We all have our personal favourites – websites that we absolutely love to hate. Whether it’s a webpage that goes on, and on, and on, or one of a star-spangled background with painful neon yellow text. Our personal favourite is that of a famed local computer electronics company that loves block-red on white far too much. In any case, with the interweb being the most popular destination of search and information, and plenty of digital agencies and self-help books to provide invaluable help, it’s alarming that there are still many culprits out there guilty of producing and keeping alive cringe-worthy websites.

Paul Sprokkreeff, managing director of online marketing agency Web Profits said toMarketing: “If local businesses are to have any hope of attracting increasingly internet driven consumers, generating new business leads and avoid ‘drowning in a sea of competition’, they should ditch their old and ineffective websites”.

“Bad websites are damaging Australian businesses and putting them on an uneven playing field with their competitors”.

According to Sprokkreeff, “bad” websites are ones that have dated information, use up too much onscreen real estate for useless information and pictures, and ones that use jarring colours that are unwelcoming and hard on the eyes.

Sprokkreeff is surprised that despite the ability for companies and brands to constantly updated and improve their website, “many companies invest time and money into producing a website, and then they just move on and leave it unattended”.

“Instead, companies should treat their website as a key sales channel and adapt it constantly according to what is working and what isn’t. They need to keep tweaking, keep adding information, and keep massaging the design process until they reach exactly what pleases the consumers”.

Sprokkreeff suggested that some crucial and basic features that a “good” website should have include a clean and crisp design, a website that has an intuitive feel and provides information that is easy to access. Contact details, calls-to-action and clear branding must be easily located and flow seamlessly throughout the site.

Online shopping

For websites that offer online shopping capabilities, Sprokkreeff advised that the more questions a website asks before the final purchasing stage, the higher the drop-off rate will be. “Avoid asking unnecessary questions, especially if evidence shows that it leads to negative reactions, like a click away. Instead, information can be obtained after sales with a mini survey, and even though there might only be a five to ten percent uptake, this can be increased by offering incentives”.

To flash or not to flash?

On the age-old debate of whether to use Flash, Sprokkreeff feels that for corporate sites, it should be used minimally. “Flash definitely has its place, but I would recommend corporate sites to have a video grab instead, where visitors have the option to view. By making it automatic, time-poor web surfers will move on before getting the opportunity to see your home page”. Marketers should also be wary of their website’s loading time, and find the right balance between the quality of images and the time it takes for the website to come up on a web browser. “Attention span online is very short, so its important to optimise a website as much as possible. It’s a constant balance act between speed of loading and quality of visuals, and this will be dependant on the industry that the business is in. For example, a real estate website should definitely lead more towards having a website with rich, high-resolution imagery”.

Going mobile

Sprokkreeff believes that with close to five percent of local businesses having a mobile site, the growth of the popularity of mobile web browsing should not be underestimated. “However,” warns Sprokkreeff, “brands should not get carried away from a mobile site and instead, ensure that they have their main website in order and delivering on its aims first. Only then should a brand than make use of a successful website to create a supporting mobile site that has reduced, and only crucial and necessary information”. Sprokkreeff advises that marketers should critically access what a smart phone user would look or need information to.

Belle Kwan
BY Belle Kwan ON 26 July 2011
Assistant editor, Marketing magazine & marketingmag.com.au
A marketer's dream who believes everything she sees on TV.
Advertising is not evil, it is an artform and a science.