The Top 10 Most Ludicrous Things You Can Do on Your Web Site
by Courtney Heard
We have a running joke in our office that one day weíll load a page and it will say ďYou have reached the end of the World Wide WebĒ and it will be the truth. Iíve visited so many web sites in my time, itís unreal. There are a few web site features and practices that keep popping up, in spite of their highly detrimental nature. I find myself, day in and day out, advising clients to remove something or other from their web site, as it is stunting their online business potential. But cleaning up the World Wide Web one client at a time isnít very efficient, so Iíll share with you the Top 10 most ludicrous things you can do on your web site, and hopefully weíll get this mess cleaned up.
1. Frames - Most of you are probably rolling your eyes right now, saying ďI know, I knowĒ but there not only still is a large amount of sites that use frames, thereís actually a very dangerous counter-argument to this going on.
Frames section off your web site, making multiple smaller windows within one page. It sounds harmless enough, but the code behind a page with frames is very short, only referring to the pages that fill in the smaller windows. This hides any text you have on the page, any headings, any links, image names and alt text, comment tags, and a lot more from search engines. In short, frames hide 99% of your siteís content from the view of search engines, fooling them into thinking your site is virtually bare.
Now, recently Google has announced that their search algorithm is newly able to see past frames and find all of your siteís content. Problems remain, though, in that the algorithm does not yet index pages with frames well. This also doesnít fix the problem with other search engines.
Thereís some kind of Rebel Frames Force or something that use Googleís new indexing ability as an argument for frames, among other even less valid points. ďBut what about this and what about that?Ē they argue. I say to you, rebel framers, why bother? I really donít understand why this inane argument continues. You can easily avoid any potentially harmful side-effects of frames by using tables. It looks exactly the same, if not better, and we know for sure that all search engine robots can decipher the uncomplicated table code. A smart site owner would simply not take the risk.
2. Keyword-rich Text Embedded in Images - Another fabulous way to shoot yourself in the proverbial foot. Search engines canít read text in an image, so if most of your web siteís textual content is within images, youíre pretty much done for. Come on people, keywords are what make the Web go Ďround! The idea is to have as many applicable keywords as possible within your site visible by search engines, right? So it really doesnít make much sense to take some of those keywords and hide them. There is no counter-argument to this. Itís simple, if you want traffic, get your keywords out of images.
3. Entrance Pages/Flash Intros - This practice will not just have a negative impact on search engine optimization, it also subtracts from your siteís user-friendliness.
Search engine robots want to find out what your site is about as soon as they can. In other words, they want to find content on the front page. This means that there absolutely must be keyword-rich text on your opening page. It is fairly easy to comply with this while having an intro page, but it doesnít solve the user-friendliness issue.
Think, for a moment, about how you surf the web. If youíre like the majority of surfers, youíre looking for information and you want to find it fast. Simply put, an intro page is one more step that has to be taken before getting to the good stuff. Speaking from personal experience, if a site has a flash intro or an entrance page and Iím in a rush (which defines my life), Iíll leave and find another source of the info Iím looking for. Essentially, I feel that sites with such opening pages, have little respect for my time and I donít want to venture into the site any further to find out how many other ways the site owner has found to elongate the simple act of supplying information. Itís simply easier to find another site. Really, what exactly is the purpose of an entrance page? Try as I might, I just canít think of one.
4. Music - O.K., This is my biggest pet peeve. There is nothing more annoying than sitting down on Sunday morning, steaming cup of coffee in hand, opening iTunes to listen to the latest R.E.M., starting to surf the web and suddenly hearing a midi version of Greensleeves turn Losing My Religion into something that sounds more like a cat dying.
With the growing popularity of mp3s, youíll be hard pressed to find someone who doesnít listen to their own music while theyíre on the web. It is absolutely guaranteed that youíll turn some visitors away from your site if you insist on having music load with it.
ďBut, what if I offer a button that will turn the music off?Ē some people ask. Most web site visitors who are listening to music wonít stick around long enough to find your off button. In my case, as soon as I hear one note, I hit the back button. There is always another site to find the information Iím looking for.
5. Large Media - Java applets, video media and images can be a real pain in the you-know-what when they havenít been optimized. There are so many poorly written java apps out there that will actually crash browsers. Large videos and images will cause your site to load slowly and visitors to leave before they even see the fully-loaded page.
Make sure you test any java apps across several browsers. If thereís any delay in loading, trash it or fix it.
Optimizing large images is also necessary. Adobe ImageReady will significantly cut down the loading time of your image while saving itís quality and dimensions.
Video should be an option. Never have it load with your site. Most people donít have the time to sit around watching videos on web sites, let alone wait for videos to load. Pictures and text will tell your story just as easily.
Internet users still use dial-up accounts and with the rise of people accessing the internet from their mobile devices, shaving every second possible off the loading time of your site will ensure that visitors do not get impatient and leave.
6. Limited ways to contact - Believe it or not, Iíve actually come across commercial web sites that have absolutely no way to contact anyone associated with the site. Unless you hope your web site visitorís reaction to the online representation of your business to be a string of profanity, I wouldnít suggest taking this route. In fact, Iíve always urged clients to offer as many ways as possible to contact them on their web sites. Phone, fax, e-mail, contact form, mailing address, etc.
Everyone has their own preferred method of contact. A lot of my clients prefer talking on the phone and probably wouldnít be my clients if all I offered as a contact method was e-mail. Me, I hate talking on the phone and filling out forms. If you donít offer a link to your e-mail address on your site, you probably wonít hear from me. But what about spam, you say? Well, youíll just have to decide for yourself whatís worse, losing potential paying customers or getting more spam.
7. Long Pages/Entire Site in One Page - When loading a site, finding a page that seems to go on forever can seem daunting. The same amount of information, organized into several pages will seem a lot less scary to your visitors. Labeled pages and sections will lead your visitor to exactly the information theyíre looking for as opposed to making them search lines and lines of text to find it. Well organized content on several pages is also something that pleases the search engines.
8. No Link Exchange Policy - A lot of web sites out there donít exchange links as a rule. This will not only stunt the growth of your link popularity, but potential traffic that could come directly from those links would be lost. You donít have to exchange links with every interested site, but turning them all away is a dangerous practice.
9. Cross-Browser Compatibility Check - Always, always, always check what your web site looks like and how well it functions on other browsers. Do this whenever you update, make new pages, or new versions of browsers come out. Iíve seen some pretty funky stuff around the web thatís been caused by non-compatibility. Title images on the bottom of the page, invisible links, missing images, even some sites that cause browsers to crash.
Here are some of the more popular browsers:
Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE)
Download a copy of each of these and check your site! I realize most of you use Windows and canít check your site on Safari, so find a friend who has a Mac. Mac users are growing in numbers and can be some of your web siteís visitors. Make sure what they see is what you want them to.
10. Free Web Space/No Domain Name - This one is all about professionalism. To avoid having your business seem about as serious as little Sallyís lemonade stand down the street, donít host it on free web space like Geocities, Angelfire, etc. Get your own domain name. It costs an average of $30/year and you can find good hosting for $10/month, sometimes less. If you canít afford that, I suggest you turn off your computer and sell it for food. Free hosting is straight cheese, and your visitors will get the feeling youíre not taking your business seriously.
So, there you have it. The top 10 most ludicrous things you can do with your web site. Iíve heard some web site owners argue that their site visitors have complimented their videos, java apps, music, etc. Just keep in mind, the visitors who donít like this stuff leave and you probably wonít hear from them.
The goal of your commercial web site should be to soak up every last potential paying customer from the web. Any of these 10 points can turn paying customers away. Respect your visitorsí time, try to make their experience on your site as quick and full of information as possible. Be organized and professional and let your audience see that you know what youíre doing.
About the Author
Courtney Heard is the founder of Abalone Designs, an Internet Marketing and SEO company in Vancouver, Canada. She has been involved in web development and marketing since 1995 and has helped start several businesses since then in the Vancouver area. More of Courtney's articles are available at www.abalone.ca/resources/