Square Bear Explains: What Your Site Shouldn’t Have

backbuttonBrowsers have Back buttons. Studies show that web surfers are an impatient lot. Make them wait too long for your page to load, make it difficult for them to figure out your site in a matter of seconds, and they click that back button and seek better experiences. And by “too long” we are talking around 3-5 seconds..

Square Bear wants to help you create a great site that connects with your audience. Here are some of his no-nos, things that will damage your site and get those Back buttons clicking.

Autoplay Content

You know how you love it when you open a web page and music starts playing or a video begins to chatter away? And how you love that happening at work while you are goofing off or when you’re surfing on your tablet in bed while your beloved is trying to sleep beside you? Me neither. You may remember racing to close a noisy page yourself, and y0u might remember that you never ever went back.

Of all of the things on this list, this is one where clients admit that they hate when media just starts blaring out of their speakers but still want their site to blare out of other people’s speakers. Think of it like this: when a car drives by your house with the bass shaking your windows and the awful music blaring, how often do you think “I love this, I hope this guy drives by a lot”?

Solution: If you have important multimedia content, your visitors will be happy to press a Play button. Invite them to experience what you’re offering, but don’t force them to do so.

Coming Soon

With all the best intentions, people tell themselves that certain content really is coming soon and create a page that just says Coming Soon. And then, that content doesn’t come soon. Sometimes not for years. Sometimes never. “Coming soon” has become an excuse not to actually provide the content. Also, when someone finds “coming soon,” they take it as an admission that you aren’t ready to provide the information and you’ve broken the promise you made when they clicked the link telling them they were about to find what they were looking for. Will they make a note to return and find the content when you’ve gotten around to putting it in place? No. No they will not.

Solution: Create the content before going live. If the content can’t be ready for a while, then insert it into your site when it is available.

“Welcome to My Site”

You only get a few seconds to keep a user on your site. They’ve opened your page and are hoping that the information and experience they seek awaits them.  What message do you want your visitors to take in the minute they arrive: “our product makes you attractive and intelligent” or “glad you dropped by”? Can you guess which version of your content will get a visitor’s back-button clicker finger itching? A meaningless greeting simply stands between your visitor and what they actually came to find.

Solution: Use that all-important few seconds during which people decide whether to stay on your site to tell them something concrete about what your site offers.

Splash Pages

A splash page is a page that has a nifty graphic and a “go to the site” link. It’s a door you have to open to get to the useful part of a site.

Here’s a fact: you lose a percentage of your audience every time you ask them to click. Of course, your visitors will need to click to use your site. You can’t usually put everything on one page, so people need to click to get to deeper content. But you need to motivate them to click; entice them to click; woo them to gain that click. When new visitors arrive, they still aren’t sure if the site is useful to them. The “click to actually see my site content” link is less enticing to your visitor than the back button, which will return them to their search and on to a site that doesn’t make them work so hard.

Need more? At AOL UK, back in the 9os, we built a World Cup page. British people are motivated to get World Cup information. The landing page was just a big football (soccer ball to Americans). And the vast majority of people were seeing the ball and not clicking through to the actual content. We removed the splash page barrier. Voila, audience engagement numbers shot way up. Since that first experience, I’ve seen a lot of splash pages and killed a lot of splash pages and seen improved visitor numbers every time.

Solution: Your home page should actually contain carefully thought-out content that shows what your site is about and directs visitors to the things they are interested in.

Your Email Address

Ignore this one if you love spam. Seriously, who doesn’t love an inbox filled with invitations to recover lost money from a Nigerian prince or increase the volume of various body parts? Oh, you don’t like that? Then why would you put your email address on your site?

If someone insists that they must have their email showing on the site, I have them sign a waiver. An “I have been warned that I’m opting in to every spam list on the planet and will not complain when this happens” statement. Square Bear hates saying “I told you so,” but he will email you a copy of the waiver when you tell him your inbox is now spam central.

Solution: Contact forms have been around forever. People fill out a couple of fields and click Send and you get an email without revealing your email address. As a bonus, those millions of scripts that are running around looking for email addresses to add to their sales lists don’t see your email.

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