Surely you've experienced the nightmare first date. Whether boring, obnoxious, or creepy, it's uncomfortable, unsatisfying, and sends you running for the door. It's a torture that sticks with you long after the waiter brings the check.
Is your website sending out the same unfortunate vibes?
If it is, it's costing your business the coveted, often lucrative, second date. And when it comes to your website, social ineptitude and a disheveled appearance curb your chances of earning a second date as quickly as bad breath and dress shoes without socks.
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No, you don't have to worry about your site having bad breath, but let it be known that people can still find that your site stinks. What will have people labeling it as repulsive? What accounts for people never taking another look at your site again? Here are five faulty qualities that are sure to slaughter your site's first impression and cause definite abandonment.
You're not put together
It is one thing to be a reputable and wise company blessed with many years of success. However, it's quite another to have a site that looks old, washed up, and like it was designed and launched in 1997. No matter the product, service, or content displayed, if it looks dated, you can bet users will take one look and walk (click) away. Research shows that site visitors will judge the credibility of your website within .05 seconds, which means the time you have to make a fitting first impression is akin to speed dating -- and equally as critical to your chance at a second round.
So how do you know if a face-lift is a must? Check your measurements. Your average number of page views, average time spent on site, and task completion rate, that is. What's needed to look sophisticated and innovative? A harmonious design. Your site needs to be balanced appropriately, ensuring content, white space, and images complement one another to create perfect equilibrium and cater to the expectations of your audience. Make sure the look and feel of your site is inviting, trustworthy, and current, and your prospects will be seeing you as the complete package in no time.
You're just looks
After the initial attraction, looks alone won't get you to the next round -- nor will they bring you new business. To turn a visitor into a prospect, you need to create a truly beautiful web experience that pays as much attention to the perceived credibility of your site as it does to the usability and function of your design. According to a 2010 study conducted by Equation Research for Gomez, the rate of users permanently abandoning a website after the first bad experience is as high as 17 percent. What factors make for a beautiful web experience? Page length, navigation, and structure -- to name a few.
Pages that require users to scroll more than two screen lengths are asking for a considerable amount of engagement. So if it's a must for your site, make sure that you're paying close attention to the structure of those pages. Is there a logical order to the content being displayed that will encourage the visitor to scroll? Are you balancing an appropriate amount of white space and imagery with text so that the page doesn't seem overwhelming? Navigation also plays a crucial role. Remember that your website should be designed for your users. Be sure your site carries them logically and intuitively through the information on your site that they're there to find.
CherryBayOrchards.com is aesthetically pleasing and still manages to deliver vital information on the homepage. It provides easy-to-read tabs (1) for further information on products, company history, current news, and more. A search field (2) is displayed appropriately in the upper right-hand corner for the convenience of visitors. An accessible checkout button (3) is positioned below the search field. A second call to action, a "Buy Now" button (4), is located near the center of the page. And the site integrates social networking (5).
You're socially inept
No one wants to date someone who is socially awkward or appears to be a loner. Letting your social status shine on your website will increase your chances of building more than just your social circle. It will increase your opportunities for business growth as well. It's not about "going social" because everyone's doing it -- it's about being where your clients and prospects are. So be sure to prominently link to your social properties from your site if you'd like to cash in on the channel that is changing the way the world communicates.
Enabling your site for the Open Graph platform, most commonly linked to Facebook, is also a definite must. Why? It could magnify your share of voice by a factor of 10 with just one click of the "like" button. And, it's been estimated that on average, one Facebook fan is worth more than $135 to a brand.
OnleeBowden.com is a prime example of how to incorporate social networks within a website. Midway down the page, the site displays tabs for news, a company blog, Twitter, and Facebook. The social networks are also repeated and centered at the bottom of the page.
You're too closed off
Have trouble opening up and explaining who you really are? It sounds simple, but it's absolutely vital. If people have trouble finding the essentials on your site, they're bound to dump it for one that meets their standards and provides what they're looking for. Ditch the industry jargon and wordy explanations of what your business does and cut to the chase. And again, remember who you're designing your website for. Consider what it is that they're hoping to find first. Then, frame the design of your website around your prospects desired action paths.
GlobalMarineInsurance.com demonstrates how to strategically display information on a website. Visitors are on a website for a reason -- in the case of GlobalMarineInsurance.com, to purchase boater insurance. This site provides the insurance options immediately (1), and then displays the company's history and mission (2) as secondary information.
You're not dependable
In August 2010, Firefox held 45.8 percent of the browser market, followed closely by Internet Explorer with 30.7 percent, Chrome with 17 percent, Safari with 3.5 percent, and Opera with 2.3 percent. If you aren't testing the design and functionality of your site across multiple browsers, you're losing business.
The same rule applies for screen resolution. While 76 percent of users are now browsing the web on a machine that has a resolution higher than 1024x768, pay close attention to the content that user might not be seeing if they're browsing at a lower resolution.
How dependable is your web hosting service? Does it provide advanced features and truly support your website? If your host isn't aiding your professional image, it's definitely time to look for a new provider -- one that will ensure your needs and encourage your company's growth. What two characteristics should you look for in a web hosting company? Security (virus-free systems) and reputation (current and past clients). An inconsistent web host can make any website appear faulty.
As you can see, designing a successful website is very much like dating; they both can seem stressful and challenging. However, they can both be equally as exciting -- both websites and dates involve learning processes, as well as new opportunities and realizations of who you and your audience really are. A successful website is certainly a balancing act. It requires the balance of form and function, as well as your objectives and users expectations.
Just like dating expectations, realizing the necessities for a well-rounded site can definitely seem overwhelming. Relax, and don't become intimidated. The initial step for ensuring your site is a winner is to take a step back and look in the mirror (your site). Make sure you critique every angle of your site and be sure to ask yourself valid questions. Are you satisfied with your presence? Is information clearly displayed? Are you having trouble navigating and finding paths to conversions? If you aren't impressed with you site, then you can bet visitors aren't either. And remember -- disappointing websites and dates often don't receive second chances.
Lisa Wehr is CEO and founder of Oneupweb.
On Twitter? Follow Wehr at @LisaWehr. Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.
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