You’ve given all the information to your web designer. You spent valuable time – and brain cells – writing up a summary of your business. You posed for a couple of awkward photos for the bio page, and you went outside with your smartphone to click off a couple of pictures of your occupation. The website is there for months or years, but as a means of generating new custom for you it has been as useful as a crop of nettles in an abandoned carpark.
Like Charlton Heston in Planet of the Apes, you raise your hands up, fall to your knees and scream whyyyyyy?! Why – after all that effort, the day and a half of chewing the end of a ratty biro and jotting notes about who you are on your Aisling copybook – why did the website fail to do anything the guy promised? After all, you were sure you were entering an electronic nirvana – a golden place where you sit back and all the customers you can handle simply queue before you and beg you to provide your service. A great thing, technology …
Reality, however, proves to be a letdown. No-one knows about your website, it seems, and the few venture in seem to abandon it faster than a half-built housing estate in North Leitrim, never to return. You shake your head, suddenly realising the human race are fickle and just don’t understand how great your business is. You, in turn, abandon your website, letting it sit there in its lonely server, ignored and forgotten, telling the story of what might have been.
Reasons have a Season
If we could list every combination of problem that makes websites into abject failures … well, you’d stop reading at line 457. Let’s explore our favourite four, as these are the ones that cause the most trouble and actively drive people away. Let’s face it, if they were cars, they would long ago have been crushed.
1. Your Blurb
Strictly speaking, we should call this the ‘editorial’, but blurb is such a lovely word! Blurb is the text written for your site: usually describing your business, your staff, services you offer, and touching on the aspects you hope to convey to visitors.
It’s hard to believe, in this era where virtually all PCs and mobiles have spelling and grammar checkers hard-wired into them at birth, that people continue to create amateurish websites with incomprehensible text loaded with typos and basic errors. One case that made us shake our heads in disbelief was the company that had its own name misspelt several times on their homepage. If they can’t get their own trading name correct, how trustworthy can they be?
Let’s be blunt: if your website blurb is poorly written, badly edited or chock-full of careless errors, your visitors will treat it with contempt. If you had hoped to attract as them customers, … hm, right, yeah. You have little choice in this – invest time and effort into your written material; it is how you convey your message to your visitors. If authoring pages of blurb just isn’t your cup of tea, ask a competent writer to create it on your behalf – a win-win!
2. Outdated Websites
We’re strange people on this island. We’ll occasionally pour our heart and soul into creating something, then walk away and neglect it until it is in need of serious remedial work. Old castles and churches (and my house, but that’s another story), walls and open areas … and business websites: we sometimes let them be, never to be updated. Why is this? Was the effort so great that we can’t face into the mundane acts of maintenance needed to keep things fresh and glorious, or do we just think that they can manage on their own?
Just like my house has a back yard that looks more like a jungle than a lawn, an abandoned website lets down your business, has people gossiping behind your back about how you’re letting down the area, and complaining about the flies.
The neglected website grows weeds, in the form of out-of-date information. The product range might have changed; the staff listed no longer work there; even the address could be wrong. The lack of fresh paint shows it up – the site looks jaded and old, with the few visitors returning to the same drab and dull place deciding there’s cooler and more interesting places they could go.
Worst of all, nasty things could move into the derelict corners. Depending on the kind of site, a failure to keep the infrastructure updated may introduce bugs that can be exploited by others, leading the site to become a toxic wasteland, inhabited only by scammers and hackers, using your infrastructure to infest, infect and ruin things for others.
This nightmarish scenario could be avoided with a couple of coats of fresh paint – new content for your site – and a lawnmower – regularly checking that your site’s infrastructure is up-to-date. Of course, you can always contract the services of a quality maintenance crew to do the hard work on your behalf. It’s your responsibility to ensure your website doesn’t end up being condemned!
3. Mobile Optimisation
A big buzzword for a simple idea, all this means is that your website has been designed to look good on a phone or tablet. Though we tend to design websites when seated at our huge-screen PCs and Macs, the greatest numbers of visitors are now using smartphones and tablets. Why do we spend most of our time worrying about how it looks on a massive monitor?
To appeal to the greatest number of visitors, a website should provide a perfect experience for the big screen and the little ones. Older sites rarely handle this well; abandoned sites barely manage at all. As we walk down the street, bumping into signs, walking out into traffic, bouncing off granite-faced elderly ladies with pointy handbags (yeah, guilty, your honour), we expect the sites we visit to be easily navigated and comfortably readable while we risk life and limb to devour its online content. A website that fails to do so is a one that a mobile user will then ignore.
Will they come back when sitting at their PC? Hang on – do they even own a PC nowadays?!
4. Slo-mo, no-go
Life for the wannabee website owner is hard. Not only does he or she have to worry about keeping information fresh AND look after the needs of the mobile user, but there is something else to consider; something everyone online in Ireland has complained about at some time or other: speed.
Think back to the last time you mouthed off about gawd how slooooow the internet is today like gawd i can’t get onto insta no matter whut like and i have like this amazing frappo than Bova down at the coffeetorium made for me with like my face done in choc powder and it was like amazing gawd this is so sloooooow.
How often do you attempt to open a website and give up because it took more time than your attention span will allow? Online banking, for example: if it doesn’t open for me in 5 seconds I don’t bother with it. (Which is why I have stopped paying my bills, but that’s another story entirely.)
A well-optimised website should open quickly and efficiently for users who have slow or limited connectivity – seemingly 99% of the population of Ireland, if we go by complaining alone! Sites with all the bells and whistles might look incredibly impressive in an office with fibre broadband, but lack a certain something when they take 20 minutes to load up in a car park near Miltown Malbay (true story, ask for details, bring beer.)
Consider your target audience. Ask your website designer to make a speedy site that doesn’t delay the greatest number of visitors. Over-large images are one of the worst culprits. Optimise the site so mobile users aren’t waiting forever, because they don’t wait – they go elsewhere. (Mobile users, if it doesn’t load in an hour, you have no signal. You can quote me on that.)
Get with the Programme
We iBrutes hate to see an old, out-of-date, slow, unoptimised site. To us, it’s the visual equivalent of fingernails down a blackboard, or hands squeaking over a balloon. (We’re very sensitive people, you know. Handle with care.) Solutions to the four big problems are available for businesses, and can be quick and simple to implement, or slow and expensive, depending on context. Nothing is impossible.
Most important of all is perception. How does a visitor react to your website? Put yourself in their place and look at your site with new eyes. Ask someone you trust to give you an honest evaluation. If your site is well maintained and looking good, you should gain trust and business from those visiting it.
If not, talk to us. We’ve got the technology.