Keeping up with new trends and tactics is important as you develop successful web strategies for your clients. Conversely, it’s just as important to realize when it’s time to retire older practices that have been shown to be problematic.
Web design and best practices for user experience continue to evolve, but it’s amazing to see how much old, ineffective work is still hanging around out there. Many websites have been around since before we had a clear understanding of the value of conversions and how to create a clear path to success.
Use this checklist to help identify and understand, eliminate, and replace those web elements that have no place on a website in 2017.
1. Social Media Icons in the Header
Businesses love social media. Who wouldn’t love to attract loyal followers for free? A few years back, when social media was new, many placed links to their Facebook, Twitter, or other social media platforms in the headers of their websites hoping for exactly this kind of outcome.
So what’s the problem?
It’s simple — by placing these links in a prominent location, you’re inviting hard-won traffic to leave. What’s worse—once they’re gone, chances are they won’t make it back. You might even be directing them right into a bunch of advertising for competitors.
Don’t risk the distraction. A much better option is to make sure you have a compelling message accompanied by social sharing buttons, inviting web visitors to share the content on their social media feeds without ever leaving your client’s website.
It’s OK to have links to social media pages, but don’t put an invitation to leave the website in such a prominent position.
After all, the business should be using social media to drive traffic to its site, not the other way around.
2. Inauthentic Photos
Undoubtedly you’re aware of the power of an irresistible photo on a website. Such images attract attention and can even boost conversions. Unfortunately, if the image is obviously of the stock variety, it will have just the opposite effect.
Consumers respond to authenticity. Images that are too “canned” do you more harm than good. On a subliminal level, they reduce trust and can result in lots of effort for no value whatsoever.
An investment in high quality and custom photography will yield far better results. There is a lot of competition in many markets, and high quality is available at various price points.
If the budget is very small, consider using photos or video that you or your client can shoot, even with a cell phone. Many take amazingly good pictures.
Need proof? You might be surprised to learn that this remarkable promotional video for Bentley was shot using an iPhone (and edited on an iPad).
3. Suggested YouTube Videos
Video, especially persuasive video, goes a long way toward engaging an audience and building trust. But if you’re using an embedded YouTube video, there’s a caveat. If you don’t pay attention when the video ends the consumer will be presented with a display of other videos to watch which may have nothing to do with what they’ve just watched and will likely distract the website visitor.
Unfortunately, you can’t control what YouTube will serve up to a site’s visitors, and the result could be disastrous. It could even show videos made by your client’s competition.
Fortunately, there’s an easy fix:
- While in the video player on YouTube, click the “share” option, then click “embed” and “show more.”
- From there, scroll down and uncheck the box that says “show suggested videos when the video finishes.”
- Voila! You can then copy the new embed code, and you’re good to go.
4. PDF Links
There was a time that PDFs offered a good option for efficiently updating content on a website. Lists of services, rates, and even restaurant menus were commonly saved as PDFs and uploaded because new code wasn’t needed.
The problem with this PDFs is that they are hard for search engines to read and sharing them with social media isn’t easy. Nor can you edit them directly when changes are needed.
It’s far better to integrate the content into the CMS. Adobe Dreamweaver or many free online tools can convert many PDFs into HTML so you can paste it into your CSS editor. If the PDF resulted from a scan, though, the text may have to be re-typed.
5. Email Links
Of course, a website needs a way for customers to communicate electronically, but email links (which go like “mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org“) create a host of problems for a business.
One problem is that the link may open up an unfamiliar email client. I know on a Mac, email links usually prompt the Mail program to open, which I have not configured, and don’t want to. I then have to copy/paste the email address into Gmail. Not the end of the world, but not exactly a delightful user experience either.
Another (bigger) problem are the hackers who use robots to gather email addresses resulting in your client getting hit with never ending spam.
A much better way to encourage connection is to use an email form. In addition to getting around the problems mentioned earlier, you can set these up using a trackable form, require senders to complete certain fields, and use an autoresponder to send a reply.
If you also want to include an email address on the website, make sure it’s not linked.
6. Company-Centered Copy
Last, but certainly not least, review the website’s copy. Make sure that headlines are specific. Use the headline to connect with readers by honing in on problems and offering solutions that matter to them.
In other words, make sure your copy shows that the business wants to meet the needs of customers, not its own.
Notice how Lyft conveys two key benefits for their visitors, rather than talking up the company itself.
Effective web copy is as much art as science. Be on the lookout for copy that describes the company instead of touting the benefits it provides its customers.
Taking the time to review websites for these six problems is just the first step. Once you’ve identified the problem, of course, it’s time to solve it. Fortunately, the modern web designer has plenty of tools to address problems like these, helping clients create the best possible UX to boost conversions and create great ROI.
About the author
Therese Moten is a content strategist at Deepend Web Consulting. When not working with clients, she loves traveling, spending time with her children, and keeping current on all aspects of internet marketing.