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If you spend any time browsing sites on the web, then you probably realize that a website can be good, bad, or just down-right ugly! When you design a website, you feel like you’re putting your baby out for the world to see: What could the internet world do but adore your precious creation? Sadly, there are many proud small business owners who have websites that, to be perfectly honest, just suck. This is part one of a two-part post. We thought it might make it easier to grade your websites suckyness (or greatness), by breaking up the questions to ask yourself below. If you’re afraid that your website may fall into the crap category, here are ten questions that you should ask yourself to solidify that feeling.

1) Why Do Visitors Come to My Site?
Click on the internet button and then go straight to your website, only this time look at it through the eyes of the guest rather than the host. What makes visitors want to come to your website? Are they coming for the right reasons? Are they getting the information that they are looking for when they scroll down your page? Make a list of reasons that visitors might be visiting your site and then make another list of reasons why you want visitors to come to your site; work to improve your site so that it will continue to serve those who already visit it while also reaching out to those who it has yet to serve.

2) Easy Navigation?
We’ve all been to those horrific sites full of broken links and hard-to-find navigation bars. Having a website that is hard to navigate is a big sign that it probably sucks. Although it may seem to take a lot of time, place navigation bars on each page in a place that they are easy to see and organize links according to their importance. Always check all your links before you publish your site to the internet.

3) Do I Present a Solution?
Everyone online, from news reporters to bloggers, are more than happy to complain about the problems facing consumers and the general public. While it’s fine to point out a problem on your site, it’s much more important to present a solution. If you spend an entire page talking about dishonest lawyers who over-charge for their services, don’t just end the text by saying “Contact our firm to get in touch with a lawyer today”; instead, take the chance to explain how your law firm is different than the others that you mentioned.

4) Do I Make Money?
If someone asks you why you have a website, you might tell them that it is to grow awareness of a problem, to promote your business, or to get you in touch with new clients. Whatever your reasons for creating your site, it all leads back to one thing: Money. The main purpose of any website is to generate income by influencing visitors to buy a product or pay for a service. Is your website making you money? If you can’t answer “yes”, then your site probably sucks.

5) How Do I Stand Up Against Competition?
Check out similar websites and see how yours stands up against them. For instance, if you’re selling herbs from your home, look at other online herbal suppliers and see if your website is as good as theirs. While you may be a small business, there is no excuse for your website to be pathetic. When you check out the competition, take notes of what they do that makes their site better or what you like best about them, then implement this information into your own website.

In business, we can be nice, or we can be honest; Honestly speaking, being nice will not help you sell more products, fill those tables, or increase your service customers. Take an honest look at your website and grade it based on the above questions. Come back, checkout part 2 for our final group of website suckyness questions, and remember that improving the user experience on your website, will improve and build a great customer base. If your site flunked the first set of questions, don’t feel bad, a staggeringly large number of sites offend the senses, are hard to navigate, or frustrate the user into leaving. The first step in fixing a problem, is admitting you have a problem.

6) Is My Website a Good Business Representative?
If you were going to hire someone to go represent your business to the public, would you choose a scraggly-looking, unshaved teenager off the streets with “killer” tattoos on his arms and the seat ripped out of his baggy jeans? Of course not! However, that’s similar to what you’re doing when you put out a website that looks disorganized, cheap, or that you just didn’t spend much time designing. A website is one of the best ways to reach a wide variety of potential customers; make sure that it’s a representative worth showing.

7) Is There a Reason for Visitors to Return?
Let’s face it: If someone plans to come back to your website, then they expect you to have new information when they return. Update your website frequently and post the date at the top of your page. For example: “This page was updated on May 20, 2011”. Also, use your text to inform visitors that more information is coming soon. If you sell Border Collie puppies, then display pictures of the newborns and then say “More pictures coming next week”. Always keep adding, updating, and changing your site so that visitors will have a reason to return.

8) Can I Update My Site with Ease?
Updating your site is, obviously, one of the only ways that you can encourage visitors to return again and again. Updating your site gives you the opportunity to share new ideas with your site guests, advertise old products, and promote new services. To keep from having an old, out-dated website that sucks, make sure that you have an easy way to keep changing your site. To make updating your site easier, you might need to purchase a laptop, sign up for internet service from your house rather than going to the library or office, or switch to a different web design program.

9) Am I able to Track and Analyze Visitor Details?
Although this doesn’t seem that important to a mere beginner, tracking and analyzing visitors can be extremely helpful to better website development. Service such as Google let you put a free tracking device on your website after you register with them. These tracking and analyzing services will let you see how people are finding your website, what search engine queries get visitors to your site, and how long visitors stay on each page on your site. This information can help you to improve your website by pinpointing the type of visitors your site is attracting and how you can better serve them.

10) Does My Website Load in Less Than 3 Seconds?
When you visit a website, you don’t want to find yourself tapping your foot as you wait four or five minutes for the page to load; your visitors are no different. A perfect website loads in less than three-seconds. While waiting a minute may not actually be that long, it can feel like an eternity when you are sitting behind a computer desk. Websites that take a long time to load often make visitors frustrated or disgusted; not exactly feelings that will help promote your business. You can make your site load faster by switching to a different web builder, cutting down on graphics, or optimizing your images. No matter how good your page is, if it forces visitors to spend a long time looking at a blank screen, then your site definitely sucks.

So, maybe you’ve learned something today. Maybe you’ve finally discovered what everyone else already knew: That your website really does suck. While this can be a sad realization, it is not too late to change your ways. By using the questions and tips contained in this article, you can easily improve your design and make your website something that you can be proud of.

Credits: Paul Chesher from Media Town