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Apr 08 2011

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10 common blunders on business websites

Your business has a website, but nothing seems to be happening. Although people might know of the site, there is still very little traffic…  This post highlights some of the most commonly observed problems on business websites.

In an earlier post, 6 reasons why businesses should have a website, we identified some key points that should motivate business owners to establish an online presence.  However, for those who already do, their websites might not be generating the desired reaction or results. Outlined below are some of the most commonly seen blunders on business websites.

1. Incomplete websites. This is one of the most frequently made observations. Pages remain “under construction” indefinitely; links to other pages are broken; and the default filler text (such as “lorem ipsum …”) has not been replaced.

2. Content is not updated regularly. In addition to the first point, content is not being updated regularly. There is often a sense that once a website has been set up, there is little or no need to update it. However, similar to most businesses, websites thrive on frequent and repeat visits. Hence some foresight and effort is required to keep a site interesting to generate follow-up visits.

3. Websites or parts thereof are not accessible. Problems are experienced when trying to access a site or parts of a site, which are frequently due to expired domains or broken links. In most cases the business is still operational, but the website is not being maintained.

4. Poorly designed websites. Poor website design is an observation usually made with regard to smaller organisations. However, it is also quite prevalent on websites for government departments and agencies: they tend to have lots of content but it is poorly organised. Many of these organisations might not be able to afford to outsource such an activity, but neither do they have the requisite expertise in-house. Additionally, some web designers complain that they experience considerable difficulty getting the necessary text from their clients. Although their clients expect a top-notch product, they can be delinquent in providing inputs into the design process. Hence compromises must be made.

5. Unappealing websites. Although this view might be subjective, for websites representing businesses or professional organisations, they are expected to be aesthetically pleasing. The layout, colours, fonts, arrangement, etc of a site reflect its ethos. If it is too busy, or garish, or even if it is too sparse, or boring, visitors will make certain inferences about the organisation that might not necessarily be true.

6. Poor spelling and grammar. Thanks to text and online messaging services, we have all been exposed to very abbreviated communications, and allowances are made for spelling and grammatical mistakes. However, on a professional website, simple spelling and grammatical errors are such a normal occurrence it can leave one to question an organisation’s language competency and even its professionalism: “Is this an indication of the standard offered (or accepted) by ____?”

7. The site’s purpose is not clear. For many organisations, the main purpose of their websites is to entice customers either to make a sale online or to contact the business. However, the extent to which websites, as designed, promote that objective is questionable. Often, the sites provide inadequate or unsuitable information. Although commercial businesses in particular might be concerned about the information that they publicly disclose (e.g. pricing details), such choices can directly affect the website visitor’s experience, and whether our not any favourable follow-up action will be taken.

8. Marketing potential is not being harnessed. A key benefit of a website is to increase awareness of an organisation and its offerings. More importantly, it can be used to establish and maintain contact with site visitors at little or no cost. Thanks to a changing attitude on the potential of the Internet to generate business, there are a wide range of tools that can be employed to establish such linkages, for example through email subscriptions and RSS feeds, even through social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

9. Free email addresses are used. Although this point might seem a bit trite, it seems unprofessional when an organisation’s website has its own unique domain name, but its email addresses are from a free email service, such as Hotmail, Gmail and Yahoo. Generally, most webhosting facilities allow domain name owners to set up email accounts under that domain. For example, for this website, “www.ict-pulse.com”, it is possible create email accounts under that domain name with the format, “____@ict-pulse.com”.

10. No coherent marketing strategies is reflected. This observation sums up all earlier points: many websites seem not to be part of a business or marketing strategy that sets out clear goals and objectives.  Without a specific purpose that is part of a larger and more coherent framework, the design, content and maintenance of those websites tend to be not as directed as they should be.

In summary, businesses must remember that their websites are a reflection of their organisations – their ethos, attitudes, capabilities and competence. More importantly, websites are increasingly becoming the forum where first impressions are made. To that end, greater effort should be made to manage the image that is being presented to existing customers, prospective customers and the world at large.

 

About the author

Michele Marius

Michele Marius has a wealth of experience in the telecoms and ICT space, which has been gained in the Caribbean, Southeast Asia and the South Pacific, and in the public and private sectors. She is the Editor and Publisher of ICT Pulse.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ict-pulse.com/2011/04/10-common-blunders-on-business-websites/

5 comments

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  1. Kamutula

    I have seen websites of busnesses that sell products not harnessing their websites as a Point of Sale. If people visit your website and view your products, why not give them the chance to buy there and then.

    1. Michele Marius

      While I agree wholeheartedly, using websites as a PoS might not be as easy as it seems, depending on where the business is located…

      First, the systems (such as banking, laws, etc) might not be in place to facilitate electronic transactions. Further, even if the systems are available, they can be expensive to use or access.

      Second, the websites would need to more fully consider their design and security, for example, in order to provide a safe environment for prospective customers.

      Third, to varying extents, businesses would need to be redesigned to accommodate local and international shipping, which would require (at the very least) a lot of coordination – to manage stock levels; to establish distribution points; to package the products; to secure affordable shipping options; etc.

      These are just examples of issues that would need to be addressed. Hopefully as businesses become more comfortable operating online, and their customers clamour for online purchasing, more businesses will be encouraged to broaden the capabilities of their websites…

  2. Danielle

    As a member of a small organisation, web email was so ineffective that a free email account had to be set up

    1. Michele Marius

      Can you elaborate? What were the problems experienced?

  3. Michael

    Danielle: I think, we can all greatly benefit from your observations as to why free email account turned out to be more effective than site email.

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