404 Error

Users are a pretty fickle bunch. They have little patience for flawed websites and will simply move on to another website‚Äö√Ñ√Æperhaps your competitor’s website?‚Äö√Ñ√Æif they meet with any issues. There are a lot of problems that users don’t like, but here are nine that they absolutely hate. Avoid these problems or you’ll lose prospects and customers. Worse, you can even be penalized by Google and have your search engine rankings reduced for some of these website problems.

1. 404 Errors

The 404 Error is perhaps the worst offense a website can commit. Yes, sometimes pages move and products go away, but there are so many tools available to check your website there is little excuse for a visitor to ever see this error. It shows a lack of concern for your user and creates doubts for your customers‚Äö√Ñ√Æif your website is flawed, will your service be also? What’s more, Google and other search engines will penalize you website if there are too many 404 errors.

Fortunately, the fix for the 404 Error is simple. Either correct the link that is driving people to the wrong place or put a 301 redirect in place. A 301 redirect is simply a notice to search engines that the page has moved permanently to a new place. Users will automatically be redirected to the new location. Some 404 Errors are inevitable, but reduce the damage as much as possible.

Create a custom 404 Error page with information that will help your visitors find what it was they were looking for in the first place. You should also invite them to tell you about the error (many will) or, even better, set-up an automated notification so you get an email when a 404 Error happens. Just remember, sometime bots and bad guys will try to find pages on your site that don’t exit or that you’ve protected from prying eyes‚Äö√Ñ√Æthat is, unfortunately, a normal part of the internet. There is no need to take any action on those, just for legitimate pages that should exist there but don’t. Of course, if many of your visitors are typing a URL into their browser directly thinking there will be a page there, you might consider making one!

2. Pop-Ups

The pop-up is really annoying, be it an announcement, advertisement, sign-up form, or whatever. It’s not professional and makes your business look desperate.¬¨‚ĆThe worst offense is repeatedly making the pop-up show for users until they sign-up or click on it. That’s beyond a bad user experience. Many marketers will tell you how great it is for conversions, but I don’t think it wins you any friends. Great content and great services are what win you customers. The pop-up is only successful with people who would have taken the action anyway had you invested the time and energy into educating them properly in the first place. For everyone else, it simply leaves them with a poor impression of your business at best, or drives them away at worst.

There are ways of notifying visitors of new products and services, asking them to sign up for a newsletter, or take some other action without using a pop-up. First, make the request mutually beneficial. That is, ensure you and your customer benefit from the offer.¬¨‚Ć That means no blatant advertisement pop-ups. Second, make sure the request is innocuous. Don’t flash a lightbox or pop-up right in the middle of the screen forcing a user to dismiss it or click on it. Instead, have it placed in the bottom, right hand corner of the screen (the user’s eye will get there eventually, but they’ll see your great content first) or at the top of the screen in a small bar in perhaps a different color than the rest of your site (consider the Hello Bar). This makes it easy for visitors to see and ignore should they wish to, without damaging the user experience. Finally, make it easy for the user to dismiss the notification. You can always set it to show again in 30 days (but no sooner) or if there is another legitimate and substantially different offer to tell your user about.

3. Stock Photography

Stock photography just looks cheesy. If that’s what you’re going for, great. If not, then stop using it. Users view stock photography as generic and, by extension, the businesses that uses it as generic and indistinguishable from other businesses. That’s the last thing you want. You want your business to be unique and memorable. Custom photography is expensive, though there are other options.

Find imagery and photography on Flickr. Make sure that the license allows for its use. Some licenses don’t allow commercial use or require attribution, which might not look good on your site. Do a search for other photography and imagery sites that allow for free use of images. There are also reasonable licensing options on many sites. You might even consider some of the big photography houses. They sometimes have images and photography for great prices. If you are just using it on your website, often the small size is enough and might be relatively economical. Take the time to find the right photography for your site‚Äö√Ñ√Æit will make all the difference.

4. Videos That Start Playing Automatically

Video, or anything for that matter, that starts playing automatically is a huge annoyance for visitors of your website. Aside from the fact that it’s jarring and disruptive, it can really cause problems. What if the user is at work, church or someplace public, and your website starts blasting out video on how great your product is? I can promise you that your visitor won’t be happy. That’s just one more reason for them to close the browser or click away. And they won’t come back.

Having video play means it also has to download and buffer first, which can take a few moments. This will make your website seem slow. Users don’t like slow websites. If they actively click on the video then they know it might take a moment for it to load, so they are much less likely to leave the site.
Avoid these problems; don’t have videos automatically start playing.

5. Not Providing Contact Information

What? You don’t want your prospects and customers to call you? Really? I can’t tell you have many clients of mine have simply picked up the phone and called me to say “I saw your number, and wanted to discuss a project….” If he had to search for my number I might not have received that call. You want to make it easy for your customers and prospects to contact you. Remove the barriers. Put your telephone number on every single page of your website.

A contact form is not enough. You need to display a telephone number and email address. If you user Twitter, Facebook or some other social network regularly then add that too. People like to contact businesses in different ways. Make it easy for them.  Adding your contact information, especially your telephone number, provides legitimacy and makes it easy for prospects and customers to reach you. If you make it difficult, they will simply not call and go somewhere else.

6. Unintelligible Copy

I used to do some consulting for a Marketing Manager at a top-tier advertising agency. This guy would write emails to clients that had great words in them, but were completely unintelligible.¬¨‚Ć No one ever knew what he was saying, but because the words sounded big no one wanted to seem foolish so they just said, “Great email.” If you do the same thing online, people will just click away. They won’t try to decipher what you mean. They are going to take the time or make the effort.

Not only that, copy that doesn’t make sense, uses marketing speak, or is over SEO optimized is not only bad for your customers, but bad for search engine rankings. Write website copy like Ernest Hemingway‚Äö√Ñ√Æclear, concise and to the point (yes, this post breaks some of those rules, though it’s a post not webpage copy and sometimes it’s okay to break the rules). Avoid being clever or use big words. That will just confuse your users. Simply say what you need to say, nothing more and nothing less.

7. Not Including Share Buttons

We live in a social world. The internet is social. People like to share things. As a business, I’m pretty sure you want people to share great content from your business. Make it easy for people to do this. Add share buttons on your blog posts. If no one is sharing your content yet you can set the buttons so they don’t show the counter. Of course, you should build up your social media marketing. Google and other search engines are using social signals more and more in their page ranking, so it’s a good idea to get ahead of your competitors and build your social sharing.

8. Poor Site Navigation

If they are unable to navigate your website effectively or if the site structure is confusing, they will simply give up and leave. If you site is difficult to navigate, customers will eventually give up. They don’t want to spend their time searching or trying to figure out your website’s navigation. People simply do not like to work hard to find information online.

Make your website navigation simple and no more than three levels deep. Ensure your website’s structure is logically consistent and easy to navigate. Consider adding a breadcrumb to your website. This is good for the user experience and good for search engine optimization. Remember, what makes sense to you and your business might not make sense to the customer. You might structure your business internally by marketing segment, but your custom might be looking at products or industry verticals. Try doing so research and testing on the best way to structure your site. Creating personas and doing some A/B testing are great ways to do this. Of course, you could just ask your customers.

9. Slow Loading Website

If your website loads slowly, forget it. People won’t bother. They lack the patience and, to be blunt, there is not excuse. A properly coded and formatted website should load quickly on an average internet connection. If your website doesn’t, then something is wrong. Often websites are coded incorrectly. They load files in the wrong order, they render JavaScript before the HTML so the user doesn’t see anything until background information loads, or the website is simply coded so poorly the browser needs time to figure it all out before it can render the page. Check out your website’s page load speed using this free tool.

Assuming your website was properly coded, then you can dramatically improve page load times by ensuring that imagery and photography are optimized. Create the image at the size it will be rendered on the page. Scaling on the page by setting the width and height doesn’t reduce the file size‚Äö√Ñ√Æthe browser will still have to download the entire image. Also consider optimizing images using Yahoo’s Smush.It tool. This reduces the file size even more. Fast page load times are great for the user experience and Google will also reward your website with a high page ranking.

What do you think? Is there a website problem that users hate that I didn’t include? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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