The Website Design Rule of Thumb

Everyone is familiar with what it’s like to get frustrated with a bad website. Garish color palettes, broken links, too small—or overly large—type, bad interfaces that stop you from accomplishing simple tasks, pop-ups asking you for your info at every turn—list goes on.

Often times, our clients come to us because their websites fall within this category—and they know it; they just don’t know how to fix they problem or where to begin. They understand that their website should encourage business, not thwart it. So, we educate them. One of the first things we tell our clients during our kick-off meetings is to follow is this one simple rule of thumb—it’s actually a variation of what we all learned in grade-school: Treat your users the way you would want to be treated. If something annoys you on your website, it’s going to annoy your customers—and agitated customers don’t tend to stick around for long.

With that general rule set in place, let’s take a look at the five most common problems we encounter daily when reviewing websites.

#1—Slideshows Cramming in Content

By far, the biggest offender on our list is the slideshow. Slideshows are an excellent way to hide content—because users never stick around for more than one slide! People today possess such a finite attention span, they begin scrolling within one second of seeing that slideshow. In fact, using tools like Hotjar, we constantly see users pass right by the slideshow without any interaction.

However, many businesses believe this feature is a good way to showcase more content; they can’t decide what is most important or don’t have a specific place to house this content, so they create a slideshow offering what they believe is “equal” real estate. But, as you now know, slideshows have the opposite effect: People see Slide #1 and never see anything else. So, if it’s important information, define a specific and prominent area for it—not hide it in a slideshow.

Slideshows also dramatically affect page loading times. Every second your site isn’t fully loaded is an opportunity for a customer or prospect to close out the tab and move onto another business.

So please, If there is one thing you take away from this blog, let it be the removal or avoidance of slideshows on your website.

Alternatives to Slideshows

  1. Place Calls-to-Action Across Your Website: This will allow you to direct users exactly how you want to interact with your site—like sign up for your newsletter, download an eBook, or fill out a contact form—rather than crossing your fingers that they might stumble upon it on their own. Using striking imagery, eye-catching colors, and great copywriting, iss a much more effective way of pointing someone to a place without taking up a lot of real estate or leaving much guesswork on their end.

  2. Break Apart a Website Into a Block of Directionals: Directionals are just blocks of content boxes that point people in a certain direction. For example: Instead of placing various sales with coupon codes in a slideshow, you can grid them all out to allow someone to see everything at once and make a choice for themselves.

  3. Create a Video with Multiple Messages: Video content is all the rage on the web these days, and you should get in on it, too. Make a video explaining multiple parts of your business in a quick, clear way (or hire Lform to do it!)

#2—Talking Too Much About Yourself

We’ve all been to a party where some guy just dominates the conversation and won’t stop talking about himself, right? Don’t be that guy.

Unfortunately, most businesses tend do that on their websites. Heck, you might be doing it right now. Take a look at all your messaging and really think about how much of it is talking about how your company and products can help a potential client versus how much you’re just talking about how great your are and how you’re better than the competition. Identifying differentiators is good, but remember, it’s all about the customer. People love to hear about themselves, so make sure your key messaging revolves around clients. First show that you understand their problems and concerns, then pitch your solutions as means of solving their problems or meets their needs.

Quick Alternatives to Talking About Yourself

  1. Instead of saying something like, “XYZ Co. is the Best at Making Products,” you can phrase your company in a way that aligns you with your customer base, “Customers have trusted XYZ Co. with their products for 20 years and here’s why.”

  2. Identify problems that customers commonly have, and solve those problems. If a customer is having an issue with the quality of service they’re getting from competitors, assure them that you’ve got the right staff with the right expertise, or provide them with tools like chat boxes or hotlines to call with issues.

  3. List the Industries you serve so customers can quickly identify if you serve them specifically. Humans are selfish creatures by nature, and like to see themselves in everything. If someone coming to your company for engine parts for a commercial truck, seeing the words “Commercial Trucking” under areas you serve leaves little room for interpretation on their part.

#3—Overcomplicating Things

A great way to lose a sale is to confuse a buyer. Overcomplicating forms, scattering content in different places throughout a site, even simple things like mislabeling buttons with vague or unconventional language, can make a user bounce from your site. Every time you make your user fill out a long form or you make them trudge through your site and reference two pages that could have easily been displayed on one, you’re losing their patience, adding to their frustration, and tempting them to take their business somewhere else.

Whenever you’re adding functionality or interactions to your website, it’s best to ask questions like, “Does this need to be there? Is this intuitive? Is this annoying for me?” Streamlining your site will make it much more likely that your users will stay and look at your site, make the effort to contact you, and potentially buy your products or services.

Easy Ways to Simplify

  1. Keep all relevant information on a product’s detail page. If you have multiple products, each one should have its own detail page that includes information specific to that product including specs, video reviews, and customized options. If someone can easily skim products and see differences, it allows them to make your products the standard they judge other products by.

  2. Keep all your page names and buttons clearly labeled, don’t get cute or creative with your names. Instead of “Talk to Us” use “Contact Us.” Instead of “Meet the Team” use “Our Staff” or—better yet—”Staff.” Buttons should be all clearly and conventionally labeled. If someone expects to download an eBook, the button should say “Download eBook Now.”

  3. Use tools Google Analytics and Hotjar to see where customers are dropping off. If you have a multi-page form and people are leaving at Step 3 of 5, you know something is getting in their way on that specific page and can look to streamline it.

#4—Setting Up a Company Website Then Forgetting it Exists

At first glance, this makes no sense: Why would a company forget they it has a website? But it’s an issue that happens all too often. In fact, clients come to us all the time saying, “We put this website up five years ago and it’s never been updated.” We can’t stress how bad this makes your company look and how negatively it can impact your bottom line. Nothing will make a user close a tab quicker than seeing an outdated website—especially one with inaccurate content on it.

If the website design itself is outdated, there’s no easy fix for that other than hiring a web design and development agency to modernize the look and feel. However, the easiest way to make sure your site is at least somewhat fresh is to add content to it on a regular basis. Many companies have the best intentions by creating a blog, but there’s nothing worse than a user checking it out only to find it was last updated three years ago. It can make a company look inconsistent and poorly run.

We also recognize that keeping your site up to date is easier said than done. We get that you only have so many resources and sometimes you don’t even have a CMS (Content Management System) to change or update content! If that’s the case, you should contact someone here at Lform to see what your options are because that definitely needs to be rectified.

Tips to Keep Your Website Content Fresh

  1. Blog, blog, blog. Whether you’re creating posts yourself or you’ve hired an expert in the field who knows how to both create useful and SEO-friendly content (here, that would be our own copywriter Lyndsay), blogging brings in content that both Google loves and your users will find useful and coming back for more.

  2. Refresh marketing messages from time to time to make sure that you’re promoting the right stuff—be it a new product and new way that your product solves problems, or even institutional messages like what you’re doing for the community or new initiatives you’re involved in.

#5—Making a Website Difficult to Skim

Nobody reads websites anymore. Much to the chagrin of copywriters, people merely skim a website’s content to find what they’re looking for. Many of the websites that come through our Montclair office doors are jam-packed with small text that is poorly formatted, making it a headache to read. And, while it’s true that this text is great for SEO, it makes it hard for users to find what they are looking for and can easily trigger them to leave your site.

The items that people generally skim for, in priority, are:

  • Navigation

  • Headlines

  • Sub-Headlines

  • Buttons

  • Calls-To-Action

  • Pull Quotes

The trick today is to make smart, engaging headlines that are clear, catchy, and on-brand with your company. This helps catch the attention of a quick-scrolling reader and let them know if the info they are reading is what they are looking for, and if it is, that headline may help convert that lead into a sale.

Creating Skim-Friendly Elements

  1. Pull-quotes or drop-quotes are a time-tested way of allowing someone to quickly peruse a article, blog, product, or service quickly and easily to see if it fits their need.

  2. Make headlines punchy and interesting. Pull visitors in with engaging headlines that make them want to read on.

  3. Pair videos with pieces of content about products and services. People won’t take two minutes to read a web page, but they will take two minutes to watch a video.

Be the Change You Want to See on the Web

Chances are, reading this got you a little embarrassed. It’s fine. Happens to the best of us. Everyone has been guilty of at least one of the things on this list, mostly without realizing it. Hopefully by pointing out the issues we see often, it’ll help you take a fresh look at your website and how you’re presenting yourself online.

While these are great easy areas to work on, it’s good to remember that at some point it’s good to have professionals take a look at your site and give you an evaluation of how you’re doing. Web designers and developers look at a lot more than just simple faux pas of website and can look deep into how people use your website, increasing sales and conversions along the way.

Lucky for you, Lform does exactly that. If you need help, we’d love to talk to you about it.

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