Less than 30 years ago, the web was new. There were really no standards to speak of. The innovators of the world were quick to try their hand at HTML code.
In 1995, I coded my first website. To say the least, it wasn’t anything to get excited about. I was really excited when I figured out how to have a hover effect for a button. I realize now that, even by the standards of the day, it wasn’t even good enough to be called mediocre.
In 2007, when I started Tribute Media, I am not sure I progressed as far as I thought I had. Even after teaching web design at the University of Utah, I was a rank amateur at best.
Even with the tools as effective as they are now, I am amazed how many bad websites I see. In fact, some of the worst sites are those that boast using the “best” tools. Square Space and Wix proclaim they can make a website easy to build. Wordpress states it’s the most popular website builder. While that may be true, it doesn’t mean the websites created in Wordpress are any good. (Many are).
Most often, the evidence of a bad website isn’t obvious at first glance. Even with the great templates that are available and the ability to build websites without knowing a lick of code, web designers (both amateur and professional) forget key components to website design. And, the reality is that a bad website almost never has anything to do with the technology you choose. It’s almost always because there is a significant lack of strategy.
Web design requires a higher level of business and marketing understanding than it does technical understanding. It requires the ability to look at how the website fits into your overall marketing strategy. This is the reason I wrote my book. Too many people are jumping in feet first into the world of design tactically and ignore the strategy behind it.
I think there are some key indicators of a poor web strategy. What’s amazing is how often I see many of these elements on agency websites, too. Take a moment to look at your website and see how you stack up with what’s expected.
These are in no particular order.
1. No contact information.
It’s not good enough to have a contact form that says, “Email me, I’ll get back to you.” Perhaps if you are an overstuffed organization, you might get away with it but people still want to talk to people. Don’t fall for the trap that a chatbot will save you. It’s okay to have some automation but if people can’t find an easy way to talk to a human, you are adding unnecessary friction. The fix: Put your phone number and address in the footer of every page. Your phone number in the header is even better. Make your chatbot have an easy way to connect to a real human being.
2. Poor contrast and other ADA problems.
When you have a dark background, you should have light text. When you have a light background, you should have dark text. Often, different sections of a website will have different colors of backgrounds. Each of the sections should be checked for contrast. In addition, your background should not compete with your text. Look at buttons, make sure they are big enough for fat fingers on a mobile device. Make sure each of your images have alt text.
The fix: Make sure that all text on your website is easy to read. Think of those that might have disabilities and everyone will be happier.
3. Inconsistent Branding.
When your website doesn’t follow a brand standard you lose a little bit of credibility. When your branding conflicts, you lose a lot of credibility. You want your website visitors to feel comfortable. You want them to know they are in the right place. Don’t make them guess if clicking a button is a good thing. Don’t make them try to figure out what the picture means. Don’t make them wonder if the website is really your website because it doesn’t match your sales and marketing materials.
The fix: Make sure your branding is consistent with your sales and marketing materials and is consistent across your entire website.
4. No clear call to action.
When we are selling to someone face-to-face, history has proven that when you are clear with your expectations, people are more likely to buy. Think of high school when a boy asks a girl on a date. If he asks, “Will you go out with me?” he’s much more likely to get a positive response than if he asks, “You don’t want to go out with me, do you?” When you don’t have a clear call to action, it’s like being timid in your question. If you want an email, ask for it. If you want them to read more, ask for it. Make it clear.
The fix: Decide your primary goal for your website and make the call to that action as clear as possible.
5. Too little focus.
When you try to be all things to all people you end up being nothing to no one. You don’t need to demonstrate all the services you offer in the first visit. When you try to squeeze everything into your home page, people will not know what to focus on and you’ll end up losing more than gaining.
The fix: Focus on your core service offerings for key landing pages and let those interested in learning more dig deeper.
6. Blog and/or social media not maintained.
Digital marketing requires participation in multiple channels. Search, Social Media, and Email represent the trifecta of digital marketing. Search requires new content that is meaningful. Social media requires constant vigilance. Email requires search and social media to collect permission to email. There is no excuse in 2022 and beyond to be silent where your audience lives.
The fix: Participate or get out. There is no halfway anymore.
7. Poor user experience
More than ever, you are judged on your website. You might be the rare exception that a sales squeeze page works for your business. Usually that’s true if you have one product and are okay not building long-term relationships with your prospective customers. The fact is that most businesses don’t have the luxury to not have an impeccable web presence.
The fix: Get a designer that knows what he’s doing — as shown by experience not the regurgitation of platitudes.
The most effective websites are those that have meaningful updates on a regular basis. As important as a blog is, a new blog post is not a meaningful update. You need new pillar pages, new landing pages, new content offers, new calls to action, and new imagery and messaging. You need to test and learn more about your audience then make changes necessary to appeal to them.
The fix: Use your analytics to understand where your strategy is failing then make a regular plan to have continuous improvement cycles.
9. Ugly logo and graphics.
As I quoted myself in my book, “Whenever I see an ugly logo I think, ‘The CEO must have designed that one.’” Why do we settle for mediocrity? Yes, quality imagery costs more, but not that much more. Don’t settle for the logo designer that charges you a couple hundred dollars. Don’t pick the stock photography that everyone else picks. I understand that web designers sometimes are limited by the budgets of clients but if it’s your website, pony up a few extra dollars to do it right.
The fix: Get a logo that doesn’t suck. Spend a few dollars more on imagery.
10. No emotion.
Most websites are simply boring. They have no personality. They have no intrigue or interest. They are flat. Bloggers have an advantage here because their own personality can more easily show through. Helping people understand what you believe makes this much easier than showing them what you do. It’s a fine line and is the hardest to overcome but it’s probably the most critical.
The fix: Focus on your why. Focus on telling people what you believe and not what you do. Speak to your audience.