Ed’s note: This post was written by guest editor Tess Robinson of Smack Bang Designs.
The year was 1991. Wacko Jacko’s ‘Black Or White’ was on the air and a busty blonde named Pammie ran in super slow-mo along a Californian beach in THAT red one-piece. Something else rather clever was brewing that year too. Special engineers with their thinking caps tightly screwed on invented a little fad they called the ‘world wide web’. Sound familiar?
That year, the first website was launched into cyberspace in all its pixelated, clunky glory. Back in the cringe-worthy era of the ’90s, flashy marketing sites, animated GIFs, scrolling text and gyrating drop shadows were the norm. Dial-up modems everywhere screeched like yodeling banshees as people started to connect to something extraordinary.
Fast forward to now – we’ve come a long way, surely.
It’s been almost a quarter of a century, yet a confounding number of websites are still lagging in their evolution. So, tell your sister yet again to get off the landline so you can dial-up and get familiar with the dirty dozen ways your website is killing my vibe (and how to reverse it of course!).
1. Your site is stuck in slow-mo
A slow website is a crime against humanity. If your website functions as though it was created for dial-up, it’s easy for a consumer to think that you’re providing a dated product or service. Time is money and no-one has the time or patience to wait for a slow loading website, especially potential customers. If you want people to visit your site again make sure it loads in under four seconds.
2. Your site is harder to find than your dignity after a big night
So you have your brand spankin’ new website up and running (ahh, I love the smell of HTML in the morning) and you’re just sitting back waiting for the leads to come rolling in… waiting… waiting… “Was that a tumbleweed? Where the bloody hell is everyone?” A website without SEO is like a car with no gas, make sure that you’ve charmed the pants off Google and people can actually reach your site through a search engine.
3. Your site is a screaming, raving Google fangirl
You want to charm the pants off Google, but you’ll keep it strictly PG-13. There is a fine line between proudly parading your site and prostituting it to Google. Some websites resemble a final year English paper packed with paragraph upon paragraph of keyword-dense copy. There’s a difference between search engine optimised content and over-optimized content. Don’t write for Google bots, write for humans.
4. Your site is undercover
Unless you are a secret government agency, there’s no conceivable reason you’d publish your contact details in the sixth paragraph of your final page in white text on a white background. Make your contact details BIG and easy to find. You never know who might be in a hurry to get in touch.
5. Your site is anti-social
People who deny the importance of social media are like the people who believe we never landed on the moon, or that the tooth fairy doesn’t exist! The social realm is real, my friends, and it’s not going away. By allowing your content and your images to be share-able you get more visibility, which means more traffic, better search engine rankings and more lead generation opportunities. And for the love of sweet baklava, put your social icons at the top of every. single. page.
6. Your site is stuck in the dark ages
Remember that website improvement you suggested in 2011? There are children who were conceived, born, moved to solid foods and have now mastered their parents’ iPad since your light-bulb idea. If the cycle of life moves faster than your website refresh cycle, then it’s a sure fire sign your website is out-dated.
7. Your site is still using the landline
Do you have a mobile and tablet responsive website design? If the answer is no, your website is absolutely in need of some TLC – you need a new site, friend.
8. Your site is cookie-cutter
For your brand to stand out it has to tell a meaningful story that catches people’s attention and engages them with emotion and feeling. Cookie-cutter website templates are the antithesis of those efforts. Templates and themes have their place, there’s no denying that. However, if you really want to develop a unified brand, vision, and direction, you’re going to need to put your own distinct flair onto your site and ensure that your online presence is a reflection of your real world existence.
9. Your site doesn’t come with an instruction manual
Consumers might be visiting your site, but if no-one is hitting up your hotline or subscribing to your love letters, chances are, you’re lacking some clear calls to action. Throughout the customer journey of your site, ask your customers to take some kind of action where you are capturing their deets or having them get in touch.
10. Your site has a good face for radio
While it’s what’s on the inside that counts, if you don’t take pride in appearances, you’ll be counting your followers on one hand. Don’t be overwhelmed – simplicity trumps a dog’s breakfast any day of the week. Allow for ample white space and don’t cram every nook and cranny with ridiculously complex design, animation, special effects or clutter. The best way to keep visitors focused on your message is through valuable content, simple layouts, good organisation and immaculate design.
11. Your site is full of clean-cut men in white T-shirts
There’s nothing that makes me want to shave my own eyebrows off more than clichéd stock imagery. Don’t get me wrong, some stock libraries and great, but the cheesy ones depicting a world of homogeneous families, happy-go-lucky employees and dudes in business suits shaking hands make me want to puke on my keyboard. On-brand, unique images and graphics are just as important as a working contact form and good grammar.
12. Your site is leading me on a goose chase
When someone lands on your site, do they know what to do? Alright, maybe they’re suspicious of your stock photo choices, or perhaps your Shopify template grinds their gears. But visitors may be able to look past those things if they can immediately understand what your website does, what the value of that is, and what they need to do next. Ask yourself this question: Is your website easy to use for the average person? If you’re unsure, ask the least tech-savvy person you know to take it for a test-run and give you some feedback.