Don’t Make These Godawful Mistakes on Your Website

Having a website is pretty standard procedure for freelancers and biz owners these days. This is good. This is something you should do too if you want to run a successful online business.

But you know what else appears to be standard procedure, and is definitely not something you want to do?

Ugly, user-UNfriendly, psychedelic shitpiles for websites.

I’ve seen a lot of these lately and I’ve noticed a few common mistakes these poor, unwitting biz owners make that dropkick their websites straight into the shitpile. So I decided to make a list of the most offensive cockups I found to help you avoid them. After all, you do not want your website to end up looking like this:

uglywebsite

Ahem. Onwards!

1. The Pointless Home Page

Come on guys, this is in, like Websites 101 or something. Your home page — often the first page viewers land on — is kind of important. Don’t waste it by putting some stupid shit on it. I actually saw a website that had this, and only this, on its home page:

WE ARE [BIZ NAME] CLICK HERE.

Can somebody please explain to me how this is supposed to entice anybody in? Oh, you’re [biz name], are you? Well I don’t give a shit. What do you DO? How can you HELP me? Come on, give me something to work with.

If you’ve ever thought about doing this: don’t. Just start with the page you were planning on linking to with your magnificent CLICK HERE button.

2. Boring, Irrelevant About Pages

OH MY GOD. These are taking over the internet, I swear. But honestly, nobody gives two flying teapots about that long list of companies you’ve worked with or for or under.

While we’re on the subject, we don’t care about your long list of accreditations, certificates, educational institutions or bars you sang karaoke in when you were an undergrad either.

Oh and please remove your list of ’40 Things About Me’. Go start a LiveJournal if that’s what you’re into.

Just stop it. And now tell me something real about you. In fact, let’s not even talk about you. Let’s talk about what you can do for me. Because that’s why I’m on your website, you know? To find out how you can help me?

3. Just Plain Fuckin’ Ugly

These are my favourite sites to visit when I want to feel better about myself. How about taking a little pride in what you do, eh?

Listen, I’m design-retarded too, but there are plenty of easy, affordable ways to get a decent looking website that don’t involve giving yourself a hernia because you’re straining your under-flexed designy-codey brain muscles.

A few pointers:

  • Plenty of white space.
  • Not millions of sidebars and widgets and whatnots.
  • Less than three fonts.
  • Nothing sparkly or animated, and definitely no fucking background music. What is this, 1999?
  • Use WordPress and pick a theme you like. It’s easy. Google ‘How to install WordPress’.

4. ‘What the Hell am I Supposed to Do Now?’ Menus

Your website’s navigation should not be confusing. But when you go all crazy with approximately 12 different menus, none of which have anything to do with the others, or do they? Who the fuck knows. That’s when it all starts to go a bit wrong. Just have one menu at the top of the page, and keep it simple. Link to your main pages, like ‘About’, ‘Services’, and ‘Contact’. Don’t name your links weird things that won’t mean anything to anyone except you. If you have sub-pages you want to link to, do it within your main pages, or use dropdown menus from your main menu items.

5. Why God, WHY, Do You Have Two Sidebars?

If you’re sensing a theme here, you would be right. Clutter is a huge no-no. And I’m of the opinion that just one sidebar can be cluttertastic. I get it, sidebars can be useful. Go ahead and have one. But why the fuck do you need two? All you’re going to do is burn out your visitors’ retinas. And then how will they know where your ‘Add to basket’ button is? HMM?

6. Corny Stock Photos

Hate them. Hate them hate them hate them. These just scream of ‘Someone told me I should use images on my website, so I found these random stock images that sort of fit the bill.’ See also: ‘I have not an artistic bone in my body, and I care not about personality.’ And: ‘P.S. I’m lazy.’

I’d rather not have any images on my site at all than another posed fucking photo (wait, no… not a ‘posed fucking photo’. Jesus.) of a ‘business’ woman in a suit and heels. I mean, how does that even represent my business and me? Fuck, I’m wearing yoga pants with holes in the crotch right now. NOT LIKE THAT. Let’s just forget this whole paragraph ever happened.

ANYWAY, there are better ways, mon petit pois. Flickr’s Creative Commons are a great place to start — all you need to do is include a link back to the original. (S’what I did in this blog post, in fact. I searched for ‘ugly website’, and voilà!) Best part: it’s totally free and there is some good shit on there.

7. Useless Random Shit

So this one sort of encompasses all the others, I guess. Don’t put stuff on your website that doesn’t need to be there. You want to make things as easy as possible for your visitors — potential clients and customers — to get around. To find what they’re looking for.

Jesus Fucking Christ, one website I came across had a ‘What’s on the iPod’ thing at the top of every blog post. WHY? It literally LITERALLY had nothing to do with the content of the website. Stop thinking anybody gives even a miniscule flying fuck about what you’re listening to, or anything else about you. Not even your grandma cares, although she’ll do a better job of pretending.

You should forcibly propel all useless random shit from your website. That includes blogrolls, tag clouds, hit counters (really? We’re still doing that?), and just… god. Anything that doesn’t help the people who visit your website. Did your WordPress theme come with built-in plugins and widgets and shit? Don’t let them remain just because somebody else thought they were a good idea.

Go and look at your website and consider every god damn aspect of it, right now. Yeah, I probably need to do this too. Now that my finger is hovering over the publish button, I’m all… wait… do I follow all these rules? Probably not. But I’m not writing this for me, I’m writing it for you.

So nobody ever lands on your site and thinks ‘Jesus Christ, this website hurts my eyes and I have no idea what I’m supposed to do now I’m here’ again.

(If you want to make your own website but don’t know how to get started, check out this comprehensive guide I wrote. I tell you exactly what you need to do, step by step, in a way that’s easy to understand. I’m cool like that.)

The Giveaway Results!

Last week I promised one lucky reader a copy of the two books I read when I first started freelancing: The Well-Fed Writer by Peter Bowerman, and The Wealthy Freelancer by Steve Slaunwhite, Pete Savage and Ed Gandia. Fantastic books.

I’m now pleased to announce that the lucky winner iiisssss… (drumroll + shit like that)

Carolina!

Carolina said:

I want to be a freelance writer because I’m done working for the man. I have more to contribute than just churning out other people’s work and I think that being a freelancer gives me the medium to showcase my best work.

Right on! Congrats Carolina, I’ll be in touch.

For everyone else, sucks. You didn’t win. But worry not! I will run more giveaways in the future, and I will be announcing a ridiculously awesome insanely brilliant giveaway (no, that’s not an exaggeration) in next week’s blog post. Subscribe in the box at the bottom of the page if you don’t want to miss it.

FINAL THING: Registration for the next session of Untamed Writing School closes in less than two days, at 8am BST on Friday. If you want to kickstart your freelance writing career (and have me critique the fuck out of your new website — the one I’ll help you create) hop aboard, me hearty.

Image by dragfyre.

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