If your website looks like a high school student’s class project, it just doesn’t matter how good your product is. You can forget about doing business online. Of course, if you’re not online these days, what’s the point of even going into business?

Your site is the hub of your online existence, but you’d be surprised at how some companies’ marketing teams prioritize. Some will spend enormous time and resources on social media, SEO and content, but Web design ends up being a mere afterthought. “Oh, we’ll let IT handle that.”

Wrong. An easy-to-navigate, intuitive design is absolutely essential if you want a low bounce rate and higher conversions. There’s a whole tribe of Web designers out there who keep trying to push complicated, unintuitive designs that would look great in the latest summer blockbuster from Hollywood, but have no place on a professional website meant for business. It needs to stop, and here’s how.

Obey the Two-Tenths Rule

Two-tenths of a second. That’s how long your website has to make an impression. Worse yet, a study found that first-time visitors spend most of their time examining the company’s logo. But, to assume it stops at the logo would be naive. Visitors are critical of everything: colors, navigation bars, where your search engine is located, etc. Anything that’s clunky or poorly designed is going to be an immediate turnoff.

Avoid Ads

Avoid designs that will remind visitors of advertisements. Visitors don’t pay attention to ads that get in the way of navigation, so avoid anything that even resembles an advertisement. Use these guidelines:

  • Avoid banners: You ignore them; what makes you think others don’t?
  • Avoid animations: Flashing text is annoying. Period.
  • Avoid pop-ups: Unless you’re my bank warning me of an auto log-off, I’m closing any pop-up window before it even loads. So is everybody else, too.

Open New Tabs

If you’re linking to something offsite, you need to remember one thing: “new tab.” Tabbing in and out of other websites is now common with browsers. An outbound link shouldn’t take your visitor elsewhere, or they may just not come back. Make sure your site is still there.

The point is, use common sense. Chances are, if it would annoy you, it’s probably annoying everyone else. If you can’t be objective with your site, get your teenage daughter’s boyfriend to take a look at it — I guarantee you never realized just how much this and that “sucks.” Bottom line? If your site’s design is unintuitive, unwieldy or annoying, you’re probably losing a lot more in sales than it’ll cost you to simply have it fixed.