Improving your website by learning from a poor website

When it comes to a successful website, many website owners copy what the competition are doing. This is great if your competition is active and constantly running split tests to improve the conversion rate, but as we are always reminded: what works for another website may not necessarily work for your website also.

This is a contributed post. Please refer to my disclosure for more information.

During my early days as a web designer, in fact 18 years ago when I couldn’t really call myself a web designer and couldn’t afford paint shop pro, there was one incredible book that taught me more about web design than any other book out there.

And it’s probably the most counter intuitive way of learning, by learning from what’s bad and the mistakes others have made, I learnt to design great websites by understanding what makes a bad website.

The book in questions was called webpages that suck! Learn good web design by looking at bad web design.

The book takes a counter intuitive look at how to make a really good website. Back when I was reading it in 1997/1998 not many people were actually paying attention to navigation.

It was still the age of scrolling flame text, offensively large multi-coloured text and a mismatch of text and button hyperlinks.

Thankfully since then the web has cleaned up a lot, although there are still some bad websites out there that you can learn from.

Learn from the slow loading websites

Imagine you are a visitor to a website and you are looking to buy their latest, hot-selling widget. Only their slow is super slow to load. It takes you ages to get to the page you want, it takes ages for the homepage to load so you don’t even know if you are on the right website and then it takes ages to click-thru and for your product page to load.

Bottle that frustration and keep it in mind and look at your website through the same eyes.

You want your website to ideally load in 3 seconds or less. As difficult as that may sound there’s actually a few ways of doing it. Using you can find out exactly what’s causing your page to load slow: your server, bad code, too many connections, too large image size.  Whatever it is, GTMetrix will find it and tell you allowing you to fix it easily.

Learn from complex navigations

There’s nothing worse than landing on a website and not having a clue how to navigate around.

When someone lands on your website, whether that be from a mobile or desktop device, your website navigation should be simple and easy to use. It should be clean and in view and your website visitor should not have to think about how to use it or where to click and certainly get no surprised with broken links or too many steps.

Think about the painful website you visited that took your multiple attempts to get to the page you wanted due to difficult and unclear navigation.

Re-think your navigation. Is it clear, labelled correctly and does it do as it says on the tin?

By having a complex navigation and sending your visitors on a merry go round for what they are looking for will only end up with people leaving your website.

Set some tasks for your friends and family, particularly those unfamiliar with your website, ask them across different devices to get to certain point son your website and get their feedback on how easy/difficult that was.

Learn from your visitors!

Not many people do this, and the ones that do are often just simply looking at their Google analytics every quarter and not drawing any clear conclusions.

There’s software available such as inspectlet, that allows you to record and watch back visitors to your website. This is a great tool to help you figure out what is and isn’t working on your website.

The benefit of doing this is that visitors often wont contact you and tell you they are having difficulty, they will just visit another website that gives them what they want.

Craig Murphy is the owner of Birmingham web design company, ALT Agency, and has over 18 years practical experience in website design and conversion rate optimisation.

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