Unfortunately for the web, many websites are conceived, designed and built internally. Whilst there are exceptions to the rule, often this leads to a number of decisions being made that are at best questionable, and at worst disastrous for the usability and overall success of the site. This post talks about some of my own pet hates, and pitfalls I’ve noticed major corporate sites falling into.
Failing to organise information properly
Great information architecture is an artform in its own right, however many corporate website still fail to grasp the importance of it. Without thinking about how visitors are likely to access the often vast amount of data held internally, a website is doomed from the get go.
Many a corporate website think about their information architecture in the same way they do their business, splitting up their information into business units, or departments. The problem with this is that your audience simply don’t think in the same way as you do internally within you business, and as such are looking at your content in a completely different way to you. Organising information according to corporate structure is not the way to go.
Best practise is to organise your site architecture, information flow and design around the stakeholders, and the information they need to make informed decisions about your business or product to take action.
Failing to make bloggers lives easy
This is a pet peeve for me. As someone who enjoys writing about web apps, or digital products alot of the time I find that I have to jump through hoops to get the information I need to review a product.
If its free – no problem, I’m not out any expense to either download the product, or signup and use it. If it’s got a free trial, again – not a problem, as I just let the trial expire.
But – and here’s the kicker, take a commercial product. A product that actual makes money. A product that doesn’t naturally make a big splash online because it isn’t free, and you’d be amazed at how difficult it is for a blogger to get access to review it. For example, a company I contacted recently to trial and review their product tried to engage me in the sales process, rather than recognising the potential free publicity I was offering as a blogger.*Sigh*.
Here’s what I’d do to make blogger’s lives easier. Think about the free trial option. If you can implement it easily, especially if its a web app – do it. But don’t put that bullshit “we need your credit card and will charge you if you forget” – people see straight through that, and whilst it may have worked for AOL – bloggers will not generally bite.
If you don’t or won’t provide a trial, then you should have an adequate media pack somewhere on your site, including high resolution screenshots of your product and video already ready to copy paste embed.
Providing links to other blogs that have reviewed the product is also useful, if only to see what other people have thought. All of this stuff should be easily found from your home page. Bottom line – if you want links back to your site – make it easy!
Failing to provide clear calls to action
Clear calls to action allow you to do less with more. It’s all well and good having traffic, but if you fail to tell the visitor up front what you’d like them to do, often they will be left floundering.
If your website has clearly defined goals set up that are being monitored in your Analytics then you should in turn reflect these in your site design. Many corporate websites simply put content up online, and expect visitors to know what to do next, with the home page being the primary means of explanation.
This concept is flawed as typically the entrance point for your website will not be your home page, with visitors arrive via Google taking people to pages deep within your site. Its important that calls to action exist on these internal pages as well, to really maximise your existing traffic.
Failing to provide a contact email address
Yes, I know spam is a major problem online, and harvesters are regularly scraping the web looking for your email in plain text. However, if you make it difficult for people to contact you, generally they won’t bother. I’ve seen major corporate blogs that list, Twitter accounts, Facebook accounts, Google map directions, technical support emails.
And all miss the simple contact@ email address.
In alot of cases, I don’t want to send a public message to you on Facebook. I want it to be private. I can’t send a DM, because you aren’t following me on Twitter. I don’t want to email tech support, because its not a technical enquiry. I don’t want to fill in an enquiry form, because I’m not interested in buying something.
I merely want to talk via email. Fail to provide something so simple, and you’ve probably just missed an opportunity.
Failing to provide editorial restraint
Not everything piece of content that is sitting around on corporate intranets is worthy of being put online, and too many businesses in the corporate world see the web as just another place to hold all this ‘stuff’. Don’t fall for the same trap when they give you a boat load of content to put online.
Think about what the content will achieve for the site visitors, and ask yourself ‘Will this content persuade, inform or educate?’ – if the answer is no, or if it serves only an internal corporate audience – leave it on the Intranet. Be ruthless!
Failing to respect their browsers
If I land on your website and you immediately start playing sounds. I guarantee, I’m gone.
Many corporate sites have video on their landing pages, as its known that this can help to increase conversions. This makes sense, as it helps the visitors determine what they need to do, or it provides an interactive sales pitch. However, if you automatically start it playing, and the visitor doesn’t realise, you can pretty much guarantee your bounce rate to increase. Worst offenders are those annoying 3d website helpers that talk. 1990 called, and it wants its cheesy products back.
Many people browse the web with their own tunes playing in the background, or in quiet work environments. Give the user control of what they do on your site, and they will decide how they browse, it at least gives them a chance to turn their speakers down prior to listening to interactive elements on your site.
Overall having a plan at the get go, and recognising when the above points threaten a projects success leads to overall better solutions in the long run. What bugbears do you guys have with corporate sites?