You built a website, a home for your online business…
Or, equally likely, you constructed a house of horrors, repelling the very customers and visitors you hoped to impress with poor design, or poor judgement.
It's like watching a horror movie and the audience is like, "Don't go down that road! Can't you hear that Michael Bay tuba blaring? There's a creep with an axe waiting by the shrub!"
It's not your fault, though. Everyone has a different preference when they browse websites. It takes a lot of experience to have an understanding of what people actually want to see (or don't want to see) when they browse your website.
Most of us have been guilty of burdening a website with at least one of these dreaded mistakes, but all of them have an easy fix.
MISTAKE #1: Your site plays audio... Automatically.
Okay. Sure. I've got your number. You want something "epic" when visitors land on your site. You think you're captivating an audience like you're the web version of 2001 Space Odyssey.
Of course, you want your audience to watch your video or hear your song, and you’ve been led to believe that force feeding it down their ungrateful throats is the way to do that.
Guess what? You're wrong.
There's a whole whack of good reasons you should never make audio tracks or video play automatically on your website. For one thing, the sound from that precious clip you're so proud of will override or conflict with other music or audio that your unsuspecting visitor is enjoying.
The result? Think cacophony. Think disgust.
Even worse, they might have their speakers on, but no music playing... So you're probably going to startle them (or their dog, true story).
Picture it. They're malingering on the job, surfing around on various websites at the office, ready to buy something awesome from you, when suddenly they're accosted in their own workplace by your auditory indiscretion. The embarrassment of being caught slacking by their coworkers in itself could mean they'll never want to visit your site again.
Get out of your own way on this one, and make sure that if you do have a clip playing automatically that it's muted. It's just simply polite to give your visitors a chance to unmute it themselves.
MISTAKE #2: Unclear navigation.
For just a moment, let's reflect on the plot device in most horror-genre alien films. Titular characters are often stranded and "lost" in the galaxy between destinations along their journey. Then, they're psychologically (or actually) tortured in the cold void of outer space.
Does that sound like something you want for anyone visiting your website?
Take a look at the people around you. Deep down, you know that some of them have a hard time even finding their keys in the morning. With this in mind, make your navigation simple, clear, and concise.
Don't try to out-clever yourself with vague references or unfunny inside jokes for simple titles like Contact Us, Home, or About.
Most people aren’t going to appreciate it if you name your "portfolio" section FOOTPRINTS or some other unrelated nonsense — they’ll just be confused.
Direct them to your social media channels, make use of standard menu setup (typically a consistent header, or sidebar) and make sure it's the same on every page of your website, no exceptions.
MISTAKE #3: Incessant pop-ups.
So you like to force others to close windows every time they move around your site? You've been throwing pop-ups and automatic lightboxes like a creepy militia of ghosts and spectres at their faces?
They're going to start resenting you, your website, your Call-To-Actions and then they're going to start ignoring them altogether.
Sure, pop-ups can be effective to encourage subscribers and other engagements, but if you're coming after people with messaging more desperate than the It Works! girl you added on Facebook last month (but don't really know in real life) you're definitely scaring off your audience.
Most people are getting really Texas-Shoot-’Em with their pop-up closing skills by now too.
You should be A/B testing what works and stick to one pop-up per visit, as opposed to throwing everything at the wall just to see what sticks.
MISTAKE #4: Internal 404's.
This is a serious facepalm.
If you're linking from one part of your site to another part of your site and all it leads to is this sort of hellish dead end, you're setting yourself up for a slow, but very real, SEO fatality.
While external 404’s are pretty awful, the internal 404’s are absolutely the worst. Search engines (like Google) are going to look at the graveyard of broken links, errors and URL problems linking within your own website and decide they want to protect their users from your frighteningly useless pages.
You can vanquish 404's with a free online tool, like Dead Link Checker. If you have a very large site, you'll want to make sure you do this every couple of weeks.
MISTAKE #5: Slow loading images.
Since we're already talking about bad choices, I'll direct your attention to a silent SEO serial killer: images compromising the load speed of your website.
47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less. That means almost half your audience is going to hate a wait of ANY kind. On top of that, search engines like Google will treat your website worse than the jerks who picked you last for gym class in high school.
Do not, I repeat, DO NOT invoke the living dead. Not only will leaving your gigantic image and it's hulk-sized format ruin the user experience on your site, it will absolutely kill any chance of you ranking on Google.
Automatic Image Optimization is a fantastic solution that requires no effort on your behalf, as all the pictures you upload are automatically optimized for every screen size.
MISTAKE #6: Ads that aren't making you money.
Somebody get me a nightlight and a warm glass of milk. There is NOTHING scarier than ads imposed on a website. That’s like getting a massive tattoo on your face right before a job interview, people.
These ads are distracting, irrelevant, and do nothing to boost your business, web presence or your pocket book.
Why are they there? You signed up for free hosting, didn't you? Spooky.
The best solution is to find a hosting service that you can afford. Remember, the true cost of a website doesn't come down to the $10/year domain name, or even the $20/month subscription to hosting and platform services.
You'll save thousands building your own site without a developer, and you won't want to ruin all your great effort by having a hosting service provider slap what amounts to digital graffiti all over your page. That's like buying a storefront, and then egging it yourself.
MISTAKE #7: Color overload.
If your website looks like a low-budget circus on acid (and that's not your actual business), just stop it. Choosing a color scheme for your website that works is incredibly important.
Folks seem to forget that color is a science (thank you Sir Isaac Newton) and they just go BANANAS with a bunch of bright colors that don't translate on their websites.
Please write it on the inside of your eyelids: Just because something is bright doesn't mean it will properly highlight parts of your site. (Hey, that rhymed!)
It's common to feel overwhelmed when trying to decide on color. Simple color scheme rules (like never using a colored font on a colored background) can save you and your visitors a lot of headaches.
If you use too many colors, or the wrong ones, you run the risk of overwhelming your visitors and confusing them. You want them to feel like they navigated into a professional, well put together web experience, not the equivalent of an online Chuck-E-Cheese.*
*If you ARE Chuck-E-Cheese, by all means, please keep doing what you're doing. It's actually kind of great. <3