Archive | June, 2012

Oh my God, you’re annoying – 5 ways to turn off your web visitors

27 Jun

Have you ever clicked on a website and suddenly a song starts playing really rubbish music?  Perhaps a pop-up appears with moving graphics or some guy starts telling you about himself before you even know where you are.  How distracting is that?

If you actually enjoy that stuff and can honestly say it’s not made you quickly search for the ‘off’ switch or indeed ‘back’ button, you’re in the minority my friend. 

It’s one of many common problems with websites that soon switch off your viewers.  When people arrive on your website, they need to know you’ve got what they want, or are at least likely to be able to provide for their needs.  What they don’t need is anything that will distract or annoy them enough to put them off their task – the back button is very easy to push.

Starting with noises and pictures, here are five of the worst culprits:

1.  Music, sounds and whizzy graphics people can’t control

These are the bells and whistles that some web developers, novices or overly-excited web designers love to put on websites, often simply because they can.  Don’t follow their lead.  If you must put moving images, music or noise on your site, place the controls in the hands of your user and make it easy for them to turn off and on.

2. Where are you taking me?  Poor navigation

This includes links that don’t go where your user expects them to go when they click them.  It happens a lot  – you press the link and it either doesn’t work or goes elsewhere.  People arrive on your site and scan the page for things that look like they fit with what they’re looking for or are interested in.  They’ll look at your navigation and select the most likely option to get what they want.  If it doesn’t work, or most commonly it’s labelled confusingly, they’ll be annoyed.  Annoyed people won’t stay long.

3.  It looks nice, but does it work?  Overly-artistic web design

Some websites, due to the nature of the subject they represent, are designed in extraordinary ways.  There’s nothing wrong with a bit of creative flair, but it is widely held amongst usability professionals that web designers have to work within certain conventions in order for people to feel comfortable using a website.  That means placing content such as navigation, search boxes, copy and logos where people expect to find them.  Anything that requires too much brain power to find will make people irritated and more likely to leave.                                              

4.  Why are we waiting…?  Flash intro nightmares

Flash is the programme used to make moving graphics and those intro pages that take ages to load – usually with the word ‘loading’ or a loading bar and an ‘Enter here’ button.  Yawn.  They are pointless and annoying and if they take ages to load, people get bored and leave.  If you’ve used the web a fair bit it’s likely you’ve experienced it.  I assume it’s like a book cover (or because someone likes playing with Flash) – but what works in print certainly isn’t the same for the web.

5.  Corporate jargon which utilizes the exact phraseology to exemplify their working practices – or such bore-speak

Yes, I made up the word bore-speak.  But how annoying and dull it is when you come across a website that spouts nonsense at you – and it happens all too often.  You have to assume that your reader knows nothing about you or your company, so you need to explain in your copy what your site can do for them in terms they understand.  That means knowing who your audience is and how they express themselves in order to make the connection. Keep it simple and everyone is happy.                   

If there are any other aspects of websites that really get to you, please feel free to share them in the comment box below and we can all have a good old moan together. Hopefully it will help a few people to improve the experience for their users – and their sales.

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How to SEO your web copy

23 Jun

If you have a website, you want to make sure people can find it on the web.  SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation or Search Engine Optimise and is about making your website more easily found than other websites containing similar information to yours (ie your competitors).

There are lots of ways to make your website more searchable, but you need to know that search engines love words.  That means the copy on your website needs to be easily read by the search engines so that it can place you in the search results according to your relevance to the search terms typed in to the search box.

For example, if you have a women’s clothing company, you’ll want to be in the search results listings on Google (we’ll use Google as it’s the biggest search engine) when people type in ‘women’s clothing’.  (These words alone won’t get you far, but it’s a start).

That means you need to include words in your copy that people are looking for.  The more specific you can be with your keywords as they relate to what people are searching for, the better.

In short, your copy has to:

  • Be relevant:  It has to make sense to the reader and actually be about what you are selling
  • Contain keywords: The copy needs to include the words people are looking for (not what you think they are looking for!)

That doesn’t mean chucking in the words ‘Justin Beiber’ simply because everyone is searching for his name.  Besides, you’ll be up against more relevant websites to his name.  It also doesn’t mean writing lists of keywords – Google looks for relevant content that makes sense to real humans, so your site is likely to be rejected for overstuffing keywords.

What it means is that when people search for specific terms, your copy is relevant to their search because it contains those keywords to the extent it still makes sense to readers.  Therefore, your site is more likely to be offered up in the Goolge search results.

It’s not just the words, it’s how you express them on the page

Where you place the keywords and in what format also helps Google recognise that these keywords are relevant to the page and tells it what the page is about.  This way Google can provide relevant search results to its users. 

Therefore, as well as throughout the copy, try to get your keywords into the following:

  • Headlines:  The higher up the keywords sit in the copy, the more relevant Google treats them
  • Bulleted lists:  Google takes notice of lists as it shows you have highlighted these words to stand out from the copy
  • Bold and Italic:  The same goes for words in bold and italic – they are seen as more relevant.
  • Links:  When you place internal or external links, try to include your keywords in the link sentence.  Don’t just use click here.  For example for your clothing site write:  Find out more about our dresses for petite women.  Google will take note of the whole sentence and when people type in ‘dresses for petite women’ into the Google search box, your site is more likely to be one they find in the results.  

Not only do these methods help with your website’s SEO, they are also better for readability – making your copy easier and more interesting for people to read.

How do you know what keywords people are searching for?

You have to include keywords people are using, not what you think they are using.  Find out what people are looking for with the Google Keyword Tool.  It will tell you how many people are looking for those keywords so you can choose the best ones for your copy.

Writing copy for SEO is only one method, so don’t expect over night results unless you are the only person or one of very few people with those particular search terms.  There’s more you can do using keywords in your HTML code (the code used to actually write the website), but that’s beyond the remit of this blog. 

I recommend reading ’50 Ways To Make Google Love Your Website’  by Johnston and Mcgee for more easily-digestable info on SEO.  

What makes a decent website?

10 Jun

What are your favourite websites?  Why do you like them?  Your attention is being fought over by millions (indeed, squillions) of web pages, and you’ve picked those ones.  I can bet you the reasons you like those websites are because:

  1. They give you what you want
  2. You find them pretty easy to use
  3. They’re interesting
  4. You feel fairly satisfied when you leave – but not quite enough not to return again.

That’s what a good website is about.  However, there are so many things that prevent people from staying on websites and buying the products, using the services or even reading the information found there, if indeed that’s what the site is for.

It’s the same as if you were baking the perfect pie – you’d have to get the right balance of ingredients for it to taste good and for you to want more.  Websites need the right mix of attractiveness, ease of use, relevant and interesting content and engaging words to make you stick around.  Otherwise you get bored and leave.

If you’re interested in finding out more about what makes good web copy, what makes people stay on websites and a bit of social media and SEO info, stay tuned.