website. If you’re going based only on how many visitors your site received, you’re not getting the whole picture – let’s say that your site received 5,000 hits last month. Sounds pretty good, but how long were they there? If 75% of them were on your site for 30 seconds or less, then you can easily cut thost 5,000 hits down to about 1,000.
Common Web Design Mistakes
Especially when first starting out with your own website, it’s really easy to make mistakes that scream “amateur” to your visitors. Some of these mistakes aren’t even your fault – after visiting several sites on the Internet, you’ve probably come across a few themes that seem okay to carry through on your own site simply because you see them often.
Think about it as peer pressure – just because “everyone else is doing it” doesn’t make it a good idea.
The most common web design mistakes that trickle through the Internet:
1. Under Construction Signs – This is such a big no-no. At the time that you place an under construction sign, it seems like a good idea – you’re letting visitors know there’s still work being done, right? The problem is that when a visitor sees “under construction”, they read “not finished” and translate that into “unprofessional”. You’ll never see an under construction sign on a big website. Think of the most popular companies you can name and hit their site – beat your way through the pages, and I guarantee you won’t find a single mention of anything being unfinished. Instead, they will accentuate the benefits of their website – things that are unique, helpful, and totally ready to use.
2. Advertising Early – Tied right in with Under Construction, if you advertise your website before it’s complete, you’re trying to “sell” an unfinished product. The more seasoned a website owner is, the better they understand the power of patience. Launching your completed website, making a big deal of it being “live”, is so much better than letting your visitors see your work in progress. You want your visitors to be impressed with the finished product, to trust your website because it is professional and truly quality. First impressions are the lasting ones – if a visitor ran away from your website once, they will remember the experience and you probably won’t ever see them again.
3. View Counters – I can guarantee that at least 90% of every website that stamps brightly colored view counters on every page are new. Why? It’s one of those mistakes that new webmasters make routinely. They’ve seen such-and-such a site that shows over 1 million views on their hit counter, and surely if it’s getting that many views it makes visitors feel like they’re on a special page. So the new webmaster grabs the code for a free hit counter, complete with advertising to the company that’s providing it, and slaps it on all of their web pages.
It’s no secret that hit counters can be set to any number you want it to. I can erect a brand new page on my website right now, one that no one but me has seen, and start my hit counter at 5 million hits if I feel like it.
Because it has the potential to be dishonest, many visitors will be repelled by view counters. Its very presence raises questions – why does the site owner feel like they have to show the number of hits to the world? How do I know it’s honest? And if I’m sitting here staring at a hit counter and thinking these questions instead of reading the site’s content, what am I doing here at all?
Don’t make your visitors ask questions they don’t need to. Instead, go right back to your website statistics program and look at your hit count from there. No one else needs to know about it, and honestly … they probably don’t care.
4. Copyright Statements – You might not realize this, but the moment your website is saved – even one single page in your website – you own the copyright to your creative work.
If you truly own the work you’ve done, proudly post your copyright information at the bottom of every page in your website. This is one of those badge of honor things that will actually matter to your visitors – they might not consciously “see” the copyright statement, but they do expect it. It’s more likely to raise an eyebrow if it’s not there than when it is. It’s another one of those “first impression” things that you definitely need to place your stamp on.
5. Glitz & Glamor – Flash is cool. Many java applets are just as cool. But just because you’ve recently upgraded to a super high-speed cable connection and made sure that your web browser has all the plug-ins that you might need to play around with your website design doesn’t mean that your visitors have any of this. Dial-up is still the least expensive way to go, and most of your visitors will be on dial-up. What this means for your site design is that the moment you place flash designs all over your page, visitor’s browsers will seem to “freeze” and they’ll hit the back button before seeing a single thing on your page.
Plug-ins are another problem, and let me ask you this: is it really very fair that you require people you’re asking to visit your site, to look at the work you’ve done, to have special plug-ins to do that? It comes down to respecting your visitors, and until every plug-in including flash, java, and who knows what else are automatically installed with web browsers you can’t really expect people to have them.
Over and over I find myself saying the same thing: first impressions are the lasting ones. You’ve got only a few seconds to make a great first impression, and all the great products and cleverly written words in the world won’t give that impression – it’s your design and layout that will.