I recently contacted a number of web designers regarding the launch of our new domain, and was amazed to find that a significant proportion of them had made it extremely hard or impossible to email them.
I should warn you, this post may sound a like a grumpy moan, but having been a designer, I’ve been guilty of some of these mistakes myself. So please think of it more like constructive criticism.
As I looked through dozens of sites, meant to showcase the skills of the designer, these were some of the problems I found regarding communication:
14% of “contact-us” pages did not work: – In some cases it was due to broken coding, throwing up error messages instead of a functional contact form. In others it was a dud link, so I couldn’t even reach the page I was looking for. In most cases it seemed that browser compatibility was the culprit. Pages that hadn’t been updated in a long while were now not working as they were intended to with new browser versions.
31% of sites did not have a prominent contact link: – When you’ve been staring atÂ a screen for hours, there’s nothing more annoying than having to grapple with poor navigation. Sometimes I had to spend six or seven minutes trying to find a link to a site’s contact page.
I wanted to a link at the very top of the page, or failing that, in the footer. But many sites decided it would be fun to bury the link to the contact page in amongst a mountain of text, or worse still, on a different page altogether.
15% of sites decided to reinvent navigational conventions: – I’ve been tempted down this road myself in the past, but being on the opposite end of it I can see how annoying it is to the user, when you decide to get “playful”.
I know there’s a real urge to show that you are innovative, zany, or distinct, but messing with established conventions is only going to hack off your customers.
When I pick up a book I expect each page to be numbered in the correct order and I expect the spine to be on the left. So why force web users to have to figure out a new form of navigation? Simple is always better. There are plenty of other areas where you can show off your skills, but the core navigation should be sacrosanct.
18% of sites decided to rephrase “Contact Us”: – If you really want people to be able to contact you, then you must speak the same language. People are looking for the words “Contact us” or “Email” – they will even use the browser search box if your navigation isn’t intuitive.
But if you label your link as “Reach out to us”, “Begin a dialogue”, “Buzzmail”, “Drop us a line” or “Tappity-tap”, then you’re forcing them to read through the whole page. It’s like when the supermarket decides to move the bread aisle just to make you wander round the whole store.
Conclusion: – As a web developer, it can sometimes feel like you are a single drop in an endless electric ocean, and the urge to distinguish yourself from the crowd can get the better of you. Couple that with tight deadlines and not enough hours in the day, and it’s easy for a website to stray from the ideal form that has proven to work best, either by design or neglect.
Whilst in many cases, this might not effect your business too much, if it begins to affect your customers ability to communicate with you, you are cutting off your life-blood.
Regularly check that all your lines of communication are up-to-date and easily accessible.