Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Back to the Future: Part 1

  I feel like I took a trip into 1999 last night. I've mentioned my recent entry into self-publishing, and I've been on the prowl for marketing options for my book. (Something I'm not crazy about, as I explained in last week's post.)
You remember sites like this. I hope you've updated yours
to fit into the 21st century a little better!
    So, I've been searching for blogs and websites where I can write guest posts, do interviews, or solicit a review from the blogger, and I am sorry to say that even in this modern, tech-savvy, drag-and-drop web-builder world, too many people still have awful-looking blogs and websites. Why do I bring up 1999? Because that was a time when you only build the most basic of websites if you didn't know much about coding or design. And some of these sites I looked at gave off that same feel--like the person who created them had no idea what they were doing and just slapped a bunch of stuff together and called it good.
    To be fair, some people had really beautiful sites. But they are in the minority. I must have looked at over a hundred different blogs and websites last night, and I was plagued by slow load times, an excess of 3rd party widgets and plugins, gigantic headers, ridiculously confusing navigation, poorly arranged photos and widgets that didn't fit the content/sidebar areas of the site, and things that were just plain ugly, like background images, colors, logos, poor quality photos, etc.
    I worked at a web design company, so I probably notice this stuff a lot more than the average person, but, especially with the slow load times, I don't know how these people have so many page views and so many followers with a site as disorganized/ugly/confusing as that!

  Because of all the problems I found, I'm going to break the analysis and advice into two parts. Part 2 will be up tomorrow.

1) Some of these people had gigantic headers, like took-up-almost-the-ENTIRE-screen big. Most of them were really pretty, and often, these were some of the better designed sites, but as far as attracting new visitors go, gigantic headers like that are one of the worst things you can do, no matter how pretty is it. Why? People spend the majority of their time on a website homepage ABOVE THE FOLD (i.e. the part of the webpage you see when you first arrive on a website without scrolling down at all).

Apparently these guys specialize in gigantic headers. Which might work for some products,
but for most sites, a big header is taking away from all the other great stuff you have to offer.
   Aside from not giving a new visitor any idea of what you do beyond what's in your header image, these big images can really take a toll on your load time/page speed (i.e. how long it takes for a web browser to load all the elements on a webpage from the time that a person clicks a link to the time that the page finishes loading.)

2) Confusing navigation was another issue. The majority of the sites were book blogging sites that published book reviews and accepted review requests from authors and publishers. The majority of them also had a review policy page which explained what types of books they accepted, among other details like whether they preferred print or ebook format.

    However, I would venture to say that at least a third of the sites I looked at had hidden this page somewhere on their site. If it's a big part of what you do, it should be ABOVE THE FOLD, and it should be easy enough for someone to find if that's what they're looking for. This means it should be in the navigation menu or in a widget or text box at the very top of the page. Some people had them hidden in "about" pages, "contact" pages, or profile widgets, and some of them were just little links hidden halfway down the homepage in between two other garish images or flashy widgets.

    That's it for today. Consider your website or blog and ask yourself if you commit any of these faux pas that can wreck your new visitor stats. Make sure to check back tomorrow for the rest of the list!

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