Is Your Web Site Turning Away Customers?
And Are You Losing Sales?
Don't you just hate it when you go to a web site and it doesn't work, or the site is slow, or you press the "submit" button and it doesn't take, or you get other errors? Those behaviours that cause web sites not to work properly are caused by errors in programming, usually because the site programmer has used a web site creator program as a shortcut to make the site. Have you ever encountered this, and gotten frustrated, and left the web site without getting what you came for? If your site behaves this way, you too are losing customers without even knowing it.
This is why it is vitally important to validate the programming of each page of your web site (and yes, every web site, no matter how simple, is a program). If you use a program to create your web site (which you probably did, unless you hand-coded your site in Notepad), it is even more important to make sure your web site is programmed correctly, or you will lose visitors (and money). People who might have been ready to buy your product or service will leave, and they may even go so far as to post their frustrations on twitter or facebook, or make a YouTube video showing exactly where your programming problems are, for everyone in the world to see. You could be losing your brand reputation for your website and not even know it!
If you have a website, the first thing you will want to do is to validate the source code. Whether you've written it yourself in MS-DOS EDIT, in HTML 4.0, or you have used Dreamweaver or another application to create a web site, there is a very simple way to do this: a web site validator like the one at w3.org. Why use this validator? W3.org is the organization that sets the standards for web browsing, and so if your site validates here, you can be sure that anyone, anywhere, using any web browser, can use all the functionality of your site. If your site checks out, you can get a graphic for each of your pages that will show your site validates, and the visitors to your site can click on the graphic and check the functionality of each page for themselves.
The next thing you will want to do is check for accessibility. With the spread of the internet, many people with visual or cognitive disabilities use the web nowadays, and they have specific browsers or additional software adapted to their needs. Most people never think about the way that a blind or color-blind person will navigate their web site, or what their experience may be--and yet these people are your potential customers, too. And, if you have certain kinds of websites, you may be breaking the law if you do not provide a good experience for people using assitive technologies--several companies and small businesses have been successfully sued for not being accessible. A web search for a "section 508 validator" will turn up many validators that will protect you and your company from being sued, and provide your visitors who use assistive technology with a more pleasant browsing experience. (And not just the disabled use assistive technology--I have used text readers to read a website to me while I was doing other things, like packing for a trip. With so many people now using mobile devices, such as iPads or mobile phones to access web sites, this is becoming more important each day!)
You will also want to check your site to make sure it is usable by people who are color-blind or using black-and-white monitors. Yes, there are still people in various parts of the world who are using text-only browsers, and just because they are not using the latest technology does not mean they don't have money to spend. They could be browsing from a university, a library, a friend's older telephone, or some other tech device you may not even know exists, or could be experimental and doesn't have all the features enabled yet.
It's really frustrating to go to a web site and be told you don't have the "right" browser--and then even when you install the "right" browser the web site doesn't work! People these days browse the web from all kinds of devices--old computers, mobile phones, tablet computers such as iPads, and WebTV, and many older people just want something they are comfortable with and don't want all the latest bells and whistles--or they just may not want to bother with upgrading and installing software. They also may not be comfortable installing software themselves. However, these people are also prospective customers, especially if you run a site supported with ads. Rather than lose thousands of customers, shouldn't you take the time to make sure they have a comfortable browsing experience?
If you use a content management system, such as Wordpress, Blogger, or another site program, that doesn't exempt you from validating the code on each page of your site. If you have not programmed the management system yourself, now is the time to contact the developers and ensure that they conform to web standards. You don't want to be sued for an accessibility problem because some programmer used a shortcut in programming and said, "Oh, well, this loads in Opera just fine!" when it doesn't work in Internet Explorer.
You can see how your site will look in many different browsers (over 100 browsers are in common use--many in other countries) and you'll want to make sure your site looks good in all of them. Once you have done this, you can get a graphic to reassure your visitors that your site will be fully functional, regardless of what browser they wish to use.
Now your website will never turn away a visitor, and you should see your traffic and income begin to improve. There, don't you feel better?
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