Every time I see a guide to building a website or a workshop on getting your product on the web I hear about content. Everything is about content which, they say, is king.
While it’s hard to argue against content as king, after all a website without content is like a car without an engine, there is more to a website than just the content on the page. If you can’t provide your readers with a safe and pleasant experience in an efficient manner even the best content will be eventually ignored. That said, as I browse the web on a regular basis there are three areas I see ignored or nearly ignored so often that bad sites have become more of the norm than good sites. I don’t know how many sites I won’t bother following because, even though they had a good post that brought me in, other factors keep me from coming back. Here are the three biggest areas I see folks ignoring at their own peril.
I don’t know how many sites I’ve clicked away from because they take forever to load. I’m more patient than most folks but if I have to wait a full 30 seconds for your 200 ads to load before I see the content I’m not going to hang around long.
Think about what you put around your content and how you put it there. I know that all those ads might bring you in a couple of bucks a month or your social widget looks really cool but what good is it if folks leave? Even better, take a few minutes to put your site into webpagetest.org. If it takes more than 10 seconds to load on the first try then you really should clean it up a bit. It’s amazing how many folks will appreciate the effort.
Would you fill your house with million-dollar furniture and then leave the front door open? Then why would you fill your website with million-dollar content and leave security holes big enough for an elephant to fit through?
Nothing will scare readers away from your site faster than a Google malware warning and in most cases making sure it doesn’t happen really doesn’t take a whole lot. Add to that what it can cost to get your site back (I could easily take a nice vacation on the consulting requests I get to fix hacked sites) and a minimal effort can quickly pay back far more than any single post or other piece of content.
Finally, if I can’t find any other posts on your site or I have no idea how those posts are connected I probably won’t be back. I don’t know how many sites I see on a regular basis with a menu structure that reminds me of rat maze only replacing content for cheese and me for the rat. I don’t like being a rat. If you’re going to make me run a maze to find something interesting I’m not going to bother.
Think about your menus. Simple really is better. Also, it shouldn’t take 10 clicks to get from one page to another. Make sure everything is accessible to the user with only a few clicks and that the user can figure out where to place their clicks without requiring a manual.
What does it all mean?
Don’t let your site just be mediocre. Even if it means skipping your next post take just a little time to make your site faster, make your excellent content easier to find, and then lock it all up so you don’t scare folks away. A little effort on performance, security, and navigation will go a long way to bring you regular users, not just those who stumble in to a single post from Google and never go anywhere.