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What to Avoid When Creating a Website for Your Business
Your company website is now much more important for most small businesses than the sign over your front door, and it should be crafted with similar care. But web design is still a young and rapidly evolving art, where professionals can intimidate small business clients with confusing jargon. It can be difficult to exercise your intuition and work in collaboration to achieve an end result that will attract customers and not send them scurrying away down the street -- especially since "down the street" is a click away.
Bad websites make certain common mistakes. One error involves the website equivalent of your façade or storefront, the visual presentation that captures a user's attention and hopefully encourages them to stop and have a look around. Websites are a visual medium, and large blocks of unadorned text are a turnoff unless your product is long-form writing. But design software offers such an array of visual tools and gimmicks that it's easy to go overboard.
Two decades into the World Wide Web era, viewers have developed a strong allergy to "too much flashing, scrolling s—t," reports econsultancy.com. The same can be said of information that jumps out, pops up or dances unbidden across the sight line of your visitor, not to mention those that blare music unprompted. Many of these tricks, powered by once cutting-edge technologies like Adobe Flash and GIF animation, are vanishing from the marketplace as developers understand their counter-productivity. But design elements that even remind potential customers of old-school banner or pop-up ads can send them clicking for the exits, warns Jakob Nielsen of the Nielsen Norman Group. Colors and fonts, which web designers can manipulate infinitely with no effort, can also be combined in off-putting mélanges if common sense and planning is not applied.
If your small business can create a website that entices visitors rather than turn them away, the next thing to worry about is interior design, or how you navigate customers around the site efficiently and guide them toward a purchase. This process is also fraught with don'ts, starting with the typical entryway for net traffic: a Google, Bing, or Yahoo search. One rookie mistake is to employ search engine optimization (SEO) only on your home page, sidelining the opportunity for Google to find your relevant content on another page. Another one is to program your site such that all search hits land on your home page, rather than the page where the searched-for information actually is.
After SEO, your site's internal search engine is one of its most important utilities, unless you expect visitors to spend precious minutes clicking on menu headings in a trial-and-error hunt for the item or information they need. Sadly, experts say, many small businesses (and larger ones) underinvest in this tool, leaving search boxes that cannot account for typos, plurals or other slight alterations.
A news column or blog is a helpful feature for most sites, so visitors know your business is still operating, and more importantly, it's a good reason for them to come back next week. But it can be a pitfall if you forget to update it regularly, and the last post is dated in 2011; or if you publish when there is really nothing new to say. "You want to avoid updates that say, "Sorry we haven't updated for a while," observes PC World. Spelling and grammatical mistakes will also render communications more harmful than useful. Linguistic standards may be loose these days in personal emails and texts, but bloopers on a site show poor attention to detail -- a cardinal sin for any business that wants to convey its professionalism and reliability.
Finally, a small business may design a perfectly lovely website,but forget what it is there for: to drive sales. Or, at the very least, to inducevisitors to register their info so you can follow up with them later. Each page"needs to have a call to action, which is usually represented by a button or alink," writes consulting firm StratusInteractive."Otherwise, users are just coming to an empty page that they can't continue toengage with."
Copyright (c) 2016 Studio One Networks. All rights reserved.
Craig Mellow is a freelance journalist in New York City, specializing in financialmarkets and energy.
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