5 Ways to Make Your Website Quit

December 18, 2006

Topics: Usability.

When it comes right down to it, a website is like an employee. An employee who works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, never asks for vacation time, and religiously keeps track of every transaction it makes with your customers. But that’s not really where the analogy ends. If your website is abused, it might just quit working for you.

What does it mean for your website to quit?

Oh, it’ll still be there (maybe) – hangin’ out on the internet, showing off for the occasional visitor – but not really invested in your company. It will continue to be a part of your company – but instead of helping you increase your business profile, make sales, find qualified leads, or gain readership it will just be a leach on your finances. How does this happen?

  1. You only care what it looks like, and don’t bother making certain it can really get the job done. It’s a very stereotypical sexist scenario in which the boss hires a secretary on the basis of her legs (or other body parts), but it sure seems to apply to websites. An incredibly complex Flash animation with doohickeys and gewgaws may be an incredible looking website – but you better have made sure it can also give your visitors what they need.
  2. You’re asking it to do things it might not like to do. Sometimes, an employee might be asked to do something unethical. They might quit. If you’re expecting your website to invade people’s privacy by collecting personally identifiable information, or by automatically adding them to mailing lists, etc., you might find that behavior to backfire. Visitors don’t always like your service enough to put up with the hoops you make them jump through: and unless you’ve got something really great, they’ll just stop coming.
  3. You’re not providing the right tools for the job. If your employee is working with a sad old Windows 95 machine which just barely stays running when they’re trying to type out meeting minutes, they will probably be a bit dissatisfied with their lot in life. Similarly, if your website doesn’t have the hosting package it needs, the bandwidth it requires, or a secure certificate to keep your customer’s data safe you might be screwing yourself. Don’t host your business site with a free service: remember, you get what you pay for. (Well…usually. Don’t just jump on the most expensive hosting out there, either.)
  4. Don’t explain what it’s supposed to do. If your new employee doesn’t get any instructions, they’ll just be doing random things trying to keep busy. Is that what you want from your website? If you’re developing a site, make sure you know what you want from it. Don’t just add new features willy-nilly, and don’t just throw up your brochure because you think you need to have a web presence. Your website won’t really accomplish anything for you if you don’t have any clear intentions behind it.
  5. Don’t change things too frequently. If you throw new job instructions at your employees every six months, expecting them to learn a new filing system, a new business process or a new shipping procedure they might well rebel. And although your site isn’t going to literally fight against your changes, it’ll certainly suffer: if you’ve reorganized product categories, you might cause search engines problems in finding your pages. You can protect against this, so it’s not an argument against ever reorganizing. However, those robots take some time to catch up – if you go through a reorganization too frequently, they’ll never arrive where you are. Your visitors might struggle, too. Some people like change and others don’t. Nobody will rebel against one redesign: but everybody will struggle with too many of them. Change can equal improvement: but not every change will.

Don’t be a bad boss – invest in your website just like you would an employee. And if it’s not doing the job – fire it and get a new one.

Hey, I can’t count! I’ve added another one…

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