Whether you're designing a new website for your business or improving an old one, always ask these questions first: What do I want my site to do? Why are people coming to my site? If they're current customers, how can I keep them happy? If they're not customers yet, how does my site help turn them into customers?
10 Common Website Mistakes That Drive Customers Away
Once you've answered the aforementioned questions, take a good hard look at your small business website. If you find any of the following 10 issues, take action to correct them as soon as possible.
1. Slow Page Loads
You have a very few seconds to capture your site visitors' attention. If your pages load too slowly you will lose them. This is the number one way to chase your customers and potential customers away. Make it a priority to monitor site performance, and do it on different browsers, different operating systems, and from different locations.
There are networking utilities for performance testing, and a number of Websites that perform free tests such as Pingdom and DNSsy. Pointless special effects, inefficient scripts, overloaded servers, and over-reliance on third-party servers all conspire to make your site a slow-motion experience.
2. Not Mobile-Friendly
Your primary focus should be to design a mobile-friendly website, because that is where all the growth is. A lot of Web designers are stuck on the notion that everyone is using a powerful PC with a giant screen. That never has been true, and it's even less true now: the small screen rules.
The mobile boom is also a powerful referral tool: if you have a business that benefits from impulse shoppers, travelers, and drop-ins, then you need to get your business listed in the directories that feed mobile search applications like YellowPages.com and DexKnows. These directories serve mobile phones and GPS devices like TomTom and Garmin.
Figure 1: The smart Web designer targets smartphones. (Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.)
3. Fancy Special Effects: Just Say No
It doesn't matter if your site is a simple informational site like an online brochure, or a complex online store -- eschew the silly special effects. Don't do overlays, peeling stickers, popups, fancy fades, slideshows, animations, annoying tooltips, or anything that gets in the way and forces your visitors to swat them out of the way like gnats.
Most especially: do not run video or audio automatically, because the easiest way to turn this junk off is to leave your site. Fancy effects only impress bored Web designers, and managers who think they're getting more bang for their buck with an overly-complicated whizbang site.
4. Too Many Words and No Information
When a customer visits your site, how long does it take them to figure out what your business does, or what your products are? If your pages are loaded with empty buzzwords like solutions, alignment, proactive, synergy, transformation, higher-order, best of breed, holistic, organic, value-added, return on investment, and so on, they're not going to hang around trying to translate it. Use simple, clear language. You know how business coaches advise us to prepare "elevator speeches", to practice describing our businesses in a succinct 30 seconds or less? Apply the same thinking to your website.
5. Confusing Site Navigation
People want answers, and they want them now -- how hard is it for them to zero in on the information they want on your small business website? How well does your search function work, is there a master index? Are there useful categories?
You can track what people are searching for, what pages they visit and for how long, and tweak your site accordingly. You also have the power to tweak your site's search engine and make it super-fast and useful. It is not good when your customers can find information on your site faster with a Google search.