Avoid These Common Website Design Mistakes
6. Poor Contact Information
How deeply do your visitors have to dig for contact information? It should be on every single page on your site. How do you want people to contact you? You can post phone, cell phone and fax numbers, email, live chat, snail mail, Web form, forums, and smoke signal codes, if you wish. Usually simpler is better: pick the ones you actually want people to use.
Spammers will find and harvest your email addresses immediately, so your public email addresses should be used only for public inquiries, and keep your private addresses separate.
7. Nobody Answers, or Worse, Someone Answers
Don't post contact information if you don't have a rock-solid, fast response mechanism in place. And I don't mean canned auto-replies, but real people. Good customer service is a vital skill; it doesn't matter how wonderful your widgets are, if you don't take care of your customers you won't have any.
Post your business hours along with contact information. Phone calls should be answered immediately, and if any go to voice mail then call back within 30 minutes. Live chat should not have more than 2-3 minutes' wait time. Emails should be answered within a couple of hours.
8. Captchas Must Die
The reasoning behind using captchas is understandable; spammers ruin everything, so we're always looking for ways to foil them. But the more barriers you erect, the more customers you're going to lose. An inexplicably popular captcha is Re-Captcha. Figure 1 is a typical example:
Figure 2: Your customers won't get this, but spammers will.
The audio Re-Captcha is just as awful, because it is also obscured. It sounds like multiple audio streams playing at the same time.
It's not realistic to expect your customers to jump through all kinds of hoops. So what are you supposed to do? You already know that any Web form, whether it's an online forum, reader comments, or contact form, is going to get spammed. Don't make it your customers' problem but rather attack it at the server.
There are number of excellent anti-spam plugins for popular content management systems like WordPress, Plone, Drupal, and Joomla. Akismet is the best anti-spam plugin. You should be able to install it from the control panel of your CMS, and you can learn more about it here.
9. Accessibility Issues
A customer with impaired vision or hearing, a customer who has difficulty reading, using a mouse, or using a keyboard spends money just the same as customers who have no such limitations. Most popular CMS have accessibility features, so it's not that hard to make your site fully-accessible. A bonus of accessibility is it also serves your wider audience; the easier you make it for people to access your site in whatever way they prefer, the better for your bottom line.
10. Stale Content
Even if your site is the simplest brochure site, make it worth visiting by posting fresh content at least every couple of weeks. Tips and tricks, new products, sales, how-tos, contests and promotions...it doesn't have to be literary, just new and interesting to your customers. Don't forget good-quality photos of products, and good video how-tos are easy to produce customer-pleasers. Post your videos on YouTube to reach an even wider audience.
Carla Schroder is the author of The Book of Audacity, Linux Cookbook, Linux Networking Cookbook,and hundreds of Linux how-to articles. She's the former managing editor of Linux Planet and Linux Today.
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