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Carrie Hill

Don't Be That Site -- You Know the One

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My refrigerator is possessed, honestly. It eats ketchup bottles. My husband and kids can stand with the door open for five minutes and never find the huge Costco-size bottle on the shelf.

So why do I share this problem of possession and ketchup? Your Web site users have the same problem -- they're looking at your home page, but aren't finding what they're looking for.

At SES San Jose Thursday, Greg Boser of 3DogMedia.com said, "Always assume your users are dumb as dirt. Make it clear what you want them to do."

This is true for any Web site with a purpose, be it e-commerce or a blog designed to share information. If you want someone to click through to read what you've got to say, then make it clear. If you want them to click through and spend money, make it easy.

Don't Annoy Your Site Visitors

What follows is a list of annoying Web site habits that need to go the way of the dodo, people. If you're doing anything on this list -- just stop and fix it.

  • Don't make your shopping pages secure. If I want to back up with the back arrow, let me see the page, not an error telling me the content has expired. Secure pages are for buying, not shopping. AllegiantAir.com, I'm talking to you.

  • Don't make me fill out 30 fields in a form to buy a $10 t-shirt. You need the basic info required to process my credit card, not four phone numbers and a username and password.

  • Speaking of passwords, don't require me to sign up for your site. I can't remember the passwords I already have. If I just want to buy, let me buy -- don't make me join.

  • Don't make me enter my credit card number to see the full price with tax and shipping. I want to know the total cost before I decide to buy.

  • If I'm shopping and accidentally leave your site, let me go back and see what was in my shopping cart or bag without signing in. You can do this with cookies.

  • People shop at work -- don't put music on your site.

  • Put a search box on your site. If I want something specific, I want to be able to search for it and find it, not search through four different categories to find the one thing I'm looking for.

  • If it's on sale, tell me the price. Don't tell me to put the item in my shopping cart to see the price.

  • If something is on my wish list, e-mail me when the price goes down -- I don't know anyone who does this, but it can't be that freakin' hard.

  • Navigation that drops down and flies out is a pain. If I have to try three times to get the cursor on the navigation item I want, I'm going to look elsewhere.

  • The more products you sell, the clearer your navigation and sell message needs to be. Don't jumble everything together -- Amazon, I'm talking to you!

  • If I sort my query into cost order, don't make me resort by cost order after the next search.

  • If I have to download an ActiveX control or a Flash update to see your site or products, chances are I'll leave.

  • If I have to give you my e-mail address, don't abuse it. An e-mail once in a while is fine; an e-mail every day is annoying. Also, don't sell it -- it's mine.

  • Menus and price lists that are PDFs don't always load nicely. If it's worth being on your site, it's worth being a regular Web page.

  • If I click a link and view that page, make that link change color so I know where I've been.

  • Ads, if you must have them, should be relevant. If you sell sporting equipment, don't show me teeth whitening ads.

  • Script or cutesy fonts are hard to read. Don't make me suffer to learn what you have to offer.

  • White text on a dark background is hard to read. Don't do it.

  • Blinking banners, words, lights, buttons, etc. are best left in the '90s.

  • I use Firefox, but most don't -- make sure your site resolves in multiple browsers.

  • If I click to enlarge a photo, make it a bigger photo -- not the same image in a popup window.

  • I'm buying something, so show me what it is. Not an illustration or a product in a different color.

  • Product descriptions should be bulleted and easy to skim. Don't give me a huge paragraph of text to dig through.

Shopping online shouldn't hurt, cause excessive swearing, or annoy me into not spending money. Think about the things on your site that users who aren't your mother or aunt will find annoying.

At least four sites I visit each day have at least one or two of the above items present. Let's make the Web a better place and move our Web sites into the next century.

I'd also really appreciate an iPhone app that aids in ketchup location while you're at it!


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