Is your website dressed for success?

Would you take someone seriously if he or she showed up for a job interview in a dirty T-shirt and muddy shoes? No. So, why should your visitors take you seriously when your website isn’t dressed for success either?

A bad website probably wont lead to the death of your business, but it could be responsible for people getting the wrong impression and choosing not to do business with you. To know how to dress for success, it’s best to know which type of impression you are giving. Here are five of the most common bad impressions that could be halting or degrading your business online.

1. Old and dated appearance = No business

When I come across a website that looks old I assume that the business isn’t doing well. It looks as if the owners gave up on it years ago. I usually opt to leave the site and find someone else that at least looks like they can do a better job.

Old websites have these qualities:

  • Short and narrow layout (800 x 600 pixels)
  • Table-based layout (bad code)
  • Bad navigation (it runs down the left-hand side of the site)
  • Old copy (text hasn’t been updated in years)

If you have an old website I advise you to get it redesigned. The great thing about having an old website is that you can really amaze your visitors when they see how well you’ve freshened up.

2. Confusing appearance = Annoying business

If you have a confusing website, your visitors are most likely aggravated with it. When I come across an annoying website is assume that the business is disorganized and/or ignorant. Why else would they make me struggle to find what should be obvious.

Confusing websites have these telltale characteristics:

  • Tons of  information jammed onto the page (visitors zone out like a deer in headlights)
  • Multiple navigation areas (Top, right-hand site, and bottom)
  • Hidden navigation (new navigation revealed only on certain pages)
  • Columns on both sides of the main content (distracting to read)
  • Inconsistent link colors (hard to tell links from decorations)
  • Bad link colors (Black text with gray links)
  • Icons for everything (unnecessary designer clutter)
  • Stupid naming conventions (calling the contact page “Info”)

If you have a confusing website you need to listen to your visitors and correct the issues that make the site painful to use. Taking the time to unclutter your site will greatly help the appearance of your site.

3. Unreadable appearance = Clueless business

When I come across a site with unreadable text, I assume that the business has no clue how to help people. If a site can’t make reading easy, I generally assume that it is out of touch with a lot more.

Unreadable websites are plagued with these issues:

  • Small text (no one wants to strain their eyes)
  • Reverse type (paragraphs of white text over a black background — Ouch!)
  • Paragraphs of text over images (do not put text over a busy background)
  • Tight spacing between lines of text (hard to read letters make it difficult to keep your place)

If you have an unreadable website you need to resolve these issues right away. There is no excuse for hurting your visitors’ eyes and making it painful to read about your business.

4. Horrible visual appearance = Poor business

Images communicate faster than words do. If your site has crappy images, it looks as if you have no money, no skill and no quality control.

Horrible images have these characteristics:

  • Blur (shutter speed is too slow)
  • Dark/underexposed (Flash didn’t fire, camera was too far away from subject at time of flash, subject was backlit)
  • Bright/overexposed (Flash was too close to the subject)
  • Pixelated (low-quality digital image)
  • Stretched (image stretched disproportionately)
  • Clip art (the ultimate cheap image)
  • Overused stock images (secretary with headset )
  • Stick-figure people icons (lame and way overused)
  • Image not related to business whatsoever (WTF)

Horrible images need to be removed from your website. Bad imagery will create the wrong impression of your business faster than bad writing.

5. Do It Yourself appearance = Inexperienced and cheap business

If you are not a Web designer, you should not be making your own website. You can, but making it work and look right will be challenging.

DIY sites suffer from these characteristics:

  • Gaping holes in the layout (couldn’t figure out how to fill a certain area)
  • Links don’t work (can’t figure out how to link to another page)
  • Images overlap text (can’t get the spacing right)
  • Site is unfinished (still trying to reach customer support)
  • Looks disorganized (template can’t be customized)
  • Funny code is showing (can’t figure where this is coming from)

DIY websites are quick and cheap yet hard to control and nearly impossible to customize.

Dress for success

Giving your visitors a reason to doubt your abilities, professionalism and value gives them an excuse to do business with someone else. Dressing your site for success will let your business enjoy the benefits of being taken seriously online.