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July 15, 2009

Web Sites That Don’t Work Efficiently

Everyone wants a professional looking site with all the latest bells and whistles. But, are these gadgets driving potential visitors and search engines away? Flash files and javascript are the most common culprits.

If you have a new site designed, and when you first view it you’re prompted to download a file in order to use some of the features of the site, that’s your first clue. For visitors, a great deal of them are going to back out rather than download the plug-in. That’s a problem. What’s worse, sometimes the plug-in doesn’t install correctly, so the site doesn’t appear as it was meant to. These plug-ins are generally associated with flash files.

Flash files are not a problem if they’re commonly supported in most browsers. Generally, it’s just the latest and greatest new gadgets that may require an upgrade to a new plug-in. Sure, we all want to impress our visitors. But we don’t want to make them jump through hoops. If you’re selling Flash software, that’s a different story. But, most sites aren’t.

Another problem with flash files is that many search engines can’t read them. Search engines prefer text. That’s how they determine what your site is about, and what each page on your site is about… by reading the text. Flash files often use images that look like text. They do this to manipulate the images so they float across the screen, or fade away into another text image. Google had been working to improve the reading of text within flash files, because the actual text does exist within the flash file. But, if javascript is used in any way to display or trigger the flash file, that could block Google. 

Javascript is another problem for search engines. Most search engines generally ignore javascript. The reason for this is simple: malicious scripts can cause problems. Your webmaster should be able to find ways to insure that search engines have no difficulty in following the links in your site.

It’s great to have a smart looking site, but it’s even better to have a site that’s extremely accessible to your visitors and search engines. Make sure the company or web designer that creates your site is aware of these issues.

A good site design should also look very similar on various internet browsers such as Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Opera and Netscape. Many of these render sites differently, and not all of them support the same standards.

You should also look at your site in various screen resolutions. While the most common screen resolutions will be the default setting on most monitors, many people like to change it to widen the screen, make everything bigger, or make everything smaller.  Sometimes different resolutions can make your site almost unusable. Typically, smaller screen resolutions cause the most problems because they’ll try to squeeze a site into the screen, and different columns and elements of the site will overlap.

Make sure you go over all of these issues with your site designer before you sign off. You need to present a consistent look to as many visitors as possible. It’s imperative to insure that your site is accessible to as many visitors as possible, including search engines.

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