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When I built my first website in 2003, none of the tools we have today existed. WordPress was a newborn and you had to know HTML!

For an entire week, I worked my butt off within Microsoft FrontPage. I was so proud of the result that I spent the first day staring at the site and sending its URL to friends and family.

In a nutshell, I felt on top of the world.

Then, someone brought me back to reality. "You know, the animated gif of the mouse lifting weights on your landing page? It looks very cheesy. Get rid of it," they said. And, of course, little me had no idea that the browsing experience would vary depending on screen sizes. Needless to say that I was heartbroken.

It took me a little while to realize that website design is an art. If I wanted to be taken seriously, I had to do some research and educate myself.

Well, 15 years and seven websites later, self-education is far from over. Actually, I learn something new almost every day.

If you cannot grab the attention of your audience within a couple of seconds of them seeing your website, chances are your bounce rate will remain high.

Here are seven areas of concern that you should address when thinking of creating or upgrading your website.

1) Automatic music player

Years ago, a business owner sent me a link to her website. The only thing I remember when landing on the home page was the blaring music. The player was impossible to find, so I left and never visited again.

Auto players are at the top of most people's dislike lists (alongside automated DMs on Twitter). Why? Because when you are looking for specific information, unexpected noise and content distracts attention. Even radio stations stopped using auto players a long time ago.

If you must have music on your site, visitors should have the last word when it comes to clicking the “play” button.

2) No call to action

A call to action is a short message that urges people to take action (e.g. “Follow us on Twitter,” “Subscribe to our YouTube Channel”).

When they land on your website, visitors want to find relevant information right away. So, do not leave them hanging. Tell them where to go and what to do. You will be surprised by the results!

Here is a great example below:

For more examples, check out Dan Shewan's post on WordStream.

3) Confusing menu section

A menu is one of the most important areas of a website. Think of it as your personal portfolio, where you feature exactly what visitors need to know about you, your work, and/or your products.

Drop-down menus, in particular, allow you to regroup several related sections under a main theme and make things a little less confusing for visitors.

When deciding what to show in your menu, do not forget to include an “About,” “Contact,” and “More” sections — especially when your pages do not have a common theme.

For examples, check out Steven Nell's post on Vandelay Design.

4) Lack of key information on the landing page

Do not delay information delivery by forcing visitors to click through several pages. Use your home page and sidebar to give them a good idea of what your website is about. Then, let them decide what they want to do next.

Also, pay attention to your keywords and avoid making grandiloquent statements and promises.

5) No “About” section

A website is designed by human beings for human beings. As such, if there is no human touch, visitors will leave right away.

Without an “About” section, a site looks impersonal and cold. People do not do business with robots, unless you are in a science fiction movie.

Want to see an example of great About page? Moz has one of the best I have seen.

For tips to create a stellar About page, check out James Chartrand's article on Write to Done.

6) Typos

Occasional typos and grammatical errors happen. However, when they are recurrent, they will lead visitors to wonder how serious you are about your business.

Nobody wants to have to stop on every other sentence to catch what you are trying to say. So, if writing is not your forte, ask somebody else for help. A (professional) proofreader is worth the investment. They may end up saving your reputation…

Here are more tips:
  • Find a few grammatical resources that you like, such as The New York Times’ Grammar News section or the Grammarly Handbook, and spend a few minutes every day reviewing a rule.
  • Subscribe to the Ragan’s PR Daily Writing & Editing section.
  • Read varied quality literature to teach your brain to think differently.
  • Play word games regularly to increase your vocabulary. Vocabulary.com is a great starting point.

  • 7) Amateurish look

    Do you remember the way websites looked in the 1990s-early 2000s? I do! In particular, I recall animated gifs, low quality images, flashy content, and glowing buttons. They usually gave me headaches.

    Unfortunately, some companies do not seem to realize that this era is over. A picture being worth a thousand words, I advise you to read Brenda Barron’s article titled “Bad Web Design: A Look At The Most Hilariously Terrible Websites From Around The Web.” Her list is great food for thought!


    Sometimes, a little help comes a long way. Do not hesitate to ask your own audience for feedback. They will be more than happy to give you a hand.

    Your audience wants to play a part in your journey, so involving them in the process will make a huge difference in the way they respond to you in the long run.

    You need to customize the 404 error page on your website

    Picture this. The great post you bookmarked a few days ago has been replaced by a 404 error message.

    Sounds familiar? Well, that’s because the 404 error page (“Sorry, the page you requested cannot be found”) is a very common occurrence. It pops up on a visitor’s screen every time they input a bad link or click a non-existent or dead link. More often than not, this prompts the person to leave. And if they don’t already know or trust your website, they will probably never come back.

    I don’t believe in letting chance run a business. So, let me say this: Take advantage of the space and customize it!

    Not too sure of what I mean? Check out the three examples below.

    (Source: Krit)

    (Source: Airbnb)

    (Source: Backcountry)

    What I love about these 404 pages is their creativity and humor. The language is also friendly and inviting. And it is easy to go back to the main page or to find specific information. What a great way to keep visitors interested and hence decrease bounce rates!

    Ready to customize your 404 page? Here are some suggestions for effective results:
  • Make sure that the page looks and feels like the rest of your website or blog
  • Include an image or a video (for a great example, click here)
  • Give visitors a way to report the error
  • Include important links (main menu, home page, popular posts, most used pages, etc.) to allow people to easily retrace their steps
  • Add a search box
  • Include calls to action

  • Most importantly, don’t reinvent the wheel. Use the 404 error page to connect with your visitors in a unique, yet simple way.

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