10 Signs of an Amateur Web Site

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I decided to resurrect a few old articles I wrote.  I’d forgotten about these… and it just brings back fond memories of the “simpler Internet times”.

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Ever visit a web site and question your comfort level because the web site simply doesn’t look or feel “professional”?  So what makes you think visitors to your web site are any different?  This “comfort level” determines whether or not people continue to surf your web site or decide to do business elsewhere.

A well-designed web site is a work of art.  Most likely your visitors know nothing about fonts, leading, justification, kerning, or the science of color.  Yes, there’s a science to the use of color.  Visitors can sense when a page is well laid out and when it’s not.  Good design is practical as well as aesthetic.  Properly designed pages are easy to interpret and navigate.  Rules that apply to print pages don’t apply to web sites.  This surprises many.

Web site visitors are more savvy today than ever before.  You have less than 5 seconds to get their attention.  You AND your business are judged in that short time based EXCLUSIVELY on what they see as your site loads.  In this case, “the book IS judged by the cover”… and it can help make or break you and your business.

In a recent survey conducted by Hostway, Inc., a web hosting and services provider hq’d in Chicago, up to 76.7% of online consumers say they don’t revisit web sites if they encounter a pet peeve.  Additionally, this can cause potential customers to view the company so negatively that they won’t even visit the brick and mortar store (if there is one).  Worse yet, 54.9% of those displeased with their online experience will share this with friends and associates.

Should web sites always follow standard design rules?  Nope.  However, you need to know the rules before you can break them.

Here’s a list of the top 10 things you need to avoid if you want a professional looking web site that will gain the trust of your visitors.  They’re pretty obvious and play a role in success or failure.

  1. Avoid “busy backgrounds”
    Quit with the wallpaper already.  That’s the first sign of an unprofessional web site.  It’s just not cool anymore and can make visitors dizzy.
     
  2. Avoid busy graphics in general
    Dump all that animation and those flashing cartoon graphics.  Ever drive down Las Vegas Blvd?  It’s kind of like that.  The neon lights and flashing signs are distracting and overwhelming… making it next to impossible for me to find what I’m looking for.
     
  3. Get rid of the “Linear Look”
    In the old days, (yes – there are now “old days” where the Internet is concerned), web pages were laid out in a straight line.  Navigation on the left, and looooong pages of text and photos forcing people to scroll two or three pages to see it all.  Today it’s all about tables.  Rows and columns, tables within tables, etc.  Unless you know them inside and out, you’ll never have a professional looking web site.
      
  4. Dump the “Hit Counters”
    Your numbers don’t impress me.  Go visit your own page… take note of the number in that “hit counter” at the bottom of your page.  Got it?  Now… refresh the page and look at the number again.  Woo! Hoo!  You just logged another “hit”!
     
    If you make your page the home page in your browser… every time you open your browser you’re increasing your “hits”.   I bet you look at it several times a day… just to see if that number increases.  Guess what… chances are all you’re seeing are the results of your own page hits.  That’s what website stats are for.  Use them.
      
  5. Browser Endorsements
    A web site developed correctly doesn’t need to say “Looks best when viewed using “AOL”, “Netscape” or “Internet Explorer” somewhere on the page.  It WILL look right in ALL the browsers.
     
  6. Stop making users scroll right to left!
    It’s all about tables… and tables within tables.  Learn it or hire a professional.  Today, with outrageously large screen resolutions, there’s no excuse for this.
      
  7. Lose the “Under Construction” or “Come Back Soon” pages
    No one remembers or has time to come back.  Finish your site before letting them see it.  You’ve got one shot.  Don’t waste it.
     
  8. Quit with the Free Ads and Visual Clutter
    Stop adding banners for this, icons for that, little graphics, blurbs, smileys with the tongues sticking in and out, etc…  No one needs your help finding Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, or free downloads.
     
  9. Incorrect use of Frames
    There’s a time and place for everything.  YES!  There’s a right and wrong time to use frames.   Amateurs either: (a) don’t know that, or (b) use them incorrectly.
     
  10. Font  inconsistencies
    Pick a font style.  Stick with a font style.  Don’t mix Times New Roman with Arial with Verdana with Comic Sans.  And did you know that fonts may look good on your computer but may not even display on another?

I only listed 10.  There are many more signs, any of which can be extremely detrimental.  You can set your business back 6 months, a year, or more.

The era of successful “do-it-yourself” web sites is long gone.  Users can tell.  With the abundance of web sites today, they can afford to be selective… and they are.

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