Digital MarketingStrategiesTop 10 Web Site Blunders: Part 2

Top 10 Web Site Blunders: Part 2

Taken a fresh look at your web site recently? If you haven't, it really might be in need of a marketing tune-up. See what your site does right -- and what it could do better.

If it’s been several months or more since you created your web site, it’s time to take a fresh look and consider performing a marketing tune-up. Start with last week’s tips, and continue with these guidelines.

Blunder No. 5: Emphasis on “we” instead of “you.” Usually people arrive at your web site hoping to gain some benefit for themselves — to learn something, purchase items they need, divert themselves from the reports they’re supposed to write, or solve business problems. When you spend most of your space singing your own praises, you force visitors to ponder the question, “What do you have to do with me?” Speaking to the visitor as “you” makes a faster, more vivid connection.

One home page that I looked at used “our” or “we” 15 times in 423 words and mentioned the name of its product or company 5 times. “You” didn’t appear even once. This implies that the company is more interested in itself than in its potential customers. Another site with a comparable percentage of the word “we” also placed its “about us” navigation button first, before “our services,” and filled the rest of the home page with the titles of five press releases, each beginning with the name of the company. That’s egomania.

In comparison, take a look at, which rents DVDs by mail. On its home page, I counted 18 explicit or implicit uses of “you” and just 3 of “we.” Similarly, Popula, a vintage auction site, uses “you” 17 times and “we” only 4 times in the marketing copy at the bottom of its home page. In doing so, both of these companies communicate an inviting, client-centered attitude. Whether you sell to businesses or consumers, you’d do well to follow their lead.

Blunder No. 6: Lack of contact information. I mentioned this two weeks ago as well. Anyone already uneasy about handing over credit card information to God-knows-who becomes even more wary when he or she can’t find a phone number and location for the merchant. Site visitors who don’t know how to contact someone if they have a question about the ordering process or would like to return the order are site visitors likely to abandon their shopping carts. Avoid this by clearly laying out who and where you are.

Don’t try to regiment and control inquiries by providing only a web form. Not only do visitors’ questions often fall outside a form designed with just one purpose in mind, web forms do not convey the reassuring message “We’re eager to please, and we’ll get back to you right away.” Instead the web form medium says, “We’ll respond when we get around to it.” Someone with an urgent question or problem might rather call, and not finding the phone number with which to do that, go surfing away to your more accommodating competitor.

Blunder No. 7: Typos, sloppy formatting, and grammar mistakes. I’m not the only shopper bothered when I read a product description like this: “A mutlifunction timepiece that puts your name in light’s.” Far from being an optional final touch, proofreading should be required before any new web page goes live. Your credibility and trustworthiness depend on the details being correct, proper, and neat.

Ray Bernard, a product development consultant based in Laguna Hills, Calif., once discovered that navigation errors, broken links, grammar or spelling mistakes, and typos caused visitors to a financial services web site to pull back from doing business there. All of his testers “declined to participate in any real transactions on the site,” he says.

Blunder No. 8: Lack of clear, complete pricing information. People shouldn’t have to load up a shopping cart and head to the checkout before being told the cost of items and shipping. Likewise, usability experts tell us that being asked for credit card information before shipping charges are revealed causes droves of online shoppers to change their minds about buying.

Blunder No. 9: Requests for unnecessary information. I encountered a mind-boggling example of this while trying to hire a research assistant through a local business college, which had outsourced its job listings to a brand-new web site. In addition to asking me to describe the job I wanted someone for, the site asked whether I was male or female and my age and income. I couldn’t believe my eyes. None of those three facts had anything to do with hiring an assistant. I even called the college back to learn whether there was some other way it could pass along my job request to its students. Nope! I posted the listing elsewhere.

Before requesting any personal information, ask yourself whether you truly need it. And if the reason you need that fact may not be obvious to your customer, explain. For example, since many online shoppers don’t believe you need their phone numbers, you should explain to them why you need it (if in case you do!).

Blunder No. 10: Confusing order forms. Recently a conference-call service I do business with implemented a new online, real-time reservation service. I thought I’d followed directions and booked a two-hour time slot one Monday from 7 to 9 p.m. At 8 p.m., though, more than a dozen strangers dialed into our phone line, disrupting my telephone session. I firmly told the newcomers they’d made a mistake, and they got off the call.

But the next day I discovered that the reservation system was at fault. Neither the web interface nor the email confirmation told me clearly that I’d actually booked one hour two weeks in a row rather than two consecutive hours on the same night.

Only one method ensures that people find your order forms as clear as you think they are: testing. As Aaron Hurst explains in a recent ClickZ article, ask several people who have never used your site to perform specific tasks there. Observe the ease or difficulty they have completing searches or orders and change your site accordingly. When mistakes occur, clarify your instructions and retest rather than moan that people can’t follow directions.

(By the way, if you do take my advice here, hang on to your pre- and post-makeover pages, and let me know. I’m working on a new book about web site makeovers to be published in September 2001 by Top Floor Publishing, and I am looking for compelling examples to highlight.)

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