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'Unsafe At Any Speed' - Is That Your Website?

Many website owners will instantly relate to the title of this Newsletter. Conversely many website designers will not understand the message in the title. What explains the difference in reactions? Well it's the generation gap.

"Unsafe At Any Speed" is the short title of a book published in 1965 almost 40 years ago. The full title is "Unsafe At Any Speed; The Designed-In Dangers Of The American Automobile" written by Ralph Nader. His message was that some of the fine looking automobiles being produced by Detroit were killing people. One of Nader's targets was the GM Corvair. GM was so incensed that they pursued Nader and tried to discredit him. He survived the attacks and eventually it was GM and others who had to react and modify their automobile designs.

There is a parallel that can be drawn between those automobiles in 1965 and many websites in 2004. Someone buying a GM Corvair in 1965 would receive many compliments as it sat in his or her driveway. What a fine looking automobile. However Ralph Nader was there, like the small child watching the Emperor strutting by without any clothes. He said that, if the automobile started to move, then the occupants might well find themselves in a very hazardous position. The automobile would not deliver on the promise as portrayed in the advertisements.

Many websites are like that Corvair in 1965. The website owner is immensely proud of his or her website. It's just been "delivered" by the website designer. There it sits in the "drive". Doesn't it look great? The website owner's friends are invited to visit and check it out. Some may do so and a few may comment back favourably. So what's not to like?

Well what wasn't to like about that Corvair in 1965? According to Nader, it wouldn't do what it was meant to do. It could have serious health effects because it had hidden defects. Such hidden defects are just as worrying as aluminum wiring or UHF insulation in your home.

Many business websites suffer from equally disastrous "hidden defects". Business websites are usually meant to either create sales or support selling activities. The website owner looking at the website on their own computer may feel very good and have an instinctive feeling that the website will bring in increased sales. However like that Corvair, appearances may be deceptive. The website is supposed to help the company grow. In practice, it may be so bad that it is just one further nail in the company's coffin.

This Newsletter describes 10 hidden defects that many websites suffer from. These defects can have a "killer" influence on your website's selling effectiveness. If you're a website owner, you may wish to ask your website designer how well your own website rates on these hidden defects. Unless it has a clean bill of health on every one of the 10, then you may be losing some or even many customers.

For each defect, a short description is given here. For a longer explanation, click on the question mark and another window will open with a Footnote on that defect. All the Footnotes are held in the same Annex document, so you can easily print out this Annex Footnotes document, if you wish.

Hidden defect #1. Loading Speed

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Not everyone is on a high-speed connection at all times. Some websites are frustrating and essentially unusable on a dial-up connection.

Hidden defect #2. Cross-browser compatibility

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Your website may look very different if viewed with a browser other than Internet Explorer.

Hidden defect #3. Frames

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The website was built with Frames, which is outdated technology. Newer methods can achieve the same effects without the serious disadvantages of Frames construction.

Hidden defect #4. Not Search-Engine Friendly - Over-use of Images

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If the website has little text and is mostly images, the Search Engines will rate the website poorly in keyword searches.

Hidden defect #5. Resolution

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Some websites do not work well at a low resolution such as 800 x 600. They may require horizontal scrolling that is a killer for concentration. Some people deliberately use such a low resolution even with large monitors to give a clearer image.

Hidden defect #6. Navigation (Usability)

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It is important that website visitors can easily move around the website to find the information they are looking for. Some websites are a real puzzle from this point of view.

Hidden defect #7. Credibility - Poor language, Typos

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Some of the problems damaging the credibility of a website are only too visible, yet the website owner seems unaware. Typos, pages under construction and links to other web pages that do not work destroy credibility.

Hidden defect #8. Flash-y, Sound

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Not everyone likes extremely agitated screen images or loud noises. In some cases, the software to run these applications may not even be loaded on the average computer.

Hidden defect #9. Using PDF's (Documents requiring Adobe Acrobat)

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Websites that take the easy way out and have web pages that are PDF documents are likely to lose a good number of their visitors. It can be very difficult to get back to a previous web page that is of interest if the PDF document is opened.

Hidden defect #10. Accessibility

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Accessibility is the requirement for websites to be easily usable by people with visual or other handicaps. Legislation is gradually being put in place to require that websites conform.

Some of these Hidden Defects are less serious than others. However all should be avoided, since it is not difficult to do so. A selling-effective website will have a clean record on all of them. It will attract the maximum number of human visitors and convert the maximum proportion of these to purchasers eager to buy from the company.

If your website designer does not give you a clear answer on hidden defects your website may have, contact SMM for assistance. Our help can be configured to meet exactly the needs you have. Our strengths, experience, creativity and practical common sense can complement those of your company. So write us a Message today on what you're looking for without obligation.

Barry Welford

Copyright 2004 Barry Welford, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Added to site 29 April 2004

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