June 02, 2008

11 Ways to Improve Your Website...or 11 Ways to Create a Bad Online Reading Experience

I had just finished reading a great story from Joel Spolsky on his experience procuring new office space in New York, when I saw a link to "More from Inc.com." The list of links was right after the final paragraph of Joel's article, and one link in particular caught my eye: "11 Ways to Improve Your Website"

I expected an article with a list of things people can do to improve their sites. I'm always curious what kind of design and usability recommendations get printed in general business magazines. Instead of my expected article, what I got was this:

(click to view full-size)

This outstanding list of 11 tips from Inc.com inspired my own list of 11 things. I hope you enjoy it.

11 Ways to Create a Bad Online Reading Experience.
1. Use a slideshow format for content poorly suited to a slideshow and that obviously was never a presentation.

2. Make it difficult to find the real "content" amidst all the ads. Put your content in graphics (or "illustrations"), put headings and text in colored boxes. Make ads look like text, and text look like ads...Good Idea!

3. Put 4-5 sentences on each page. Think "eyeballs", "pageviews" and "advertising."

4. Make users click "next slide" to navigate...hide the navigation in the top header below the article title, but above the graphic that repeats the article title.

5. Use a timer script to auto-advance from one "slide" to another...I'm sure you know exactly how fast most people read. Think "eyeballs", "pageviews" and "advertising."

5. Make the user scroll to see the last of your ridiculously small amount of content on each page.

6. Put content in graphics, and use the least important content as the "ALT" text. Accessibility? Who needs it!?

7. Write a crappy list of 11 "tips", each of which could have related articles or web sites...don't link to anything else. The Web is an island...and you own it.

8. Tell CIO's and business owners to flush their money down the toilet. Advise them to "create an avatar", use software to create "Amazon-style recommendations", and "build a widget". All money well spent...at least in the eyes of someone working at a magazine who can't separate hype from reality.

9. Package up shallow business advice so it sounds like you're patronizing your readers. Say things like "know your competitors", "be in charge", "identify your best customers", and "keep it simple."

10. Place a "Harvard Business School Executive Education" banner ad above your site header, so readers are confused about what site they're on. (Note, this also belongs on a list called "10 cheap, quick and easy ways to damage the HBS brand name.")

11. Provide no author credentials until after the "slideshow" is done. Okay, let's face it web readers recognize crap when they see it...you don't want credit for this rubbish anyway.

See Also:
- The Web's Biggest Time-Wasters (Google is #1!)

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