You’ve got three seconds. Just three seconds to persuade that random person who surfed to your website from Google to stick around and read your website. You can’t afford mistakes with such a thin margin of error.

I write web copy. I’ve worked as an editor at several online publications. I have looked at a lot of websites over the years, and it amazes me that so many websites contain the same basic mistakes.

  • Mistake #1: Not updating the copyright date. Seems like such a tiny thing. I mean, it’s a number at the bottom of your website, in tiny print, and really it’s just there to keep people from jacking your content. But if you don’t have a blog front and center, or other dynamic content, this is what readers use to tell if you’re currently in business. Really, how do they know that you didn’t go out of business in 2005, or 2006, or in 2008 after the economy tanked? For every potential customer who does take the chance and email or call you, there are more who simply skip to the next Google result.
  • Mistake #2: Not having all types of contact info. I personally despise contact forms. If that’s the only way I can contact a company, if I can’t see the email address of the person I’m writing to, or a phone number to call to get a real person, I won’t bother to do business with them. That’s potential money walking away. Other people hate email, and want to call your office to talk to a real person. Still others hate phone calls, and would rather come to your office to meet face to face. Be able to accommodate a number of communication styles. Have a contact form AND an email address AND a phone number AND a snail mail address AND links to all your social networking pages. The more contact methods you have, the more contacts you get.
  • Mistake #3: Crazy navigation. Don’t make your readers guess where stuff is on your website. Use common phrases like “About Us” “Work Samples” and “Contact” in your navigation so people can easily find what they are looking for. The worst example of navigation I ever saw was a graphic designer who used single letters for each part of his navigation menu. I don’t want to have to guess that “Q” stands for “About The Company.”
  • Mistake #4: Fancy flash graphics. Not everyone has the fastest computer or the most up-to-date browser. If a potential customer gets a “You need Flash plug-in Number X to view this website” message when trying to enter your website, chances are they’ll just go somewhere else.

This post originally ran on the Indie Arsenal blog in September of 2009.

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