Seven Deadly Web Sins


By Samuel Greengard

It's nothing short of remarkable that almost 18 years after the Web went public so many major companies continue to churn out web sites that are impossible to use or simply don't work. Here's a list of the biggest turn-offs:

1. Unintelligent design. Why companies create so much clutter and confusion on a site defies logic. But there are also sites that use weird colors, wind up dispensing a Flash or Java disaster, or simply don't work. For example, you type in New York City at a hotel chain's site and it displays properties in New Jersey and Connecticut first.

2. Spiral (downward) marketing. If we want to see your brilliant video or listen to your glorious speech, we'll click on it. Don't cue it without our permission. The entire office or the person on the other end of the phone doesn't want to hear your shameless self-promotion.

3. A Tangled Web. Oddly, it's often easier to search a company's website from the outside. You know the drill: when you go to the site and type in a search you wind up with useless dreck. Then you fire up Google, type in what you're looking for and, presto, it pops up. Government sites seem to have this technique perfected.

4. A Mangled Web. It's not surprising that in an era ruled by bean counters rather than business acumen so many companies try to deflect customers to self-service channels. That's fine, up to a point. But sometimes we need to reach a live person. Make it impossible to find a phone number or mailing address and we promise to leave you alone...forever.

5. F-Commerce. As in F for Fail. All too often, there's no real-time inventory visibility for customers or agents. As a result, there's no way to know whether what you just ordered is in stock or when it will be delivered. Meanwhile, many retailers fail to provide complete pricing information until checkout. Can you say, abandoned cart?

6. Mumbo jumbo gumbo. Nix the jargon and bad writing. If we can't understand the About page you have a real problem. If you ramble on about your unique products and services and how your customer base can leverage them to think and work outside the box (without explaining actual benefits) you will lose us. Or, worse, we will send you an email that you probably won't answer anyway. That's if we can find your e-mail address at your website.

7. Browser Booboos. News flash: this is 2012, not 1998. Design your site to work equally well on all major browsers--IE, Safari, Firefox and Chrome--and while you're at it, make sure your site will work on our smartphones too. We use them once in a while.