If you’re a regular Monocle reader or subscriber you’ve most probably noticed that we relaunched our website some months ago. It was a Herculean task that our web team carried out with focused dexterity and creativity, sleepless nights and endless coffee pots. And, most importantly, enviable patience through the setbacks. The result is now out there and even though there are always some tweaks and updates to be made we do hope that our new page is an improvement on the previous one – more interactive, informative and, above all, useful.
Which makes me think: in our technically advanced, social-media packed, Twitter-bursting, gadget-saturated world, having a website – a good one, that is – should be an easy task and a basic prerequisite when launching a business. If people can record themselves singing Bowie in a space shuttle nowadays, how technologically challenging can it be to have a straightforward website that is easy to navigate and explains basic info: who you are, what you do and where you’re based? Getting your website right shouldn’t be so tough, right? Wrong.
Case one An independent retailer’s shiny new web page: colorful images of the products on offer, good photos of the bricks and mortar – hey, I can even follow them on Facebook and Twitter. But I can’t find the address of the shop itself and there is no sign of primary contacts: telephone number or email address. A case in point where the means defeats the purpose. The core of a website is to inform, whereas lately key information seems to be getting lost in the pursuit of more glittery ways to deliver this same information.
Case two Aggravating background music on a website where you can’t even find the off button and you’d rather close the page and never – I mean never – go back again. Not to mention the pure frustration when you have 15 other windows opened simultaneously on your desktop (yes, I am one of those people) and can’t figure out where the annoying tunes are coming from.
Case three Nerve-wracking, gradually uploading animated intros. Unless your business is web design and you’re selling your skills, drop the animations as no-one has the patience to wait for them to upload one by one while every click generates five more, sprouting like a many-headed monster. Ironically, there is usually a "Skip intro" option. Here's a thought: if you’ve assumed that visitors might want to skip the intro, why have it in the first place?
The bottom line is to follow the Kiss principle: Keep it simple, stupid. If you’re planning to waste most of your web-developing budget on bejewelled animations and elevator music but only spend nickels and dimes on the information-relevant content, please don’t bother having a website to begin with. The best you’ll achieve is to make potential customers navigate away not only from your page but from your business as well.
Nelly Gocheva is Monocle's Toronto bureau chief.