Let’s banish bad websites

April 7, 2008

I think that every organization, non-profit and otherwise, needs a website today. If for no other reason, people need a way to find you. I can’t remember the last time I used a phone book, can you? That said, having a bad website isn’t better than having no website at all and in today’s Web 2.0 world, there really isn’t any excuse for a bad one. There are many tools and resources available online to help organizations create a stellar web presence.

What makes a bad website? Well, there are countless examples but here are some at the top of my list.

  • A homepage that does not clearly communicate the purpose of the organization/site – You have a few seconds to capture someone’s attention—visitors aren’t likely to dig through your pages to figure out your purpose/cause.
  • Labels for link buttons that are unclear – Don’t use the word “wow” to represent the customer testimonial page, for example. Creativity has its place but not when I just want to find what I’m looking for quickly without having to guess what’s behind each button.
  • Too much text and not using concise writing to convey information – No one wants to read pages and pages of text on a screen. Information should be bite-sized with links to more information if needed.
  • Bad design – This includes poor navigation but also pertains to the colours for text and background, bad clip art as well as unusual type/fonts that are difficult to read. All of this distracts the reader. Design is more than making things look pretty. it has a direct influence on the usability of a site.

Optimally, today’s website should be more than an online brochure. To really engage your audience, a website should offer changing content or some kind of service that compels the visitor to come back again. The worst websites (and I’ve seen this on many sites) display old information that hasn’t been updated. Big announcements on the homepage from 2006, for example, lead one to wonder if any of the other content on the site is up-to-date information.

Granted, it can be a pain and cost money to change content frequently but not necessarily. I’m working with a client right now who is moving his non-profit’s website over to a WordPress platform. WordPress is the open-source software that I use to create this blog. Open-source means that it’s free for anyone to use and anyone really can use it because it requires no coding knowledge to create a basic blog such as mine.

Although its main application is for blogs, the graphic designer we’re working with is using the platform to design my client’s website. This will mean that the site will have a very professional look but my client will actually be able to upload new pictures and change text very easily on his own. Using this kind of platform means there is no need to go back to your webmaster every time you want to change something. This is a huge bonus for small companies or non-profits that don’t have in-house tech support.

Invest in a good website. Hire a professional designer and writer. Opt to keep it simple and smaller if cost is a factor rather than including pages and pages of content and a site designed by your brother-in-law’s buddy who likes to create websites as a hobby.

More than ever before, your website is the first impression your audience will have of your company or non-profit. At a very basic level, the impression your site leaves will influence perception of the credibility of your organization. Make it the best it can possibly be.


One Response to “Let’s banish bad websites”

  1. Agreed!

    Right now I’m actually in the midst of creating a website for a non-profit client, and have from Day One been adamant about avoiding the pitfalls your post mentions.

    The nice thing that I’ve found, at least with this particular client, is that they’re very open to the advice. They’re not resisting change out of any misguided love of clipart or copy they wrote and cannot bear to see edited. It’s simply that they didn’t know, or haven’t had the time to even think about it.

    WordPress is also what we’re using to create this website. Like a lot of non-profits, my client relies on funding that’s seldom regular and almost always insufficient. WordPress is a great way to give them the easily changeable site they need, but minus the (sometimes ridiculous) management software and/or ongoing webmaster costs.

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