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I have seen so many web sites make the same mistakes over and over again. You can easily avoid them! Just run through this list of mistakes and crucial points, and double check your site!
1. Using Free Hosting - This looks very unprofessional. Browsers may well think if you aren't willing to pay the $20/month for hosting, you aren't very serious about your business.
2. No Domain Name - The same thing goes for not owning your own domain name. You can get a domain name for $10/year - there's just no excuse for not doing it anymore.
3. Slow Download time - Don't make people wait for your site. Keep the graphics to a minimum, and keep the sizes small. If you need larger pictures to show details of your products, use a thumbnail on your main page, and link to the larger picture. Let the visitor know that it will take a while for the image to load, and ask for their patience. You can also speed up image download time by using an image compression tool.
4. Unnecessary "cool" stuff - Unless you're a web designer or graphic artist that specializes in creating flash animation, or rotating logos, you probably shouldn't have such things on your site. The "tip of the day", ripple effect, stars following the mouse pointer, etc. - unless you know that visitors keep coming back for these things, or they contribute in some way to the bottom line, can them. They can slow down the download time considerably, and most people would rather read your content anyway. And please, don't put music on your page - some people may be browsing at work, or at home when people are sleeping, and they'll back out of your site plenty fast if it starts playing the Hallelujah Chorus.
5. No Meta-Tags - There's plenty of tools available to help you create proper meta-tags. Without them your site won't be properly indexed in the engines, and you're making it harder for people to find you. Definitely worth the time to do it right.
6. Lack of Clarity - Don't make your visitors guess who you are and what you do. Make it clear in your headline and in your first paragraph. Phrases like "welcome to" And "congratulations, you've found" are over used. Just get to the meat.
7. Visible Hit Counter - To many people it's a sign of inexperience online, and you really don't want people to know if your traffic hasn't been the greatest. However, you do want to keep track of stats on your visitors for your own purposes, so investigate what stats, logs and records your hosting company can provide for you.
8. Hiding Behind your Site - Put your contact information (email, mailing address, phone number) somewhere findable on every page. This helps establish credibility, and lets your visitor know you're a real person.
9. Typos - Proofread your copy, and then have two or three friends do it too. Spell check won't catch everything, and misspelled and misused words cut your credibility as a business person.
10. Browser Incompatibility - Check your web site with a variety of browsers and window sizes. And don't say "this site was designed to be viewed with XXX" - why on earth would you want to alienate the rest of the online population? They might be interested in your product or service, but if they can't view your site, they can't buy. Spend the time double checking your site, and then you'll know that it works for everybody. And be sure that everything fits into a 600 pixel wide screen.
11. Unclear Navigation - You want people to be able to make their way through your site, not get lost or confused, and just click out. Be consistent: If you have a side bar with navigation buttons on your home page, put it there on every page. Also consider having a row of plain text links to all the pages on your site at the bottom of every page. Help people get around your site. You might even want to put all of your info on one page - that way they don't have to click around to get to the point.
12. Too Many Options - Don't confuse people by giving them too many choices. Think about the one (or maybe two) things you want them to do on your site, and seriously consider getting rid of everything else. At the very least make sure you give them a minimum of choices per page, and organize your site very carefully.
13. Busy Background Images - Yes, there are a lot of really nifty backgrounds out there. Don't use them as the main background of your site. Keep the ornamentation to the side, or use nested tables, so that your text is black on white. Not terribly exciting, but very readable. And do keep it consistent - a different background for every page can be confusing and distracting. Surely you want your visitor to be paying attention to your text, not the background.
14. Unreadable Fonts - Make sure your fonts are of a readable size, face and color. If you decide to use colored text for emphasis, don't overdo it - it looks childish. If you are running a business, try to stick to fonts that are clear and easy to read (verdana is good) - you can show your personality by your style of writing - just make sure people can read it. And don't type in all caps - it's harder to read, slows people down, and some of your visitors will consider it "shouting" and very rude. If you want to emphasize something, bold it, or put it in a different color.
15. No Headline - Spend some time with your headline, and try out a few different ones. You might be surprised at how a few changed words can increase your sales. Just because what you have now is working doesn't mean you can't improve on it.
16. No Testimonials - They can be a very powerful sales tool. Write past buyers and ask for a testimonial. If you're just getting started, offer a free sample of your product or service in exchange for a testimonial - it'll be worth it! Make sure you use real names -other wise it tends to look like you made it up.
17. Features Instead of Benefits - Stress how your product or service will help the visitor. Your web site shouldn't be about your product (or service), it should be about how your product/service will solve the visitor's problems.
18. Not Building a List - Have a newsletter, offer an article via autoresponder, have a contest, do what it takes, but get your visitors email addresses. That list can be a goldmine. You can mail them about updates to your site, new products, recommend other products (for a percentage of the sales). Send them helpful bits of information - win their trust - and many of them will buy the things you recommend.
19. No Guarantee - Make the visitor as comfortable as possible with ordering from you. Emphasize no-risk, hassle- free 100% money back guarantee. And make the guarantee be for as long as possible. If you give them a year to try it out, they're much less likely to return it than in a month. If they have to hurry and try it in a month, they may be more critical, and more likely to return it. A strong, long-term guarantee will usually not increase your returns, but will increase your sales.
20. Problems with the Ordering Process - Need it to be secure and as easy as possible. If you've got your reader's to the point of purchasing, don't let anything get in the way. Find a way to take credit cards online, and if you're selling a downloadable product, figure out how to get it to them as soon as possible - internet surfers have a reputation for wanting instant gratification.
21. Not Asking For It - Ask for the sale. Ask them to bookmark your site. Ask them to tell a friend, subscribe to your newsletter, whatever. Sometimes they just need a little push, so push!
Copyright © - Corie J. Conwell. - Reprinted with permission. Corie J. Conwell has been working online since 1999. She is the owner of The Missing Piece, a web site maintenance and design company. After a far too brief time in Quito, Ecuador, Corie lives in New Mexico where she studies medieval european history in her off time. Corie is the author of, "Web Site Secrets Exposed!"
If you would like to talk one-on-one with Larry James about issues related to this article, you are invited to arrange for a private coaching session by telephone. Go to Author & Speaker Coaching for specific details and fees.
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