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How Not To Make Your Customer Hate You

Jason Lee Miller
Staff Writer
Published: 2006-06-15

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Perhaps the best single guideline for web design is to ask yourself, "what do I like?" Seems an obvious concept, but if you do any surfing at all, you know there are some sites that grab you and keep you, and others you'll break your mouse finger to get out of. The purpose of this article is to remind you of the things you hate.

… the skip intro button is the most used button on the Internet.

The words of iFocus' Theresa Cunnington to Computerworld Today should ring with an echo of truth as you go, "yeah….I do hate those stupid Flash ads that block me from reaching the content I seek."

So why would any Webmaster seek to frustrate the visitor from the outset? Maybe its because the surfer has gotten savvier to advertising tricks and is harder to nail down. After all, as Cunnington also points out, surfers are demonstrating "right-column blindness," conditioned to understand that's where the advertising is. Again, we say to Ms. Cunnington, "oh yeah…I do have a tendency to overlook that part."

But that's a dilemma, now isn't it? How do you get their attention without being as invasive as a telemarketer, or worse, a timeshare punter. The experience with your product should be a positive one, which means:

1. don't tick people off
2. don't continue ticking people off
3. be clever at marketing while not making the consumer work to avoid you

While its difficult to delineate an exact strategy for online marketing and web design in a single article, or a single book for that matter (there are so many creative possibilities), outlining a few things to avoid is a bit easier.

Remove Barriers

As mentioned earlier, Flash ads blocking entry to website content are of little use if nobody watches them. Plus, people find them annoying and may become annoyed enough to push the back button and find another site.

How do you feel about ads that pop up right over content just as you finish reading the first sentence? Hate'em don'cha? Visitors do too.

83% of users surveyed dislike registration log-on pages blocking free content

83% of users find slow-loading pages an annoyance (reconsider musical and flash intros)


Hobbits Like Reading What They Already Know

Nothing's more frustrating than getting to a site where you know the information you need exists, but you can't bloody find it. Sites that are difficult to navigate become another barrier to content, but they also ask the visitor to do more work than they may be willing to do. They know how most websites work, and now they have to learn a whole new way to navigate. Chances are they don't like it one bit.

Most of these concepts, and the ones that come after this one, have to do with functionality and ease of use.

89% don't like installing extra software
80% are annoyed by ineffective site-search tools


Keep Track of Your Linkin' Logs

Adding to what iFocus calls "leap of faith' links, links that are unclear as to where they lead or the file size of what they link to, we can add the problem of broken links (links that lead nowhere), reciprocal links (links that take you back to where you started), and dummy links (links to irrelevant or misleading content).


Your Visitors Have the Attention Span of a 4-Year-Old

You still there? Keep it short. Keep it simple. Don't use bells and whistles that distract from the main content.


Look to Those Who Succeed

A recent Harris Interactive study found that carmakers Cadillac and Jeep were at the top of the list for overall web visitor satisfaction. The factors to make that determination should make you see REDD:

Reliability
Ease of navigation
Design
Discovery speed

You'll also notice with the Cadillac and Hummer sites that they are eye-pleasing, clean, and easy to understand - just like your favorite date.

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About the Author:
Jason L. Miller is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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