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Is Your Website Making Your Prospects Hate You?

Deep in the user agreement, I signed with DirecTV was a language that allowed them to change the channels they offer me and the price they charge me each month, even though I was committed to them for the length of the contract without an “out” — even if I didn’t like the changes. Naturally, I found this out the hard way — when they removed a channel that was a favorite of my kids. (Don’t get between your kids and their favorite cartoons!)

Obviously, someone at DirecTV has done the math and decided that these mid-contract price changes are good for their bottom line. But of course, they come at a price: unhappy customers.

That experience comes to mind often when I’m surfing the web. Too many sites can’t seem to find the right balance between a great user experience and maximizing their conversion rate optimization.

Yes, I understand that you want to do all you can to move me along my buying journey, but it’s worth remembering that my buying journey may not map precisely to your sales process.

There are a couple of ways I see this most often. I bet these are familiar to you, though I hope not from your own website.

Don’t Make Me Feel Stupid

When the choices in your pop-up dialog box are “Yes” and “No, I don’t like saving money,” you’re basically saying I’m an idiot if I don’t opt for “Yes.” I doubt I’m alone in selecting the third option: clicking “no” while muttering, “No, I don’t like doing business with @#$% morons.”

Don’t Mislead Me

Dialog boxes are a proven way to focus site visitor’s on the one thing you most want them to pay attention to. As long as they’re implemented well, there’s little impact on user experience.

If, however you do things like making the “close” button (generally an “X” in a box) dark gray on a black background, you’re frustrating your potential customer. Do you really think they’re paying attention to your content for those extra seconds rather than searching frantically for a way out?

So not only are you annoying your site visitor, you’re potentially introducing inaccuracies into your analytics data. You see engagement in the length of time people spend on the page, but they’re not engaged at all.

Don’t Hide the Details

The smaller the type, the lower your credibility. It’s OK to have terms, conditions, and provisos attached to various offers on your website, but they should be easy to understand and presented openly.

If they’re written in legalese, they should be translated into plain English. If they’re presented in 7-point type on a busy background, consider what it is you’re trying to hide.

With all of these things, the people you’re annoying are your customers or prospective customers. Even if they decide to do business with you — or continue to do so — you’ve removed any inclination they may have to give you the benefit of the doubt in any future touchpoint. You’re basically banking ill will rather than goodwill.

Be sure to review your site to make sure none of these experience killers are creating a barrier between you and your site visitors. If you think they won’t remember, consider this: the DirecTV incident I mentioned above worked out. My kids got to watch “Phineas and Ferb” and my monthly charge was lowered for a while.

But it happened more than a decade ago and I still remember it. That’s too bad because I was an enormous DirecTV fan until then. I still think their product is great, but I’m now less likely to trust them and more likely to read the fine print in anything they offer.

That’s not how you want your website to be working for you.

Andrew Schulkind

Since 1996, Andrew Schulkind has asked clients one simple question: what does digital marketing success look like, and how can marketing progress be measured? A veteran content marketer, web developer, and digital strategist, Andrew founded Andigo New Media to help firms find a more strategic and productive mix of tools that genuinely support online brand goals over time. With a passion for true collaboration and meaningful consensus, his work touches social media, search-engine optimization, and email marketing, among other components. He views is primary goal as encouraging engagement. Getting an audience involved in your story requires solid information architecture, a great user experience, and compelling content. A dash of common sense doesn’t hurt, either. Andrew has presented at Social Media Week NY and WordCampNYC, among other events, on content marketing and web-development topics. His technology writing appears on the Andigo blog, in a monthly column on, and for print and online publications like The New York Enterprise Report, Social Media Today, and GSG Worldwide’s publications LinkedIn & Business, Facebook & Business, and Tweeting & Business. Andrew graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy from Bucknell University. He engages in a range of community volunteer work and is an avid fly fisherman and cyclist. He also loves collecting meaningless trivia. (Did you know the Lone Ranger made his mask from the cloth of his brother's vest after his brother was killed by "the bad guys?")

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