5 Reasons Your Website Design Sucks (…and they are all your fault)

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In case you haven’t already heard, the majority of us trolling the Internet tend to judge a book by it’s cover. I know, it’s not terribly politically correct, but neither is lying about it. Besides, is there really something that terribly wrong with judging a company based on the visual they put out to the world? Since we all do it anyway, why not just embrace it for what it is?

The fact is that if we’re looking for someone to pull the proverbial thorn out of our side, is it too much to ask that they be competent? Sometimes the only way to figure out if someone knows what they are doing is to see if they look like they know what they are doing. Here’s a hint, having dancing penguins and Star Wars effects on your website pretty much tells me you don’t know what you are doing…unless you own a novelty shop that has somehow figured out a way to combine science fiction movies with mono-chromatic warm blooded animals in which case I apologize.

As the owner of a successful Internet marketing firm, I have seen my share of train wrecks and they all seem to have one thing in common. You. Hate me later if you want, but right now it’s time to take your medicine. Do you want to know what is stopping you from having a top of the line effective website? Here you go:

My Cousins Best Friends Neighbor is a Web Designer

Since the industry is not in any way regulated, you could swing a dead cat by its tail and you will likely hit about 4 or 5 people that have a copy of PhotoShop and Dreamweaver thus making them professional website designers. I understand you may be getting a great deal, but doesn’t your company deserve better than that? There are some things you just should not be a cheapskate about…root canals, contraceptives and your website. This is often the first and only thing that a prospect sees before deciding to call you or not. Do it right and make a great first impression!

You Have Your Hand Firmly Planted on the Mouse

Let’s assume you did all of the research, interviewed a handful of web designers, went through dozens of examples, negotiated a fair contract, chose a web designer and wrote them a check. If you did your due diligence, chances are good that you have hired someone more than competent enough to do a good job for you. You then get the first concept and it happens…you start giving them feedback. Can you move this over here, put that over there, make the logo bigger, use fancier fonts and before you know it you are asking if it is OK to come by the office to work on it together with the designer. Micromanaging the design and insisting on holding the mouse while your designer works on your site is a huge mistake. You hired a professional…give them the freedom to flex their creative muscle. Of course you should give feedback, but instead of telling them to make the logo bigger, ask them why they made it so small. Instead of telling them to move something to the bottom, ask why it is on top. Designers are an extremely calculated bunch and there are many reasons as to why they do the things they do that you don’t realize. Making all of your changes could likely hurt you in the long run. There is a reason you are not a web designer…stop pretending to be one just because you cut someone a check.

You Almost Know How to Use Your Content Management System

The majority of sites these days use content management systems like WordPress, Drupal or Joomla and you know just enough to be dangerous. When the site was handed over to you it was nothing short of a work of art. After a week on your watch the site is now littered with oversized pictures, five different fonts per page and a mess of junk code caused from pasting the content of a word document. Even the best sites out there can go bad with the wrong person at the wheel. Unless you are an advanced user, your content management system should be used for making minor changes only. Anything that appears to be more than your standard updating text or adding pictures should be handled by a professional in order to maintain the integrity of the site.

You Have Been Afflicted With iStockPhoto-itus

Websites are a very visual medium and so you need good pictures. Not everyone is going to want or need a photographer, I get that, so there is nothing wrong with using a site like istockphoto.com if you need some filler images. Just do yourself a favor, when looking for an image, go beyond the first page of your search. Everyone seems to use the same pictures over and over again…the multicultural people in suits smiling while they ponder a blank piece of paper, the guy writing on the glass wall, the contract on the desk with the pen strategically placed on top of it, etc. Use some creativity in your image choice. These sites have millions of really good images. Stop using the same 14!

You Have Really Big Eyes

You want to build a site along the likes of Coca Cola’s, not realizing that they are a billion dollar brand with a 100 year history while you are a local landscaper with a $750 budget. Not to mention that major brands like Coke have signifantly different goals than you. When looking for sites to compare yourself to or to help guide your web designer, find sites within the same or a similar industry that are targeting the same clients you want…successfully! Figure out what specifically they are doing and then do it too! The secret is somewhere within their site. Go find it!

It’s never too late so if you are guilty of any (or all) of these, there is still hope! Find a good web designer and start the relationship by listening. Make sure they know what your goals are with your website and let them recommend a strategy and listen. Ask questions and then, you guessed it…listen!

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  • Christina Cruz SEO

    This article hits it right on the nose of why some websites designs are bad. People want their website to be attractive and at the same time have everything on the front page. You pointed this out in a funny yet successful way. Thanks

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Thanks Christina! You would be surprised at some of the sites that come across my desk every week! With all of the resources we have available to us, there is no excuse for having a crummy website!

  • Ivana Burić

    Great article!

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Thanks! I usually try and wait this long before responding :)

  • Steve VanHove

    This is a must-read for all our new web design clients! Btw, the designer should keep the client from micromanaging the design. I am learning more and more to just say “I won’t do that” (on a nice way – usually) when a client wants to push the design in the wrong direction. I’ve earned not to be an “order taker.”

    • Steve VanHove

      Now if I could learn to spell and/or proofread – lol!

      • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

        You’re preaching to the choir :)

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      I know the feeling. I’ve been in those situations where clients have held the mouse for me. It’s frustrating. I have one site from years ago that is really bad because of the clients over-involvement and insistence on certain changes. I keep that one handy and break it out when a client is getting overzealous with changes. I will show it to them and ask what they think. When they express how bad it is I tell them that it is the result of the client getting everything they want. Point made.