We work with small businesses every day – our passion lies in helping the companies who make up the overwhelming majority of the business landscape and providing the digital resources that are too often unavailable to them. However, that often means we deal with websites that suck.  Now, I hate telling clients that their site sucks, but I will do it (albeit ever so slightly more politely), because I would much rather be honest than continue to slippery slope of little lies they heard from web developers or “marketing experts.”  Great websites can be attainable at an affordable price these days, especially if you work with a reputable developer and know what your customer wants.  Good sites start and end with your users.

But sometimes it’s too late.  You’ve already had the site developed but it isn’t working for you.  Users aren’t converting.  Or maybe your bounce rate is in the 80’s.  Perhaps customers have complained about your site – or maybe even another employee.  I’ve even seen clients who were promised one look and received something totally different because of communication breakdowns.  The first step in determining why your site sucks is taking a careful look at the site and determining of which of the following items on the list your site might be guilty.

It’s Unprofessional.  In most cases, bad sites are bad because they look unprofessional.  I don’t care if you built it yourself in Dreamweaver, or that your cousin built it and he’s really proud of it.  I don’t care if your logo was made by a good friend or you wrote your content yourself.

    • Spelling and grammar need to be perfect.  Anything less than perfect is unacceptable.  Formatting should be neat, clean, and easy to read
    • Fonts should be legible, professional, and consistent
    • Colors should be consistent with your brand identity and appropriate for web viewing
    • Content should be in keeping with your brand identity – not too irreverent or inappropriate if that isn’t who your company is.
    • Autoplay music or videos should be sent to the seventh circle of hell.  Don’t force your user to watch your commercial or hear your soothing spa music unless you want them to leave your site in a hurry.
    • Gifs belong in 1998.  Leave them there.

No contact information.  Great looking sites can still completely suck because there is no easy mechanism to contact the business.  Phone numbers and addresses should always be visible for brick-and-mortar locations (with click to call functionality for mobile devices), contact forms should never be more than one click away from any page on the site.

Confusing navigation.  If you want to have a high bounce rate, hide your navigation or make it hard to find.  Users expect navigation in the top or left sidebar.  There are few exceptions to these general rules.  Users also expect shopping carts to be in the top right of their screens.  Putting navigation in other locations doesn’t make you cool – it makes you unusable.

It isn’t sharable.  Social signals matter these days and should never be undervalued.  If you have dynamic content on your site, invite users to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and more.  Make buttons for easy shareability from your blog so users can easily share your content at the click of a button.

There are trillions of websites in the digital space.  You want your site to stand out, but not in a negative way.  There are a ton of sites that totally suck, but there are ways to fix the problem.  One thing we do at Smarter Searches when analyzing a site is each of us goes through a website individually, making notes, and writing down observations related to the look, navigation, content, and usability of the site.  Then we get together and share them all.  That way, we can analyze how a typical user would use and respond to your site.  For many small businesses, you can replicate these types of results by inviting family and friends to use your site and have them share their thoughts.  Ask for and expect negative results in some cases.  You need an honest analysis of your site – not a patronizing affirmation of your own awesomeness.  Take their observations along with your own thoughts and other sites you like to your developer to see what the next steps are.  Still unhappy? Give us a call or send us an email – we would be glad to help.

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