Put yourself in your visitors' shoes.

Are the features of your Web site aimed at customer usability, or did you or your designer sneak in a few ego-satisfying features?

Not that satisfying one's ego is necessarily a bad thing, but maybe your business Web site is not the right place to do it.

After reviewing a range of Web sites -- from personal to businesses' of all kinds -- I'm going to focus on 10 ways to successfully drive visitors away.

Splish splash. One sure-fire way to confuse and annoy visitors is to introduce your site with a splash page that contains no indication of what your company does and no navigational tools except a link that says, "Click to enter."

If you could possibly add a Flash movie and a phrase such as "Page loading, please be patient" or "Click here to skip intro," you could send visitors away even faster.

Keep secrets. Make sure the top third of your first page lacks a clear statement explaining what your company does. Put a vague but clever piece of prose there, a poem or a very large graphic or photograph, but don't mention the purpose of your site.

If you work under the premise visitors will search for what they can't find, you'll get 'em running from your site every time!

Create a maze. If you're serious about losing visitors, insufficient navigation is a great help. Place navigation bars at the very bottom of the first page so visitors have no choice but to scroll through the page to reach them.

The next step is to omit navigation bars altogether on inner pages, keeping one link to "return to home page."

Hide pages. On selected inside pages, install links to features that can't be reached from the home page and that are not mentioned anywhere else on the site.

Make sure the location of these features is as obscure as possible. For example, put "Enter our competition" as a link from the privacy statement.

After all, you expect visitors to look at every page of your site, don't you?

Go stale. Decide what content will fill your Web site when it goes online; then don't ever change it.

Give a little background. Choose a graphical background for your site, preferably a slow-loading photograph comprised of very bright or very dark colors. Then choose a font color similar to one of the colors in the background.

This trick kills a few birds with one stone: You'll irritate visitors' eyes and give them a headache, and you'll make half of your text disappear.

Write cleverly. Never, ever use straightforward, clear language that's understandable on first reading. Write your content with a dictionary in one hand and a directory of buzzwords in the other.

Similarly, never display logical reasoning and always try to put forward your thoughts as laterally as possible.

Be spontaneous. Don't worry about spelling and grammatical errors. If you use wrong words -- there, their, they're, here, hear, hair, bear, bare -- it doesn't matter, they'll know what you mean.

In fact, leave out some words altogether. If your text trips people up and makes them start reading all over again, so much the better -- they'll stay longer at your sight, umm ... site.

Opti-what? The larger the file size, the better the photograph, right? So make sure image files on your site are larger than 50 K. If possible, image dimensions should be larger than the average monitor.

If you're worried about space, just leave off the photo title or caption.

One page is better than 10. Don't go to all the trouble of creating 10 pages. Put all your information on one page and let visitors scroll to read it all. This works especially well if you don't add links to text headings or to the top of the page.

These points are just the tip of the iceberg. If you want to buck the trend and avoid mistakes that drive visitors away, get your site professionally reviewed as soon as possible -- before it turns into the Titanic.

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Published on: Jun 22, 2001