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Susan Payton: Is Your Website Driving People Away?


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

For many companies, a home page is a handshake, business card, and lunch meeting rolled into one.

Your website is the first thing that prospective customers see, and if you’ve done a poor job setting it up, it’s the only thing they’ll bother looking at.

Web design’s a tricky thing. A well-designed website is a composite of artistry and UI – it gets your message across, and looks damn good doing it. The trouble lies in creating it. Web designers, be they professional, amateur, or aspiring, can hit a multitude of pitfalls, any one of which can kneecap the appeal of a site.

So, if you’re thinking about setting up shop online, read along for some food for thought. Let’s make sure that your new endeavor rocks, rather than repulses.

Form Follows Function

It’s entirely possible for a website to be aesthetically beautiful, but functionally useless. Remember, a website is a tool. It’s a means for customers to learn more about you, and then to form a positive opinion. A gorgeous layout can go a long ways toward the second goal, but again, you’re making a tool, not an artistic statement.

Ever try to dig a hole with a hacksaw? That’s a bit what it’s like to grapple with a site that ignores the basic needs of their clients.

Start with the bones of your page. Prioritize navigation; make it extremely easy for visitors to move through the steps of a conversion. And keep your audience in mind. If you’re a cutting-edge app developer, a more avant garde, side-navigating theme makes sense – you’re appealing to people who seek innovation and novelty, include those concepts in your design. If you’re trying to sell insurance packages, then leave the parallax scrolling out.

Content is King 

Once the basic map of your site is laid out, it’s time to start filling it in. Even before you start worrying about colors and logos, worry about what your customers will read and see from you. Spammy sales copy and neon, discount-announcing banners only serve to make visitors suspicious.

While marketers like to gab about video more than they do the written word, the written word isn’t dead yet. Text will still play a prominent role on most sites, so ensure that it’s written well. If you’re unable to do that, then for god’s sake, find someone who can. Nothing kills trust like unprofessional presentation, and a mistake-riddled description or article will send potential clients packing.

Including video or interactive content is also highly recommended. Eye-catching, visual content draws more attention than static text, both from readers and from search engines. If you can afford to include high-quality videos or interactive UI components, then it’s money well-spent. But only do so if you’re able to hire on a competent production team.

Be Consistent

Build with a mission in mind. As I mentioned above, a website is a tool. Don’t forget that, no matter what stage of construction you’re at. Every page should contribute something to your original purpose. A major online business mistake is fad-chasing. Think of all the awful, shlocky attempts to cash in on the internet’s love for cats that you’ve seen, or the latest god-awful stabs at using trendy online language.

Even if you don’t branch out to those embarrassing extremes, make sure not to let off-topic content proliferate. This even extends out to aesthetic design choices. Building a staid, simple site? Don’t suddenly spew logos all over it. Working with gray and green? Don’t plaster yellow, flashing discount buttons at the top.


In summary, don’t forget the importance of your site. The worst failures I’ve seen have occurred because a business owner failed to commit enough time, money, or expertise to a build. Let’s be honest: quality requires all three. Ensure that you have ample amounts of each before you launch your company into cyberspace.

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