Is your website an attractive storefront for your business, or a bit of a mess? Does it sing your praises, or is it more like a drunk in a karaoke bar, spluttering and stalling for a bit, before falling over?
Some examples of poor websites are blindingly obvious, from awful visuals to confusing design. However, other flaws and common mistakes can be far less glaring but still harmful. The problem with the digital age is that a lot of the time nobody will tell you, so you might not even realise.
Here are ten of the most common website errors and issues to look out for, along with ways to solve them:
1. Poor or dated visual design
Nothing makes a customer say “no thanks” as quickly as a really gruesome home page. It could be horrendous colour choices or a naff logo. Or it could just be that things have aged badly. We sympathise a lot with businesses here because quality websites cost money; but things move quickly in the digital era. Sites that looked slicker than a brand-new Ferrari a few years ago now look like a third-hand Volvo.
State of the art… in 1997 (sorry Exmouth View Hotel, we're sure you are so much greater than your website!)
The simple answer is to refresh or start again. Yes, it costs money, but how much income might you be losing due to a duff website?
2. Slow upload speed
There is little more annoying than waiting forever for something to load (anyone remember the ZX Spectrum? You could make a cup of tea and come back before one of the games loaded). Worse, Google will actually penalise you in the rankings for this! Large image files are the most common cause, and the remedy can be simple: cut your file sizes down! File-crunching aids like tinyjpeg.com are extremely handy here. Or invest in a CMS system that automatically resizes images.
3. Lack of quality images
While huge files are bad news, the same could also be said for poor pictures. Seeing as that opening image is the first impression the viewer will get, why settle for mediocre? Again, rather than thinking “how much will it cost to get quality pictures?” ask yourself “how much will it cost me if I don’t have quality pictures?” A good photographer is worth every penny.
This is a common trap for so many businesses. You might have started with a simple main message and a couple of tidy banners; three years later you have a dozen different windows all wrestling for space and attention. This can be a headache for the user and could easily detract from your main message.
The solution here is to sort your priorities. Your home page needn’t try and squeeze in every last thing you do. Smart, simple, logic always wins the day. Unless you are the infamous Ling’s Cars (below), whose chaotic site has not only become the stuff of legend, but a key sales tool! To get away with this sort of chaos though, it goes without saying that you need excellent customer service and a great reputation.
5. Poor or confusing user journey
Talking of clutter and confusion, another common issue with websites is a lack of clear signposting. Ask yourself a simple question: how easy is it for someone to get where you want them to go? If it takes more than two clicks for the customer to be able to buy or book, your conversion rate could well be suffering.
How can you solve this? Well, the obvious way is to get others to test it. At Clockwork we do this meticulously, taking every detail into account, testing different strategies and monitoring bounce rates and other factors. A bit OTT? Not at all- there is a definite science to making more sales conversions online!
6. Low standard of written content
We may live in an age where the image is king, but poor text can let even the sexiest looking website down. Naturally, as a copywriter I’m biased here. As it happens, I am a bit of an English pedant. However, it still amazes me how many companies’ websites are littered with mistakes. At best this gives the impression that you are careless.
As with photography, penny-pinchers dislike investing in the necessary skills when it comes to engaging, high quality copy. The choice is yours, but the true cost to your business could be considerable.
7. Poor standard of SEO
Most companies have some idea of how important search engine optimisation (SEO) is these days. When it comes to being found by your customers, it is an information war out there. If you are poorly armed in terms of incorporating key terms and technical knowhow, your business is at a significant disadvantage. The answer is simple: get an experienced staff member or company to advise you or, better still, identify and keep track of the SEO terms that matter to your business.
8. Hidden details or no obvious point of contact
Permit me to ask a really bleeding obvious question: How easy or otherwise is it for someone to find a contact number, email address or another form of support on your website? For the majority of businesses, it should be there from the word go, right on your home page, correct?
In reality, some of the biggest companies are the worst offenders in this respect. Huge internet monoliths like Amazon, Microsoft and others are notoriously poor at providing any obvious route to human support. Why on earth do they bury things like the company phone contact number behind page after page of generic Q&A style guff? For the same reason they use “creative accounting”: it saves them money and staff. For smaller businesses, however, such poor practise could be losing you leads and bookings without you even knowing it!
Apart from the obvious remedy of making contact details obvious and easy to get to, many of the hospitality businesses we work with now use a live chat option. This can be a great way to convert enquiries into bookings, provided you have staff on call at any given moment.
9. Security issues and certification problems
Security is one of the most commonly overlooked aspects of any business website; until you get a major security scare! Hackers and cyber criminals can give any company a headache, but sadly many organisations only realise the true value of security following a difficult or costly episode.
Keeping your website’s safety features up to date is a must for starters. For example, Wordpress users should always upgrade to the latest versions of their plugins at regular intervals. But a lesser known but valuable step is obtaining an SSL certificate. In a nutshell, this is a way of keeping your customers safe during transactions. Not only a sensible move, but one that will give you preferential ranking with the likes of Google! Thankfully, it is relatively easy to set up. You could always contact us to arrange this.
10. Badly integrated
Does your business promote itself over various platforms? All but the real stick-in-the-mud companies tend to have Facebook at a minimum these days, along with others such as Twitter and Instagram. A blog is also an excellent idea to improve traffic and engagement too.
Do you join up the dots though? Can the user find glowing reviews, recent Facebook posts or a gallery of beautiful images straight from your home page? If there is any significant disconnect, you could be losing a lot of opportunities!
For this exact reason, we would advise a joined-up-thinking system for just about any business (in fact we even launched our own simple platform “Social Brilliance” to pull together useful content!). Don’t forget to feature your customers heavily in this too; so often they are your best ambassadors and the ones who will spread the word most effectively about the good things you do.
Further thoughts and services we offer
Whether this blog has given you some useful website tips or set one or two alarm bells ringing, I hope you have found it useful. It can be a tall order to keep your online presence up to date and doing your business justice, but there are ways organisations of all sizes can avoid the common pitfalls and mistakes.
Clockwork Marketing have a broad team of experts in all the key areas discussed, from smart website design to SEO. We pride ourselves on being friendly and easy to work with, providing as much or as little help as you need. Why not contact us today to see how we can meet your requirements?
Should you want to learn more tips and ways to improve your marketing and online performance, it’s also well worth following this blog, or indeed coming to one of our events. We are a marketing company that specialises in creating great websites and marketing services across a wide mix of hotels and hospitality businesses. Keep an eye on our Facebook page for further news and tips.