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Avoid These 5 Web Site Blunders!

Written By: Alexandria Brown

The Web is intended to help people find information quickly and
easily. So why do so many sites make it difficult for users to get
what they need?

As president of a copywriting firm that writes and edits dozens of
online projects a year, I’ve come across several common blunders that
prevent effective communication via the Web. Here are my top five:

BLUNDER #1: Hiding who you are and what you do.

It’s sad that many sites make it a challenge to figure out what
they’re about. Yes, it may be cool to have a giant dancing logo on
your home page, but don’t forget WHY your visitors are there: to
learn what you can DO for them! Be sure your home page includes a
*short overview* that clearly and concisely describes what you have
to offer. It’s also a good idea to repeat your tagline or a short
mission statement on *every page* of your site. Why? People can pop
in and land on an inside page via a search engine/directory link that
you may not be aware of. Make sure they know who your are right away.

BLUNDER #2: Writing for print.

Reading copy on a computer screen is different than reading printed
text. We read online text more slowly, and we tend to scan rather
than read because, visually, the words are harder to digest. Help
your users find key words and concepts quickly by making your
copy “scannable.” Instead of intro paragraphs, use subheads. Use
shorter sentences, paragraphs, and pages. Use bulleted lists. And use
hyperlinks to give readers more info if they want it.

BLUNDER #3: Writing too formally.

Online readers expect a personal, upbeat tone. If you write like a
bureaucrat, you risk turning off many users. Think ACTIVE voice
rather than passive. (For example, instead of saying “the
computer
must be turned on” say “turn on the computer.”) Write to
your
customers like you’d talk to them, and nix any industry jargon they
may not understand.

Interestingly, I occasionally see the opposite problem. For example,
a respected law firm’s site shouldn’t shout excitedly at customers as
in a sweepstakes offer. Ask yourself: “How do my customers want to be
talked to?” and THAT’S your answer.

BLUNDER #4: Designing cryptic navigation.

Unfortunately, many sites don’t seem to be truly designed with the
end user in mind. Consider why users are visiting your site, then
turn those reasons into your main navigation choices. Try to limit
them to 8 or less. Then, create sub-navigation within those choices.
But if there’s an especially popular page on your site, why not put a
special direct link from the home page? For example, on the home page
of our site, we keep a direct link to our latest article or
information about new awards we’ve won.

BLUNDER #5: Making it difficult to contact you or place an order.

I recently visited the Web site of an acclaimed furniture
manufacturer, and I was ready to order one of their renowned
ergonomic chairs. I clicked around, found the chair I wanted, and
then quickly grew irate. Not only couldn’t I find where to order it
online, I couldn’t even find their phone number to call and order one
or find the nearest dealer! The results? One lost customer.

Put your phone number, an e-mail link, and a link to your order form
(if you have one) on every page of your Web site. Don’t rely on your
users having the patience to take a few extra steps. Make it as easy
as possible, and they’ll be much more likely to follow through (and
return)!

About the Author

Alexandria Brown’s FREE biweekly e-zine gives “how-to” tips on
writing compelling copy for Web sites, brochures, and e-zines. Learn
how to ATTRACT NEW CLIENTS and strengthen your customer
relationships! Subscribe today at http://www.akbwriting.com or via
mailto:AKBMarCom-On@lists.webvalence.com

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