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Common Website Mistakes
Today I read an article on Cracked.com which talked about five poorly designed websites representing people who should "know better." One was Suzanne Collins, author of "The Hunger Games." The funniest-and saddest--thing about these websites is that they represent people who definitely could afford something better, but probably don't know enough about web design to ask. The two most common mistakes that I see with business websites is poor design and stale content. Cracked's article actually addressed both of these kinds of mistakes. It really does take an understanding of web design and how users think before someone is ready to build a decent website. It also helps to pay attention to recent design trends on the Internet so that you don't build a website that's outdated before it even goes live. One mark of a website like this is one where it puts all of its information on the same page. Instead of navigating to specific information, the web visitor has to scroll upwards or downwards to find what they need. Maybe its a busines website and they need a phone number, or the address, or pricing. This used to be a common practice in the 1990's, but it isn't anymore. The other type of mistake that has always left me perplexed is where a business owner pays for their website to be built, and then doesn't update or maintain it. Again, this might have worked in the 90's but it doesn't now because the focus has shifted from just getting the information out there to relationship building. You want a website out there that helps you to start dialogues with your customers. I don't entirely blame business owners for these terribly designed websites. First of all, they aren't prepared for running their business via the web. Before the Internet, a business would pay for a spot on TV, or an ad in the newspaper or the telephone book. This kind of advertising didn't need to be maintained or refreshed. You just bough the ad space, and then waited for the calls to come in. Even earlier on, it was enough to just have a webpage out there. I don't think that the problem with these buiness websites has much to do with business owners' familarity with computers. Instead, I think that they are just not aware of how importance a strong web presence could be to their business. They might have found success with the older types of advertising, or maybe they dont' see the value of a website. It's just a thing to do, like hiring a skywriter to fly over a football stadium during a packed game. Here is how I've started to look at social media and websites. It's like you're standing on stage in front of an audience with a live microphone in your hand. All you need to do is talk, and they're ready to listen. Maybe you've had this happen to you at a wedding, conference, or business meeting where you're suddenly asked a question or asked to share some words, totally impromptu. Whatever the situation, your website or your social media presence is a lot like an audience who can hear everything you say over that microphone. So, what do you say? Maybe you would introduce yourself, and talk about the products or services your business creates. You might share a funny anecdote, or take questions from the audience. Radio personalities make their living talking into a microphone every single day, and part of their job is to connect with their audience. Social media isn't much different for businesses than radio broadcasting is for talk show hosts. The tools are just different. Put it this way, what would it be like if your favorite talk show host produced an episode of their show in the same way that some of these business websites are maintained? Maybe there would be the same episode
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being re-played every single day without any indication of when a new episode will be on next. Or, maybe its just static and dead silence. If your website looks like any of the five that Cracked.com lampooned in their article, there is still hope. But, before you change your website you need to change your strategy. Instead of thinking about what you want to share with your audience/customers, ask yourself what your customers want to know about you. Or, ask your audience. Then, give them what they are asking for. This might mean putting your phone number and address on the homepage in big, bold letters, or adding a map to your "About Us" page. And, instead of thinking only about writing content that will fill your pages, think of ways to connect with your audience. Share background information about a new product you're planning, or talk about some of the effort that goes into providing your services. Lift the veil just a little bit and try to be more transparent, so that your customers have the chance to get to know your company. This is some of what I would tell Suzanne Collins or any of the others about their website. And I do agree with Cracked.com that they should fire their web designers. What are some of the common website design mistakes which bother you the most?