Don’t Shoot Yourself in the Foot

This week I was traveling without my laptop. I only had my iPhone and iPad with me. While I was away I had to look up a number of local restaurants where I was, and perform other mundane tasks that I would usually use my laptop for if I were home.

I was amazed at how many of these “local” websites that I went to are still entirely developed in Flash, with no non-Flash fallbacks. I understand that small restaurants or stores don’t have the large budgets of major Internet retailers. But with every domain hosting company offering simple website designs for free, it’s not that complicated for these small sites to have a non-Flash-based Internet presence.

If you are a mom-and-pop shop, are you shooting yourself in the foot because you haven’t done a redesign since the HTML5 revolution? If so, here is a simple checklist for signs that you are shooting yourself in the foot:

  1. Your site is based on Flash and you don’t have a non-Flash version.
  2. Videos on your site are Flash-based. For a better option, host them on YouTube so you don’t have to worry about anything. YouTube will take care of everything for you.
  3. Your navigation is graphics-based. Designers in the ’90s and ’00s designed web templates as clickable graphics because HTML didn’t provide the detailed control to really make intricate designs. That is no longer the case, and a graphical navigation fails for several reasons: it makes the page heavy and slow to load, it’s not indexable by a search engine, and it most likely doesn’t scale well across multiple devices (such as a mobile device).
  4. You don’t speak English well and that’s clear from your site. So many sites I have been on lately (non-corporate sites) have been laden with grammatical errors or typos. If you don’t know the difference between to, too, and two, aren’t sure if “a lot” is one word or two, or don’t understand the proper use of “quotes,” hire a copy editor or at least ask three to four friends to read over your site and give you notes before you publish your pages.

My own pet peeve is this last one: the incorrect use of quotes. The local Dairy Queen near me had a sign a while ago. It was handwritten and said: Please give “money” to our “charity” and help support “sick” kids. Need I even make a comment about this?

To a corporate reader of this column, this list might seem borderline dumb because these are obvious steps that companies take to make sure their sites are professional. But the reality is small sites are still often run by non-tech people who hired a local guy in their tiny town to build them a site, and have no idea how to make any changes to it.

If you have a small site that you operate on your own, are you shooting yourself in the foot by not doing these basic things that will make would-be customers take you seriously?

Until next time…
Jack

Image on home page via Shutterstock.

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