6 Reasons Websites Fail at Getting Their Points Across

Every website tries to communicate a different message. With some sites, it is hard to determine what exactly that message is. Here’s a list of things that detract from the individuality of a website, as well as bury or distract from the intended point.

1. People

businesspeoplesmaller1Not the people you want to visit your site, the ones you downloaded from a stock photo website or found on Google Images. These people can be found looking absolutely captivated by their computers, with their loved ones supportively looking over their shoulders, eagerly pointing at the screen. We’ve all seen the picture I just described, and that’s the problem, there’s nothing unique or attention grabbing about it.

While many companies may think that these photos add an appealing human element or are descriptive of their businesses, there are more memorable and relevant ways to relay these ideas, which is where creativity comes in.

The Fix – If you want to attach faces to a company, make it a real people actually involved/working in the company, not a group of sleek business people in a white room you found on Google.

Good Examples – The Big Noob, Viget, Dyson

2. Buzzwords

buzzword“We specialize in optimizing scalability, honing technology functionality solutions, and calibrating accessibility. All with unsurpassed innovation.” Go ahead and try to pick out all the buzzwords in this example pitch, then ask yourself if you saw this on a company’s website would you be intrigued or just plain confused, wondering what services you were just offered.

A company should be able to outline what it has to offer without the use of ambiguous keywords meant to add flair. Make a lean pitch that gets to the point, without polluting it with sensationalist buzzwords.

Photo by 8lettersuk via Flickr.

The Fix – Short, sweet, and straightforward will be more memorable to potential clients , as well as show you value their time and intelligence. Feel free to jazz it up with some extra vocabulary or quirky-ness, but try to avoid industry cliches.

Good Examples – Cabedge, FortySeven Media, Toggle

3. Blending Options

blendingPhotoshop can be an invaluable tool in making a website look good, but being able to use basic elements of the program does not always translate into an beautiful end result.

The Fix – You don’t need to check every box in under Blending Options to achieve the ultimate design, sometimes minimalism works best. Use subtle techniques that up your design without taking away from it’s purpose.

Good Examples – Purevolume, Envato, Breaker Design, Finch

4. All Talk and No Visuals

talkYou know that phrase that everyone loves to use? A picture is worth 1000 words? That holds true to web design too. Long pages of text are daunting to look at and most people won’t read more than a paragraph or two. Be deliberate, not wordy.

Photo by StreetFly JZ via Flickr

The Fix – Break it up with pictures, video, or snazzy graphics. I’ll let the below examples do the talking.

Good Examples – Viewzi, Things, Digital Mash

5. Stock Photography

stockphotoStock photography is a great side dish, but it shouldn’t be the main course in your design. It’s common and nonexclusive, in most cases anyone is able to buy the same photo, which can lead to duplicates of the same picture on different sites. If you are trying to establish your online identity, why potentially use the same materials as your competitors?

Photo by Don Fulano via Flickr

The Fix – If you’re going to use stock photography, take special care to keep it relevant to your website and avoid ambiguity. If the terms of use allows for editing, fit the photos into your home cooked graphics as accents. Take a little creative license to personalize the images you do use. Instead of just having a computer monitor graphic to symbolize a software company, try editing in a screenshot of your software on the screen, make it your own.

Good Examples – Evernote, Gist

6. The “Now What?”

questionWhen someone visits a your website they should not feel like they need a map. Often times a front page can contain a potpourri of links and graphics but lack a distinct next action for the visitor to take. With no direction, despite any cool graphics that might be present, your site will get little more than a fleeting glance. Users should feel guided, as though they are being led on a tour of your business, driven to keep clicking or scrolling because it is what they are being led to do.

Photo by Oberazzi via Flickr

The Fix – Always give your visitor a beginning point, make sure there is a hierarchy to your content. Use action words in your navigation to command the user. Don’t leave it up to them to decide where they should begin, take their hand move them towards the desired goal you have for them.

Good Examples – Unblab, Moo, Uncover


Feel like I missed any? Got any great examples that need including? Comment away.

Posted Tuesday, January 6th, 2009 · Back to Top


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20 Comments 3 Mentions

  1. Brandon Cox Author Editor

    I find in designing a new site, I try to complete it with zero stock imagery, then add it if necessary at the tail end. I think you raise some good issues and your advice, if taken, will make the web less annoying for all! Thanks.


  2. Joe Salmi Author Editor

    Just wanted to say these are some great ideas. I think a lot of people try to add way to much to their sites to get that “more professional” look. I did this myself when I started building sites but after some time you start to develop an eye for things and here are 6 wonderful things to know about site building.

    Thanks and good work.


  3. Rei Paki Author Editor

    Hey Sam, great post! I’ve often said that many sites would benefit from by removing 90% of the cruft and leaving what’s left to more clearly and effectively communicate the core point. So I would say another would be “Lack of a clear content strategy”.

    “unsurpassed innovation” – love it!


  4. J Author Editor

    Read some of the sales pitches and documentation surrounding KickApps and you’ll see some of the worst abuses of number 2 I’ve ever seen.


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