I was looking at a number of websites with a friend of mine this afternoon…and what amazes me is that irregardless of vertical market – how many BAD sites there are out there. Let’s face it…in today’s day & age, your website may be the first thing that people see regarding your company – and it does leave a lasting impression regarding the quality of your company, your products / services, maybe even the quality of customer service they might receive.

The sad part is – you may have the greatest stuff to offer, and you / your team would take a bullet for your customers, but that’s not how your potential customer perceives you. I blame this on a couple of things:

1. “I have a cheapo copy of this XXX version of XXX web posting software, and I can do it myself”. Brilliant. This is like buying a Ferrari, and deciding to repaint it with a spray can.

2. “I can save money by using a template I found”. OK…in this case, the graphics might be a little better. But, I find in cases like this, either the navigation throughout the site ends up being about as effective as trying to navigate the Serengeti with a map drawn by a four year old…with a crayon. And…that’s assuming that they’ve tried to match a graphical look with something relevant to what they are trying to sell.

3. “I know a guy that has built websites before”. Gee…my coworker’s kid, who is great at Nintendo, built a website, and he’ll build mine for cheap. So…you get something that looks like Napoleon Dynamite would make – between drawing “ligers”. Stop the madness before it’s too late!

I realize that these examples may seem extreme. Right up until you see sites that fit these examples. There’s a reason why you pay a little extra for a good, creative web designer. Saving a little bit of money in the short term…doesn’t pay off when it drives sales away from your business. So…how to make sure you don’t make these mistakes?

-Look at your competitors websites. Yours…has to look better, navigate better, tell the story better. Go through their sites…and make sure that you understand what works on theirs…and what doesn’t work.

-3 clicks. Remember that rule. It should take no more than 3 clicks to get to any piece of information on your site. More than that – people go away irritated. And…they don’t come back.

-Relevant content. Which goes back to the previous suggestion. If it doesn’t need to be there…don’t put it there. Think of your website like a menu. It should wet their appetite…they don’t need to know the details of how the meat was butchered. If your site visitor has to scroll down through the equivalent of “War and Peace”…they will go away…and you’ll never see them again.

-Finally – when you know what you want, know what you think it should look like, and know what content it should have – find a good web designer. Take a look at the sites they’ve created. Make sure you feel comfortable that they can bring to life, what you’ve envisioned.

And please…no sound files that scream “domination”. Yes…there is a site out there that does that. Your task…should you wish to accept it – is to find it…and leave comments here about it.