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I’ve always enjoyed the 7 deadly sins as thematic material for art and literature.  So I got a big kick out of the following use of the 7 sins to structure a narrative on bad web design.   Its origin is a webinair by Seth Rosenblatt at the American Marketing Association.  It came to me via a newsletter by Lynn Ericson from Ericson Mitchell.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


The Seven Deadly Sins is, of course, a classification of objectionable vices that has been around since early Christian times to instruct and educate followers. It may seem like a stretch to apply the sins– pride, greed, envy, lust, gluttony, sloth,wrath — to your website. Eternal damnation is not much of a risk if your site is guilty of any of these — but losing visitors is.

1. PRIDE (VANITY) — excessive love of self — is pretty easy to recognize if the site is obviously ALL ABOUT YOU. Your company is wonderful, you are wonderful and your product or service is, of course, wonderful — all of which may be true — but if this is your focus, most likely you’re not as concerned as you should be about gearing your site to your clients’ or customers’ needs.  “What are the benefits to the customer?” has been the marketers’ mantra for as long as I can remember. Not only do you need to connect with your visitors but you must anticipate how they are going to navigate your site.

At Ericson Mitchell, we stress that creating a personality for your company is the essence of your brand. But the personality is not YOU so lose the CEO or president’s photo on the first page of your site — unless he or she is Oprah, Cesar the Dog Whisperer or someone else well enough known to be an integral part of the company’s brand.

2. GREED — an excessive desire for more than one needs — is all about asking for too much from your visitors. Let’s say the consumer is ready to buy your book, for example, and he is about to hit the red BUY NOW button and he notices a few more options:
CLICK HERE to download our latest white paper,
CLICK HERE to sign up for our newsletter,
CLICK HERE to read our privacy policy.

You have provided enough DISTRACTIONS to get him to another page and he’s off on another tangent. The more alternatives you provide to take action, the less likely you are to get the sale. The same is true for asking for too much information on forms — streamlining them makes it much more likely that visitors will actually finish providing the info you need before they’re interrupted by something — and gone.

3. GLUTTONY — wanting more of everything, over-indulgence — is frequently manifested in so many sites, the ones we all run across and exit as quickly as possible. You only have a few seconds to engage a visitor and if your site has TOO MUCH of everything– too many images, too much content and too many typefaces — the result will feel chaotic to the viewer, who will not know where to start reading and probably move on. In the world of web design, we call these “clown pants” sites. The “white space” that designers love so much is not to make sites look pretty but because it helps guide the viewers through your site the way you want them to experience it. Often, less really is more.

4. ENVY — desire for what another has — can result in sending out a generic message on your website. Don’t copy what your competitors are doing. Be clear how you are differentiated from them and emphasize that. Their websites may not be all that effective and when it comes to usability, visitors are more likely to compare your site with the experience of sites they visit frequently and are comfortable with.

5. LUST As much as you would love your site to look as cool as your rock musician brother’s site, with Flash animation, video and music, the customers in your lawn care business probably wouldn’t be impressed. There should be a purpose behind every element of your site and flash over substance is always a mistake. Not only does it NOT attract the customers you want, it actually alienates them and can hinder your efforts at Search Engine Optimization.

6. SLOTH Ask yourself some questions. When was the last time you updated the content in your site? Does your site look stuck in the 1990’s? Are you taking advantage of Google Analytics or even just the statistics provided by your hosting company? The really great thing about the web is that the metrics are so easy to access and you can find out where your visitors come from, what pages they visit, how long they stay, when they visit, etc. Much of this information is FREE. And Content Management Systems are now so much more sophisticated and easy to use that excuses are harder to find for not staying current.

 7. WRATH.  Probably expressing anger on your site is not an issue, unless you want to attract other angry people. Provoking anger is a different story. Visitors who become frustrated navigating your site or annoyed by not finding what they need will give up and go elsewhere. A recent survey by Hostways came up with seven biggest pet peeves:

  • Pop up ads
  • Being required to install software to view the site
  • Dead links
  • Confusing navigation
  • Required registration to access content
  • Slow loading pages
  • Ineffective site search tools

70% of respondents said they would be unlikely to purchase from a site that annoyed them, that they would probably never go back and — that they never want to hear from that company again. An irritated visitor is usually an ex-visitor.

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Analysis by Smart Alice Web Design & Photography, smart web design for businesses who want a unique and effective presence on the internet.

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