3 Ways Your Website is Losing Readers

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The last time you got into your car, did you notice if your wheels were properly aligned?

My guess is that 99.99% of you didn’t even consider it. And if you did, would you really know how to check anyway?

But it’s an important question. Wheels being out of alignment can decrease gas mileage, reduce the longevity of tires through uneven wear, and make handling the car more difficult.

You might even say that it can cost you in traffic.

The same is true for your website.

Right now, your website may be out of alignment in ways that your eye isn’t trained to see. If so, it’s likely also costing you in traffic and conversions.

Let’s take a look at three of the most common and correctable ways that websites get out of alignment, and what to do about them.

1. Slow load times

Open up your site in a new browser. How quickly does it load? Does it hang up at all?

If it hangs — longer than a second and a half maximum — just know that if you weren’t you, you wouldn’t have waited for it.

Site speed is no longer a buzz term. Its impact is no longer conjecture.

Here’s a headline from May 2012:

Slow-loading websites cost retailers £1.73bn in lost sales each year.

We’re nearing May 2013. If that number has changed, it’s gone up, because attention spans aren’t getting any longer.

What we found was that people are pretty patient for up to two seconds.

That quote is from University of Massachusetts professor Ramesh Sitaraman, who published a recent paper on the topic of online attention spans.

Two seconds!

(For the record, Google considers a site “slow” if its load time is longer than 1.5 seconds.)

The point: It’s no longer acceptable for your site to just avoid loading slowly. It has to load fast.

Here’s how to ensure it does …

Read and digest this post. Take action on it. There are tips in there that will literally make you money.

Then, dig deeper.

That post was written in January. It’s great, but it’s also somewhat dated. There are already new site speed developments, and one of these new developments is the aptly named SPDY.

SPDY

If you want the nitty-gritty tech specs of SPDY, click here. If you just want to know how it will help you help your content do its job better, know this: it’s Google’s internal project to make the web run faster.

Why would you not take advantage of this?

That’s actually not a rhetorical question. You can’t take advantage of SPDY. At least not by yourself you can’t.

First, you need all the web browsers out there to get on board. Fortunately, many are. You can bet more will be coming around soon.

Next, you need your site to be hosted by an agile, forward-thinking company that is obsessed with speed. Why? Because SPDY requires special server configurations that not all hosts can (or will be able to) provide.

Our own managed WordPress hosting service Synthesis can … and does.

Yes, SPDY is already enabled on some of our biggest, most important sites. If you qualify, it could be enabled on your site too.

Milliseconds matter. Shave them off, one by one.

2. A subtle design flaw

A slow load time is one way to encourage quick bounces from your readers. So is poor design.

If you’re a writer (and not a designer) like me, you might not know what “poor design” really means. Sure, you might recognize egregious design flaws when you see them, but how about the less obvious ones?

Many design flaws hide in plain sight, working against your content rather than for it.

One element of design that many writers ironically overlook directly impacts the delivery of the words we work so very hard to perfect.

Typography

Typography is no mere website accoutrement, at least not to a good designer. Rafal Tomal is a great designer. Here’s what he has to say about typography in a post about five web design trends to keep an eye on in 2013:

Typography became a really important part of modern web design and I believe it’s a foundation of any great design.

When was the last time you thought about typography? If you met that question with silence, it’s time to start.

Typography is “the balance and interplay of letterforms on the page, a verbal and visual equation that helps the reader understand the form and absorb the substance of the page content.”

Know that fonts affect mood, and mood affects how much time readers will stay on a page and read. Also know that fonts affect comprehension, among so much else.

Think of typography like your website’s voice, volume, and laugh. Personally, I can only hold a conversation with someone for so long if their voice grates, if it’s too loud or too low, or if their laugh annoys. It pushes me away.

Is your typography drawing your reader in, or pushing them away?

3. A not-so-subtle design flaw

For many of us with untrained eyes, the impact of typography is subtle, almost imperceptible. But there is a not-so-subtle design flaw that may also be driving people away from your site.

Your website needs to look as good on an iPhone as it does on an iPad. It needs to look as good on a laptop as it does on a desktop.

The best (and easiest) way to achieve this is by employing responsive design.

Mobile Responsive Design

Still new to the concept of responsive website design? Don’t worry, here are the basics for you.

And, again, StudioPress has you covered with a suite of out-of-the-box mobile responsive themes (I really like Metro myself). Pick one of these if you’d rather keep your knowledge of responsive high level, and not dive head first into a world of coding. Or, you can pay someone else a lot of money to do it for you.

There are naysayers, of course. People who claim that responsive design is not the only way to optimize website design across all devices. Of course, it’s not the only way.

But, in my opinion, it’s the best way.

Good responsive design has resulted in as much as 400% conversion increases.

You do not maximize conversions by forcing an iPhone user to pinch, zoom, stretch, and squint to get your site looking right on the phone. They’ll bounce, sometimes just from the first impression. And you never get a second chance to make a …well, you know.

That’s what is so important about load times, typography, and responsive design. These elements of your site create immediate impressions. If the impressions are out of alignment with what you want them to be, your website is failing your content.

Design is content marketing!

I doubt I have to put the hard sell on you to acknowledge the importance of site speed. It’s a ubiquitous tip these days.

Plus, it’s fairly straightforward to implement improvements: get better hosting; remove non-essential elements from your site; optimize what’s left; and be on the lookout for developments like SPDY.

Web design can be a bit more difficult to nail. It’s subjective. It’s both art and science. And that can make it convenient to ignore for those of us who are design idiots, and would rather just focus on writing the words ;-)

But that is counter-productive for our content marketing goals.

Here’s a thought that sums up how design can help content marketing specifically.

Design is every single character on your blog, a space between your paragraphs, an underlined link or your background color. Design is both what you see and what you don’t see. Design evokes emotions and can create unforgettable user experiences.

Is your site evoking emotion? It better be. It’s the key to getting your work shared.

About the author

Jerod Morris


Jerod Morris is the VP of Marketing for Copyblogger Media. Get more from him on Twitter or . Have you gotten your wristband yet?

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Comments

  1. This is why I chose Genesis Themes, use W3 Total Cache and WP Manage correctly. Thanks Jerod, this was a great piece of information…so many times do I go to a site in my line of work and have to wait, wait and wait some more just for it to load….

  2. Thank you Jerod for putting this list together. I often struggle with the design elements and reworking layout, then overlook the other key elements. @williamsphotoky

  3. Great article Jerod, and a good reminder that I need to pay some serious attention to speed on my most important site. Most of my sites are WordPress based, but my important money site is built on Magento. I need to upgrade my hosting in a big way, so my question is, how does Sythesis handle Magento sites? Would I be better off only hosting my WP sites on Synthesis?

    Thanks.

    Brendon

    • Brandon, excellent question! You definitely want to bring your WordPress sites to us. We’ll take great care of them. As for Magento, you will likely be best served keeping it where it is. We are committed to being able to provide outstanding support to every customer site, and we simply have not had the demand for Magento to get in and really learn it. Plus, it has some specific requirements that do not jibe seamlessly with our stack and can make it a bit more of a pain on our side and yours to implement.

  4. I’m using Genesis on WordPress just because they said it would help my website to do all those behind the scenes things right. Just to test, I tried my website through google. It was less than a second. :)

  5. Wow. Thanks so much for this. My site is in need of some help page loading with this so I’m already taking steps to fix that now! I realized how much of an issue Disqus Commenting is with many people, so I deactivated it.

    Now, it’s on to resizing some of the photos and uploading photos I had hosted on Photobucket straight to WordPress instead. Lots of work ahead, but it will be worth it!

    • Christin, what an excellent point you bring up. Photo size is a HUGE element of load times. There is simply no reason to upload the 2 MB source photo, yet I see so many people do it. Almost all photos can be viewed just fine between 100KB-200KB max. Obviously it can be different if your site is related to photography, or you have specific needs for the higher resolutions. But for most of us, pictures should be small enough that they are barely a blip on the page load radar.

  6. Great post. I’m starting a website design business and have been struggling with the mobile side of things. StudioPress looks like a good option so that I can focus on the design elements and content writing and not have to worry about a separate design for mobile. They take care of this for me, right?

    A bit of a sidetrack, but could you please help me understand Synthesis specific to website design businesses? It looks like it’s meant to host individual websites, not multiple client websites contained within a single account. Can you recommend a WordPress-friendly hosting company that allows for reselling and client management?

    It’s been a struggle finding a good partnership of services that are affordable but also solid and secure. Thanks!

    • Carla, StudioPress will definitely take care of the design elements for you. Content writing still needs to come from you, or your clients, but of course we’re here at the blog to help you out with that!

      As for Synthesis, we can host individual websites and also have a number of designers who manage accounts with 10, 20, or even more client sites. Our Pro and Advanced plans are perfect for this setup actually.

      https://purchase.websynthesis.com/plans.aspx?oid=

  7. So, all the reasons I leave other people’s websites, I should apply to my own website? Why didn’t I think of that?

  8. Slow load times is a big one. I used to be on GoDaddy (eww.) and my sites load times were horrendous, I’m talking 20 seconds plus, in fact sometimes it wouldn’t load at all – I’d get a server error.

    I put up with this for a long time, but it just wasn’t helping at all. Now keep in mind at this point I didn’t have an income (I still don’t, really) but I did have readers, which were getting annoyed. I’ve since changed hosts and optimized my website thoroughly.

    Typography is an interesting one, I feel as if my font is a little to ‘in your face’, and goes against the passive nature of my niche. Also, thanks to Studiopress my theme is responsive! :) good to see an article about design related aspects as well as general copywriting. Cheers!

    • Sam, that is the issue with generic hosting. So many sites of so many different types are herded in the 10s and 100s onto shared servers, and it’s impossible to have good or consistent service. Heck, Synthesis was developed in the first place because one of my sites was getting traffic throttled by a generic hosting provider. We finally said enough is enough!

  9. I did not realize that website loading speed determines the value and effectiveness of marketing. It’s amazing that it had not crossed my mind. Thank you for making clear me of this fact.

    • Jacob, a lot of people don’t realize it. Stick with us, and I promise we’ll keep you abreast of all the new developments (like Google+) that affect what we all do as content marketers.

  10. Steve Mallett :

    Speed is a killer (disclosure: I run RUMAnalytics). If you do any ecommerce speed is THE factor in conversions. I saw a report the other day saying 67% of people abandon their cart because of speed alone…. That’s if you keep them long enough to actually chose to buy something. It’s only getting more important in mobile.

    • WOW. 67% abandon the cart? As in after they’ve already made choices to purchase and are ready to checkout? That is an astonishingly high number at first glance, though not all that surprising once you think about it in relation to other stats about visitor impatience.

  11. Your font size is fairly small. I hate having to shift + to make sites easier to read. Small fonts make it harder to read for many people.

  12. One of the easiest ways to have your sites load faster is by resizing and optimizing images. This is a free site I found that does it for you http://www.imageoptimizer.net/Pages/Home.aspx if you you want a quick option.

    The article you linked to on fonts affecting mood was interesting but I wish they could have provided more tested results regarding which fonts are good and which are not. They only really gave a couple of options, Georgia and Verdana, both of which have been touted as good web site options in other articles.

  13. Sheetal Sharma :

    Website forms am integral part of today’s marketing management, any prospect or client will first refer to your website for seeking out details of your offering, to know about your market position and to dig into your business, intelligent is the marketer who spends quality time and efforts to develop a impressive website interface to Shockley his/her company’s capability in terms of business offerings. I am happy to be part of content management team at Synechron where i get the opportunity to provide fresh executable ideas to increase our website worth.

  14. A slow loading website can be very frustrating, worse still if the site is yours and you have been talking to your web hosting company about that and they give deaf ears to all your complaints.

    • Nina, that’s why you need to be with a host obsessed with speed and customer service.

      • Thanks for your reply to my question above.

        I’d love to join Synthesis. Setting aside my web business for now, I’d like to migrate my two personal sites to your hosting company. But it’s $99/month. That’s a lot of money for me. I’m struggling to understand the difference between your service and HostGator. What I do grasp definitely makes me want to sign up, but I don’t understand why it costs so much to host just two websites.

        • Carla,

          There is no reason why you would need to spend $99/month to host with Synthesis. You can get two Starter plans for $27/month and experience huge gains over a shared hosting environment from a non-WP specific host like HostGator. And therein lies the major difference: we ONLY host WordPress sites, we provide unmatched support for WordPress hosting issues, and even our shared servers have a max of 10 sites on them. If you are looking to take the next step as a WordPress site owner, going with a managed host that focuses exclusively on WordPress (and that is specifically tuned for Genesis while being well-versed in “the Copyblogger way”) is the way to go.

          • Thanks, Jared. So that’s $27 per website, which is still a lot of money for me. I’d sure appreciate a blog post written in laymen’s terms that really helps differentiate between generic hosting (HostGator, etc) and your service. And also WP Engine. Their pricing is similar. :o)

          • (Darn. No emoticon conversion. Dumb yellow blob.)

            :)

  15. Hey thanks for the post.

    Designing is what I have been focusing on lately. Remembering that design is super important to my readers.

    For real, I needed that tip!

  16. My website was suffering from slow load time while it was placed with a renowned web host. Slowly, the traffic started to decline and within a month it dropped by almost 50%. When I got no clue as to why it is happening, I just changed my web host and after few weeks only, it started to gain the lost traffic. Even Google takes website loading time as one of the factor in deciding the rank of a blog in SERP.

  17. Thanks Jerod, this was a great piece of information… I’m using Genesis on WordPress which work fantastic. Just thinking about getting Synthesis so I will have a complete well working website. I think that Synthesis is a great hosting and can solve website speed loading.

  18. Although your points are right on, the technical end of keeping a blog, speed, RSS, SEO, and other behind the content aspects are my weakest area. I do slowly learn and I think my site is tuned up fairly well right now. However, I sometimes find that some very popular sites begin to have problems, especially with loading time. When that happens I’m much less likely to visit them.

  19. Very true about the cost-ineffectiveness, as well as major safety concerns over time. Not only will braking be less efficient, but the wear on the insides of the hubs will make quick stops much less quick…

  20. Very wise advice.

    There have been numerous times when I stop at a website and look at the typography they are using and clicked back with disgust.

    It really surprises me when I see people’s choices for the typography they use. I don’t think it’s a hard decision to make, but people seem to have difficulty with it.

    In relation to site loading time, I completely agree. I recently had some website loading issues, and I immediately dealt with the situation because I know that if I go on a site that takes longer than a couple seconds to load, there’s no way I’m going to read what’s on the website.

    Lovely post.

  21. In my experience with niche websites, the main 2 factors affecting bounce rate are speed and design with too much ads (before any content). Honestly, speed thing can be solved by reducing a number of images on the website or with hosting solutions. The main problem is the positioning of your ads. If they are shown on the website before any content or useful information, then readers will leave it immediately at a first glance. That is why Google added this element to its algorithm some times ago.

    • I completely agree. If people don’t go to your site due to speed, you are missing out on potential money you could be making.

      It’s crazy how important speed is.

  22. Many of us are guilty of closing a website when it take a lot of time loading or buffering. Well, I won’t deny it, I’m of those people. It is also necessary to consider the design of your website. Mind if I add this , choose the appropriate colors that is pleasant to the eyes of the readers. Anyway, great article Jerod. :)

  23. One of the main reason I think people leave that I have noticed is slow loading and poor navigation if they dont know where to go next they leave .Thats why its good have popular post or related post

  24. Archan Mehta :

    Thanks for your contribution here: really enjoyed reading it.

    Good points. People have notoriously short attention spans and won’t put up with slow. They will move on to other things that are important. You have to be careful about this if you have a blog or website. Cheers.

  25. Most people think theri site is awesome no matter what…big mistake. You are marketing to an audience! You have to give them what THEY want. I can’t tell you haow many times I have gotten into it with clients that think they know how a site is supposed to look to get them more customers. It’s like they don’t get it. Its all about the customer, not the bosses ego. They all find out the hard way!

    Normally these are people whose ggrandpappy started the biz and handed them the keys so they could run it straight into the ditch.

    Thanks for this. People need to see it!!

    Romeo

  26. It’s really amazing to know all of the different ways your website can be modified and that each modification can seriously affect your desirability. I am a long time fan of Glenn Livingston Phd/Internet Marketer, who said most people don’t think about the fact they could be “unselling” their customers. It’s so true! Thanks for this write up.