What is your website saying about you?
We often do in-depth website reviews with our clients at FlipsidePM. And here are nine of the deadliest sins that we see over and over again.
1. Using a Splash Page. This is the ultimate in website dysfunction. And one of my personal pet peeves. A splash page is that introductory page to a website that often shows off a self-promoting graphic or animation and then has a link to "Enter Site." Ugh! It's like putting a virtual STOP sign between the user and your homepage. The user has already clicked a link or typed in your URL to go to your site. Take them there already. Don't make them click twice! In addition to the annoyance factor for your visitors, splash pages also lower your search engine ranking because there aren't a lot of keywords or links on them.
I often see splash pages on major label artist sites promoting their newest release or an upcoming tour – which just goes to show you that being on a major label doesn't mean the artist is immune to these deadly mistakes. But please don't follow their lead on this one. Do yourself, your fans and your ranking a favor: Skip the splash page entirely!
2. Using Flash. Artists and designers, particularly in the entertainment field, seem to love Flash. It looks cool. It's got great "ooh and ahh" factor. But it also has many downsides.
Flash slows down your page loads. It has a multitude of security vulnerabilities. And search engines, especially Google, are quite frankly not very fond of it. In fact, Google had announced that it had begun to phase out support for Flash in its Chrome browser. Even Adobe (the company who creates Flash) pulled support for their Flash player on mobile devices a few years ago. And Apple has never supported Flash on the iPhone.
So, the writing is on the wall here. If your website is still running Flash, it's time to redo it.
3. Auto-Play. Without a doubt, the single most annoying website feature that fans complain about is music that starts blaring as soon as they enter a site. My personal pet peeve is the fact that many times it's also not obvious how to turn the music OFF! Yes, your site is about music. And yes, you want your visitors to hear your music. But leave the auto-play function off!
Your visitors might be surfing the web at work and they don't really want their co-workers to know that they're taking a break. Or they might be looking for something specific on your site, like contact info or a tour date, and they just aren't interested in listening to music at that moment.
So, by all means, give your fans an easy way to listen to your music on your site. But let them decide when they want to hit "play."
4. Black Background with White Text. It doesn't matter if you're a grunge band or a goth metal head or a folk singer-songwriter. For some reason, musicians of all kinds still find the look of white (or bright yellow) text on a black background hip and cool, or maybe it's dark and mysterious? Either way, can we please get out of the '90s? Beside the fact that this automatically makes your site look dated, it's hard on the eyes and makes reading paragraphs of text much more difficult. If it's the dark vibe that you're going for, there are other ways to create this effect without resorting to this tired-out look.
So, please step into the 21st century and ditch that dark background.
5. Not Responsive Design. A website that uses responsive design means that it will look good at any size on any type of device – desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile phone. As more and more people are doing their web searching on their phones, this is becoming more and more important. In fact, in 2015, Google changed its algorithm to boost mobile-friendly, responsive sites in its search engine. So, if your site isn't adhering to this modern style of design, you could be losing traffic due to lower search engine rankings.
If you're not sure if your site is responsive or not, you can check just check by opening your website from your mobile phone or tablet and see how it looks. And if it's not, you can easily update it using a new, responsive theme or template.
6. No Mailing List Form. What?! You don't have a mailing list? Then, this is the first thing you're going to add to your site. And I mean, TODAY. If you do already have a list, though, how prominent is your sign-up form on your website? Are you making it hard to find?
Regardless of what part of the music industry you're in or what type of website you are constructing, your email list is generally considered to be your most valuable asset. So, it's good to put some thought into how you capture and collect those precious email addresses.
The best location for a sign-up form is in the upper right-hand corner of your website. This is where the visitor's eyes will naturally go first. Even so, don't be shy with the form. Make it large enough to be noticed and put it on every page of your site. This may seem like overkill, but you never know how visitors will enter your site. They don't always come through your homepage. If they've done a Google search, they may stumble upon an old news or blog entry from last year. If that's the only page they see, you still want them to see your sign-up form.
Savvy website owners also know that people are reluctant to hand over their email address to just anyone. One very successful way to address this is to offer a free incentive in exchange for the email address, such as an exclusive song or a video download. But "free songs" are already so commonplace that it may not be enough of a draw any more. So, be creative and offer something you think your fans – or potential fans – would want.
7. Poor or "Cutesy" Navigation. Clear, easy-to-understand and consistent navigation will make your website visitors very happy. So, it's important that your menu is in the same location and in the same order on every single page of your website. Also, don't try to get too creative or cutesy with your button text, menus or icons.
According to Steve Krug, author of Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach To Web Usability, "Users shouldn't have to puzzle over finding the content they're looking for. They'll quickly move on if they can't find what they're after."
Standard labels such as About, Tour Dates, Music, News, and Blog are immediately recognizable and allow your fans to click without thinking.
8. Brochure-ware. Gone are the days when your website could be a glorified advertisement or online brochure for you, your band, and/or your music. Today's websites are all about engaging your visitors and fans. While adding a blog to your site is a good start and can gain you bonus points with search engines, the best music sites know how to get their fans involved and give them several ways to interact. Sure, you can allow people to comment on your blog posts. But why not encourage them to upload live photos as well and feature them in your online gallery? Or hold a contest for the best mashup of your latest song.
Also, make sure that you're really interacting with them. If someone posts a comment, make sure to comment back. If they ask a question, answer it.
Don't just spit out sound bites and press releases on your website. Be real. Be human. Your fans want to know and interact with YOU.
9. An Outdated Site. Does your website LOOK like it was created ten years ago? Are the Tour Dates all from two years ago? Is the latest blog post or news item more than six months old? An outdated site is the kiss of death! Nothing says "I'm not professional" like a website that looks like it was designed by MySpace or one that hasn't been updated in months. It's easy to let a website slide. I get it. But remember that this may be the first impression that someone gets of you. So, give your website a face lift every now and then by updating the photos or applying a new theme. And make sure to keep your tour dates and news up to date.
Did you just get a new placement? Update your news. Have you been co-writing with some new people? Blog about it. Post a partial lyric or audio. If you're not touring, how about doing a Concert Window show from your living room? There are LOTS of ways to keep your career moving and fresh and give you something to talk about on your website.
So, how did your website hold up against these infractions? Does it need some work? Or did you ace it? Comment below. Also, make sure to share this post with your music friends! And remember that if you're guilty of some of these sins, small changes can make huge improvements. So, start by making one change.