Top Reasons Some Websites Fail

by Mike Harker October 21, 2008
Design

In determining the top 7 reasons websites fail it is first important to define what constitutes a failure. There are many different types of micro failures that happen with websites all the time but the ultimate failure is for a website to fail to attract the right people and convert them into sales, leads or other goal-oriented conversions.

1. No Plan

What is the purpose of the website? What are the business objectives you are seeking to achieve? How are you going to achieve them? No, really... how are you going to achieve them? These answers should serve as the guide posts for all other decisions on the website and should form the basis of any plan.

2. Missing the Target (Market)

Who is the website targeting and how will it attract the appropriate people? Almost all strategic decisions (features, graphic design, information architecture, etc) should be based off of an understanding of how to effectively communicate to the right audience. Sometimes even executives with good intentions often push for designs, navigation, copy and more that support the organization's internal mental models, but miss what the actual target users want or need to see.

3. Insufficient Marketing Effort

The notion of "If you build it, they will come" is a huge risk that rarely pays off. A diversified marketing approach directed at a well defined target market can build solid, long-term traffic. From PR campaigns to In addition, the web is the best way to track marketing campaign results. People have to know about a website to visit it. No traffic = no conversions.

4. Lack of Clear Calls to Action

The original business objectives of the website keep cropping up. If the primary goal of the website is to generate sales leads, then there better be something enticing people to submit their information. It doesn't matter whether the desired action is registering to download a guide or purchasing a product. What matters is that the website has clear priorities that draw focus and "ask" people to take a clear action. Read our post about general design principles to start down this path.

5. Poor Content

On the web, content is everything. Good content can increase website traffic, fuel people to visit more often, get people to stay longer, and will often determine whether you are going to be included as part of a purchase decision. People seek information for fun, for research, to make a purchase and to help them make more educated decisions.

6. Stagnant Website

The web moves quickly, and if you aren't proactive about continually moving your website forward, chances are that your competition is about to roll right over you (if they haven't already). I am not saying that you have to follow every little design trend, although you should probably follow the major ones if you don't want your organization to look like it is still in the 70's (i.e. - 1994 in web years). What I am saying is that you need to have a system in place where you are regularly updating your content.

7. Website is Confusing or Difficult to Use

We have all visited websites that weren't worth figuring out. Sometimes these websites have even spent a lot of money on graphic design and interesting animations... only to learn that people don't like to feel stupid. Yes, people, especially less advanced web users, tend to blame themselves when a website is difficult to use.