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We’ve covered how poor contact forms and bad photography can compromise the success of your website. Today’s mistake is all about links and the many ways they can hinder, interrupt or completely prevent a visitor from using your site effectively.
Mistake #3: Bad Links
Links? What’s to know about links? How hard is it to stick in a URL and go from one page to another? One would be surprised by the answer. If it were that simple, there wouldn’t be millions of websites out there doing a poor job of it.
On the down side, bad links can not only irritate customers, but can completely prevent them from accessing pages of your site. The good news is that there are some pretty basic rules for using links effectively, so pay attention to these mistakes and avoid doing them on your site.
Good Old Fashioned Broken Links
It’s not only annoying, but a real deterrent to someone trying to get information from your web site. If your links are not working properly – because you never linked them properly in the first place, because an inadvertent error crept in, or because you’ve moved or changed a page – there’s simply no way around it.
There’s no way for customers to imagine what you might have said about a product if only they could have seen the page. They can’t pretend to buy it if it doesn’t exist.
The only real way to know if your links are working is to test them. Yes, that means sitting down and clicking on every single one. You can also take preventative measures by making sure that whenever you change, move or delete a page, you systematically update any links pointing to that page.
A good web developer will be able to execute this change as a matter of course. Otherwise, you could be stuck with pages of your web site that are, for all intents and purposes, invisible to your customers.
To be honest, we’re not really sure why this happens, but we’ve all been to web sites where you’re skimming along happily until you get to the “our services” page and suddenly that page opens in a new browser window. Then you click on a subheading like “consulting services” and that opens in a new browser window. Before you know it you’ve got six windows open all for the same web site. It’s a little like reading a book by ripping all the pages out and sorting through them one by one.
The reason we’re not sure why it happens is because setting a link to open in a new window is really a deliberate act, which makes the randomness of how people use it somewhat baffling.
Your main navigation links should always open in the same browser window. We can’t think of a single reason to do otherwise. Links to any page on your site should open in the same window. Again, there’s no compelling reason to send visitors anywhere else.
As far as we’re concerned, the only time you can and should open a page in a new window is when a link takes your visitor to another web site entirely.
If you’re linking out to another web site, it’s a good idea to target a different window. That way, when visitors are done on that other site and close the browser or switch to yet another site, they will still have yours open underneath.
Not Differentiating Visited And Non-Visited Links
If you do a lot of linking within the content of your site, it’s good practice to change the color of a “visited” link – that means any link to a page your customer has already visited. Especially if you link to pages from within the content of your site, you should make people aware of what they’ve visited and what they haven’t.
It’s really irritating to be scanning through text and clicking on links to be sure you don’t miss anything, only to see the same page over and over… with no way to know whether or not the next link will go to that page again or provide some new information.
The very simple way around this is to change the colors of your links. Let’s say the standard color for links on your site is blue. If someone comes to your site and has not clicked on a link then all of your links should be blue. But the minute a visitor clicks on a link to say, “bookkeeping services”, then every link on your site that points to the bookkeeping services page should change to another color, for example red. Now you can freely tell your visitors to “get their books in order” and link to the bookkeeping services page without leaving them guessing about whether or not they’ve missed something, or wasting their time by bringing them to something they’ve already seen.
Underlining Words That Aren’t Links
This one is just plain annoying. Web site convention dictates that an underline implies a link. Not all links need to be underlined, but all underlined words should be links. People will try to click out of habit and either think it’s broken or not believe you when you present a real link.
Make this easy and stop underlining just for effect. Bold works just as well if you need to punctuate a point and it won’t confuse customers.
Leaving Dead Links In Search Results
Just kidding. We’re saving this one for tomorrow’s topic, because even though it relates to links, it’s more about the links that point to your site as opposed to the ones within your site. And they’re of utmost importance, so they’re getting their own topic.
Have you ever been frustrated by broken links on a website?
Read More In The “Rookie Mistakes” Series
- Rookie Mistake 1: Annoy Customers With Your Contact Form
- Rookie Mistake 2: Use Bad Photography
- Rookie Mistake 3: Bad Links
- Rookie Mistake 4: Dead Links Pointing To Your Site
- Rookie Mistake 5: Forgetting You’re Not A Rock Star
- Rookie Mistake 6: Too Much (Useless) Information
- Rookie Mistake 7: Dizzy Background
- Rookie Mistake 8: Misusing Technology
- Rookie Mistake 9: Mangling Your META Data
- Rookie Mistake 10: No Call To Action