Have you ever read anything like this on a web site?: This is the first paragraph of a new blog post. It sits right below the title. Blog posts can contain text, images like the one to the right, and links to other web sites. Many people use blogs to communicate regularly with the readers of their web site. Just hit your "enter" key to start a new blog paragraph.
What would you think if you read that on a web site? If it was me, I'd figure that the person who set up the site had not yet customized a template they were using. I'd assume that the site wasn't supposed to be visible to the world, and perhaps even that it didn't really represent a company or organization that was "open for business" online. We've been talking in recent posts about ways that web sites raise red flags about the organizations and businesses they represent, either by omitting important information from their sites or by sharing images and text that make their readers cringe. Today's post on web site red flags focuses on those places where web designers and site owners forget to customize something important and visible to the world. When the world sees generic, meaningless text or images on a site, it sends a message to the world about the state of not just the web site, but also the business itself.
Generic Info #1: The Site Tagline/Title
Do a search for the words "just another WordPress site," and just after several articles explaining how to change that text in your WordPress settings, you'll find pages and pages of links to blogs and web sites whose Google listing reads "TomatoLand: Just Another WordPress Site" (where "TomatoLand" is the name of the blog or company). This happens because WordPress software, one of the most popular ways to set up a web site easily and quickly, has a setting you need to customize. That setting is called "Tagline," and it's found in the General Settings for a WordPress blog. It takes basically no time at all to change this setting, but a tremendous number of web sites haven't bothered. It's often not until they do a search for themselves in Google, which captures the site tagline in its search results, that they realize the mistake they made. By then, how many people have wondered why on earth a company would give its web site such an awful, unnecessarily self-deprecating title?
Lest you think I am picking on WordPress, you can also do a search for the words "Joomla - the dynamic portal engine and content management system." You'll find a slightly larger number of results on how to change it, but still plenty of web sites that have that dull phrase as part of their site title. In Joomla, this is changed through the Global Configuration/MetaData section.
Generic Info #2: The Favicon
Even if you've never heard the term "favicon" before, you've seen them. Especially if you have ten tabs open in your web browser, favicons are what make it possible for you to recognize quickly, usually in less than a second, which browser tab contains Facebook, which contains Gmail, and which contains CNN. Sure, you could read the words in the tab, but your eye is much more keenly attuned to images, particularly with color. Favicons are those tiny versions of the logo or visual identity of the site they represent. They are 16 pixels by 16 pixels, which is tiny -- but they pack a huge per-pixel-punch.
At left, you'll see Jebraweb's favicon as it appears in two different browsers -- Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome. I used just one of the two flowers that appear in my logo -- the blue one, because I know that blue is easier to see than yellow. If I had not taken the time to create and upload a favicon, here's what you would have seen in that spot in my browser (I've made it larger than 16x16 pixels so you can see it better):
There are really only two possible outcomes from seeing this as my favicon. If you are a Joomla developer, you would recognize this as the default favicon for Joomla, telling you that I either don't know how to change the favicon OR that I am too lazy to change it OR that I forgot to change it. None of those things would inspire you to hire me. If you are NOT a Joomla developer, you'd see this and perhaps wonder what it was, but there's an even bigger problem. If you had ten browser tabs open, you'd not immediately associate this logo with Jebraweb, because it doesn't look like any other identity materials that we use. I'd be missing out on an opportunity to make you think about us.
Adding a favicon to a web site is VERY easy. Assuming you have a relatively square version of your logo in a bright color, you can upload it to The Favicon Generator, which will resize it for you and let you download it in the proper file type with an .ico file extension. Then you can upload it to the root of your web site on your hosting server, and the work is done.
Generic Info #3: Bad Captcha
Captcha is another word you might not know, but you have definitely seen examples of it online. TicketMaster was probably among the first to use something like this to keep automated ticket-purchasing systems from writing scripts that would buy up all the tickets to shows before we regular joes could get them. Captchas are those weird combinations of letters and numbers, displayed as cut-out magazine letters or handwriting or some other odd layout for you to type into a box and prove, once and for all, that you are a bona-fide Real Human filling out an online form. You can read more about Captcha here, but suffice it to say that people put these things on their online forms way, way too often, and sometimes they do so without testing the form later to be sure that the Captcha -- often set to a specific width and height by default -- will fit in their own page's layout.
Here's an example: Last year, I read a blog post I found really interesting. At the end, the writer asked for comments from the readers, so I dutifully typed in a paragraph of response. Below the field where I entered my comments was a Captcha box which I could not read. I gave it my best shot, but when I submitted my response, I got the red message below.
Look closely. Can you see a spot where I could re-type that Captcha? Me neither -- something in the way this blogger set up the layout of the page made the space too small to view that field for me to type the 2898V. At this point, I gave up. Forget it. Too much work. The saddest part of this story is that if I could have submitted my comment successfully, the following would have happened:
- The blog owner would have my email address to send me more information about his firm or invite me to guest-blog for him or any number of other things he might want from someone who showed a direct interest in what he was sharing.
- Because of the way this blog comments system is set up, my comments and a link to his blog post would have been shared on Facebook -- mine and his.
- This blog post would appear, to Google, to be more interesting and dynamic. Blogs with comments get ranked higher in search results.
All of that was thwarted because this blog owner slapped a generic Captcha script onto his site without customizing the size of it, or adjusting his own page's style with CSS to accomodate it.