Avoid Having a Cluttered, Annoying Website

Is your website clean, uncluttered and visually appealing? Or is it outdated, annoying or a hodge-podge of visual grossness? Don't have the latter.

Avoid Having a Cluttered, Annoying Website

Photo: Amy Hatfield

Does your website look like a hot mess? Do pop-up ads or sliders interrupt visitors seeking information or reading about a product? Are your photos outdated or bad?

Your website is an investment and your avenue to the world. The main page is the front of your house. Would you want your home, your physical home where you live, to be ugly or have broken windows, crooked shutters or a bedraggled couch on the front porch?

Of course not. But that's what some people see when they go to a website that is outdated or looks bad. Some businesses still don't have a site. They have a Facebook page, but no true web presence. That blows my mind. That's another column for another day, though.

I mentioned investment, and that's what you should consider your site to be. You should want a site that is appealing, clean, easy to navigate, does not make a visitor angry or confused, and tells everyone about your store, product or service. Paying for that is worth it. Getting someone's cousin who took a design class and "knows about computers" likey will not end well.

Remember, you get what you pay for. You probably don't hire Tommy's Budget Toilets to work in your store or Danielle's Discount Transmission for your company vehicles. So why cut corners on your forward-facing, public image website that will be viewed by possible consumers? Don't do it.

Clean Design Matters

Back in 1980s when I was in journalism school we had a course called "Newspaper Design" that taught us best practices for layout and design.

Clean and efficient was a primary objective, to help the reader flow without roadblocks. Vivid photographs mattered. Avoiding what I called "visual vomit" was a goal. While we were encouraged to use things like pullout quotes, different sized photos and powerful yet informative headlines, too many of those elements can make a page look like a Jackson Pollock painting. You didn't want your designs come back from the professor covered by red ink and a bad grade.

The same should matter for your website. It's easy to think about adding this or that here and there to stand out, look different, make something pop or zing. Simple, uncluttered and clean is better.

ZenDesk is a Possibility

Sometimes you'll visit a site and see a small pop-up in the lower right corner of the screen with a "virtual assistant" ready to help.

ZenDesk usually is this virtual assistant. It can be helpful to customers who want to ask a question about something while they're looking at it on the site. Or they may ask about something else. This virtual assistant can help your online sales or, if nothing else, give a potential customer an answer.

The ZenDesk assistant is inconspicuous. Site visitors can click the "x" to not see it. It's a great possibility to consider.

Avoid Intrusive Ads

The fastest way for me to leave a site is to interrupt me while I'm shopping or reading with some kind of intrusive ad or request.

You've seen these and probably hate them, too. This literally goes back to when we were kids being taught by our parents to not interrupt someone. I'm sure some will say, "Yeah, but this is a website so it's different" but it's really not. Here are a few examples.

I recently was on a site looking at backpacks for concealed carry. Suddenly, a giant "Send Us Your Email for X-Percent Savings!" request popped up. It blocked everything else and interrupted my concentration. I moved on to another site. I won't return to that one. 

I read a variety of things on different sites, from news to features to outdoors stuff. While reading a story on "A Family Feast" about a recipe, suddenly the screen was covered by the "Subscribe to our email!" request. In the middle of reading and enjoying the story, an interruption. Incredibly aggravating, and I won't be back on that site.

We have "Whoa!" pop-up email subscriber request on our Grand View sites. But they appear when you're leaving a page, not in the middle of reading a story. I don't mind that. I just don't want to be interrupted in the middle of reading or shopping.

Don't interrupt your visitors.

Make Buying Easy

If your checkout process involves multiple steps, chances are good that with each one your customer considers opting out.

I've clicked on three items on your site. Then I go to my cart. Then a window appears asking me to log in, create an account or give more information. Or, possibly, to continue as a guest. Then I'm asked for my name and address. Then another screen showing me the shipping options. Then another screen confirming everything. Then another screen asking ...

By this time I'm wondering if I need those three gizmos or can get by without them. When I've done all that but learn I can't use American Express, or something was missing a letter or number, I'm probably out.

About 75 percent of shoppers abandon a cart, though some figures are higher or lower. Those may improve for certain days, too, such as Cyber Monday instead of Black Friday. Why do they abandon a cart? A frustrating checkout process, unexpected costs or having to create a user account are among the main reasons.

Work to cure these problems with your site, if you have them, to make it simple, streamlined and efficient.

Get Help!

No one likes hearing that their website has problems or is ugly, but the truth is better than having an inefficent, ugly site.

Suck it up, buttercup, and get some outside opinions. Ask some customers to help you with some honest feedback and give them a discount or special gift. Look at other sites and write down things you like or don't like.

Go through your checkout process. Click on numerous pages as if you are a customer. Remember, your site is like your house to the public and keeping your house in shape is important. Invest the time and money for regular maintenance, upkeep, security protections, and you'll be better off.


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