10 serious, yet common Website Errors

by Matt Chatterley Matt Chatterley
In June last year, we asked: Do you have the right website?

Almost a year later, it seems time enough to follow up with a short discussion of some signs that your website may not be quite as fantastic as you thought. Of course, no website is perfect, but sometimes it can be the smallest thing that sends a customer running for the hills.

Don your "I'm thinking like a customer" hat and get comfy, because here are..

Ten of the best website turn-offs!

While not exhaustive, this list will give you some idea as to the things that can drive potential customers away before you even know they are there! First lets pick out five technical points..

1. As easy as 1, 2, 3, 404 - A "404" is the techie term for the error which occurs when someone tries to visit a non-existent page within your website. It may be due to an incorrect link, an archived (or renamed) page - but whatever the reason you need to show them something useful to get them back on track. And you need to know what happened.

2. To www or not to www? - Decide if your site will exist on "www.yourdomain.com" or "yourdomain.com" and make sure it's set up right. Make sure the other alternative works with an appropriate redirect. Be warned that some hosting platforms are very unhelpful and may simply tell your customer: "Bad Request - Invalid Hostname"!

3. Past the SSL by date - An SSL certificate provides protection and peace of mind for the customer. But not if you let it expire. Don't. Few things are more off-putting than a great big flashing neon sign stating your SSL certificate has expired and your site could be fake, harmful or otherwise hazardous.

4. Flash! Arrrgh! - We're not going to launch an anti-Flash tirade (not today, anyway). Like all technology - it's great when used appropriately. A splash-screen intro to your site is however, not good. It's also bad if your whole site is flash - for a start, it won't work on all those fancy iPhones.

5. Muzak is for elevators - Please, DON'T Turn up the Radio. Ignoring potential legal pitfalls or prolonged wrangles over whether you need a license to play music on your website (unless it is royalty-free or you own the copyright, you generally do, by the way) - it slows down the experience and is frankly very annoying when some grainy tune starts banging out of the speakers unrequested.

And then lets dig straight in and think about what the customer thinks and feels of you!

6. Cheque ur Speeling n Grammer - Before you even worry about the quality of your content, you need to proof-read it. Check it in Word. Get someone else to read through it, anything, but please check there are no spelling mistakes, grammatical faux-pas - and for the love of all that is digital - drop the "text speak" in the recycle bin.

7. How not to DIY - If you can build your own website or construct one using one of the many "website in a box" packages, thats great. There are good reasons why you should employ a web developer, but if you do DIY, make sure the bottom of your page doesn't say something like "Build your own free website with MegaWidget!" - it's a dead giveaway that you've done the job on the cheap.

8. SEO, SEO, SEO! - Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, but we digress), SEO is not like The Candyman. Simply repeating your keywords a dozen times and cramming them into every possible orifice will not improve your search rankings. It's absolutely guaranteed to irritate and drive away customers, though.

9. Sorry, but how do I contact you? - Name. Rank. Serial Number. Customers often look at your website quickly so they can get in touch - after all it's lighter than the phone book. Oblige them.

10. And why should I bother? - Three simple words. "Call to Action" - contact us if you'd like to know more.

So there you have it - ten of our top website turn-offs. How about you? What really puts you off when you visit a site for the first time? (and don't say "burgundy and orange colour schemes" you cheeky little..!)

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Comments (29)

  1. Not Delia

    I agree with most of your list, Matt. I hate (most) Flash with a vengeance and also muzak. I can't click away fast enough!

    Poor spelling and grammar are also big turn-offs.

    Other annoyances are opt-out emails, when people decide to send you unwanted emails just because they have your email address on their list.

    Sites that disable the use of my mouse right-button - yeah, I love rebooting.

    Websites that look like they've been built by the owner's eight-year-old niece or nephew.

    That'll have to do for now...

    by Not Delia
  2. Dave McMahon

    I found myself nodding in agreement with a lot of this - especially the muzak (though the IPR implications hadn't occurred to me - wonder if the Performing Rights Society have an anonymous reporting line? ;-) )

    Flash sites can be very good, but why oh why can't people offer you a non-Flash alternative?

    Colour schemes can be a real turn-off. (Yours looks fine to me, by the way.) Why do so many amateur designers seem to think that it's stylish to have light text on a dark background - or, just as bad, text that barely contrasts with the background it's on? Quite apart from anything else, it's very unhelpful to those with poor vision.

    by Dave McMahon
  3. Darren Kurn

    I also found myself agreeing with most of the points made in the post.

    One thing I would add, though, is the use of acronyms on websites. The world, especially from a development point of view, is becoming full of acronyms, and whilst I love the odd acronym to save time on a web page, I have seen many a website where the author appears to be afraid of using actual words/phrases, and starts putting acronyms in all over the place.

    If people are going to use non-common acronyms in web pages, then they should at some point explain them. There is never any problem with using sentences such as "The DAB, or Digital Audio Band radio..."

    Also, when using acronyms, remember who your audience is. It is fine to use many acronyms when creating a web page aimed at, for instance, industry web developers, who you would expect to know most of the acronyms, and would have resource and motivation to find out any that were less familiar. However, using computing terms and acronyms on a website who's target audience is elderly gardeners and ramblers in the very furthest reaches of north west Pembrokeshire might not be such a good idea?!

    by Darren Kurn
  4. (keywords removed)

    If I had a cent for every client (used to freelance as a webdev) that insisted on a flash intro ...

    Funnily enough, I've seen clueless people order flash-enhanced sites targetted at iPhone users.

    by (keywords removed)
  5. (keywords removed)

    I love this list. Hosting companies should copy it and send one to every person who decides they are going to host a website.

    Honestly, the two biggest deal-breakers on this list, if you have a site to make money, are the "SEO" and the "spelling" ones.

    Seriously, no one is going to buy anything from someone who cannot even spell right or who uses the same word so many times that you begin to wonder how anyone could possibly write to strangely. Make sure you wright your copy just as you would be saying it to the visitor in person and do a spell check. Thanks for the great list.

    by (keywords removed)
  6. atasözleri

    Thanks you for great sharing.

    They are wonderful and true comments.

    Thanks again.

    by atasözleri
  7. Tom Morley

    Good article, some very important points.

    by Tom Morley
  8. Ryan Smith

    Great list. I hate going to a site and being met by a flash intro page. Especially if the page has background music. So annoying.

    My other pet peeve is not being able to find contact information quickly. I wonder how many businesses leave money on the table by hiding their contact information.

    by Ryan Smith
  9. Chris Jones

    Very nice top ten! Luckily, I'm seeing less flash intros these days...

    Two more things that a lot of websites are missing: favicons and privacy policies!

    by Chris Jones
  10. Michelle

    Amazing 10 Points. You've covered all the major points. I found an error in Point #6 6. "Cheque ur Speeling n Grammer" I guess it is suppose to be "Check your spellings n Grammer" Sorry if you had it for a purpose..

    by Michelle
  11. Matt Chatterley

    Thanks for all the comments so far - keep them coming!

    Ryan - a lot more than you think, sadly!

    Chris - very true re: privacy policies especially.

    Michelle - it's intentional, just to give an example of how bad things can get ;)

    by Matt Chatterley (@MattchedIT)
  12. William

    I do agree to all the above given pitfalls in web design. As a Joomla Web Developer I do not follow many of the above given pitfalls just to make my designs better. But there were 1 or 2 what I was following. Thanks for making me aware of all the dont's during the website design

    by William
  13. Barry

    Matt a great list, humerous but realistic. I devised a similar list and included the annoying almost blank starting page with the word welcome

    by Barry (@SEOBirminghamUK)
  14. Bee gps

    I think #2 can kill your traffic, especially if the hosting company doesn't set up the account right. In fact, if your hosting company doesn't have the www. set up right, you should probably look for a new hosting company.

    by Bee gps
  15. Raman Jp

    Absolutely Matt, you have hit the bulls eye, you pointed out very good useful points over here which should be followed for developing a good and successful website.

    by Raman Jp (@charas100)
  16. Frudo

    I think you are right Matt in all the facts that you have mentioned in the article. Any one of these if ignored can really harm the quality of the site.

    by Frudo
  17. Filme online gratis

    i like very much this post

    by Filme online gratis
  18. CCNA

    My 3 favorite website turn offs music, popups and flash

    by CCNA
  19. (keywords removed)

    Oh Darnit, You hit the nail on the head. I think I am guilty of 2 or 3 of these. I really need to discover if i have 404 errors

    by (keywords removed)
  20. Fernando Souza

    Funny, I hate flash as well!

    by Fernando Souza
  21. Howard @SEO Advisers

    Re: #2 - you can tell Google in your webmaster central account whether www or not.

  22. SEC Sports Fan

    Flash is becoming a huge enemy to many things. It's not good for SEC and Apple hates it, but I think it has its place in certain things, such as games. But it's so annoying if your entire website is made of it.

    by SEC Sports Fan (@lucymurray)
  23. Brad Jone

    An excellent list for people to refer to when looking over the web site they just finished. I can't tell you how many times I force myself away from my newest creation for a period of time and then go back so I can view it as a fresh visitor before I start feeling even a little okay with the finished project.....As for me there are a couple of major turn offs when I visit a site....spelling and grammar first and foremost, if you are trying to sell me something or provide a service and you can not take the time to use spell check I have questions about you....secondly if you are trying to get me to buy something let me know upfront what it costs! I do not want to scroll down 4 page lengths to have to try and find a price hidden somewhere, or worse have to click the buy now button just to see what the outrageous price is.....whew...okay there is my rant for the day I fell better now :-)

    by Brad Jone (@yourwebcrafters)
  24. Patrick Kalkman

    Thank you for the tips. I installed a WordPress link checker and found that I also have some 404's. The are gone now ;-)

    by Patrick Kalkman (@kalkie)
  25. chris @logo contest

    I think #2 is probably most common mistake for a website. Many times I find quality websites return a invalid page when type in the url without the "WWW".
    Nice checklist.

    by chris @logo contest
  26. David

    I see even professional web designers and developers make these mistakes. My pet hate is sound, especially if I'm at work.

    by David
  27. Amy

    My husband reads an article about a product or service that looks interesting. He goes to the website given up there. It just isn't there. What a waste of all that marketing opportunity… No page exists errors should be FIXED asap...

    by Amy
  28. Chico

    The pictures, images or buttons used in the webpage must not be higher in size, as it might lead to greater loading time of the page, which may prove annoyance to the user.

    by Chico
  29. Colette

    Agree with all of those points.

    Hate, hate, hate music on website with no option to turn it off. For 1 it makes me jump when the musics blasts out my speakers and 2 it's just plain annoying!

    by Colette (@royale_graphics)

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