Seven Deadly Sins of Site Design

This year, I’m the chair of the site design track for Online Market World in October. I’m particularly excited about the session, “The Seven Deadly Sins of Site Design.” Today we’ll talk about a few of these sins and what you can do about them.

Sloth

Sloth takes many forms online. It can be represented by pages that take too long to load or processes that aren’t streamlined. Is your checkout process nine steps long? Do you have an all-Flash site that takes forever to download? Does your site not degrade nicely if the user has a slow connection? If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, your site is a victim of sloth. Streamline your processes and make sure your site loads quickly.

Gluttony

Panelist Olivier Chaine, CEO and founder of magnify360, has a great interpretation of gluttony. He describes gluttony as when you focus your energy on getting more traffic but fail to think about traffic quality. Instead of taking the “more is more” approach, focus on customers who fit a high-value profile. It’s OK to have less traffic if those people are worth more to you.

Gluttony can also be seen in Web sites that have banner ads everywhere. The site is crammed with messaging, leading to overstimulation (in a bad way) for users. Your site shouldn’t be like Times Square. Focused messages that don’t distract from the user’s primary purpose are a hallmark of a well-designed Web site.

Pride

Panelist Seth Rosenblatt, VP of product management for Interwoven, says pride can be seen on Web sites that focus too much on their CEOs or the corporate brand and not enough on what the users want. This can be expanded to include your site’s voice. For instance, does your mission statement say your company’s goal is to be “the market leader in x, y, and z”? A better mission statement might be “to be the best at helping people achieve x, y, and z, making their lives easier and more convenient.” Think and talk in terms of the customer, not your company.

Lust

Lust on a Web site can be interpreted a few ways. Rosenblatt says lust can be seen on sites that focus more on Flash and design than usability. I agree. My company works a lot in the luxury space. Those sites constantly struggle between getting their high-fashion brand conveyed online and making the site easy to use. In those companies’ boardrooms, a common statement that comes up is, “The runway movie that took two minutes to load looks great, but I just wanted to buy something.” Understand who is coming to buy and who is coming to dream, and cater experiences for them that don’t slow them down.

Chaine has another take on lust. It happens when everyone jumps on the same bandwagons. Not everyone needs to integrate YouTube, Facebook, or MySpace into his site. Not everyone needs an iPhone application. Not everyone needs Web 2.0 or AJAX (define) on her site. Techno lust and trend lust can be dangerous if you don’t have a road map for your functionality. Getting stuck in today’s fads — without understanding how they affect your business model, brand, and customer experience — is a recipe for disaster.

My take on lust is a little different. If your site sells products or services, its job is to make users really, really want them. I call the product information geared toward creating lust “desire data.” If you’re selling a designer engagement ring and your product description simply says “18 Karat White Gold Semi Mounting,” you aren’t doing enough to increase the lust the user should feel toward the product. Write copy that really motivates the user to buy the product. Use product photography that draws the user in and doesn’t make the product look like every other product on your site.

Lots More

There are three sins left, and a few more panelists who will be chiming in to discuss them during our session. I’ll write a follow-up discussing the other sins after the conference. If you’re going to Online Market World in San Francisco, please stop in and say hi!

Also, if you’re going to Shop.org in Las Vegas next month, I’m one of the “doctors” taking part in the “The Doctor Is In” sessions. I’ll be doing mini assessments of sites for usability, conversion, and retention. Stop by (or sign up for a time slot) to have your site reviewed.

Until next time…

Jack

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