7 Signs That Your Website is Stuck in the 90’s

Is your website telling your potential customers that you’re obsolete?

“Wait, what? Obsolete? I would never put something on our website that would suggest that,” you say.

Of course, you wouldn’t do it intentionally, but poor graphic elements and design choices can make your site seem more dated than Archie and Veronica.

And a dated website – especially one that blasts you back into the 90s – can undermine your credibility and hurt your customer’s opinion of you.

So here are seven telling signs that your website is a little too old school for today’s net-savvy consumer.

#1: “Click Here” Links

We get it. You want a call to action that is direct and tells the visitor exactly what to do.

But there are more creative and helpful ways to word your anchor text, and current Web Content Accessibility Guidelines rule against using such vague terms to describe your links.

Not only does “click here” make no sense out of the context of your site, it does absolutely nothing for your SEO.  Best bet is to make sure that the link text tells the user what to expect on the other end of a click.  It should be a meaningful link.

If your site suffers from this, fix it; it’s not only good for Google, but it’s good for your users and your image as well.

Why Your Links Should Never Say “Click Here”

#2: Animated GIFs

First of all, if you don’t know what animated GIFs are, don’t let anyone convince you that you need one. 

An animated GIF is a file with a set of images embedded into it that, when played in a specific sequence, creates the illusion of a moving picture.

While animated GIFs were all the rave back in the 90’s, they scream “dated” in today’s modern world and are often distracting to website visitors and detrimental to conversion rates.

#3: Overwhelming Navigation

You’ve seen the sites that stuff their navigation with every possible link in their site.  Like the only way to add an extra page is to link from the main navigation.

This quickly makes for highly bloated navigation that, while providing lots of links, can be virtually unusable.

But at least I got all my content up, right?

Wrong. Adding more content to your navigation is often counter-productive; we prefer the less-is-more route and tend to keep main navigation to 5 – 7 items, if possible.

Nowadays, having a bloated navigation bar is not only a user experience nightmare, but it gives the no-so-subtle impression that you’re clueless when it comes to prioritization.

If you think any and all information you provide is important to your visitors, go learn more about your target audience and what they want to see.

Make it easy for your web visitors: only use main navigation for your most important pages, and delegate the rest into subpages, links within a page, or to the footer bar.

Amazon tabbed navigation
Amazon Navigation (circa 2000)

#4: Neverending Home Page

Some sites opt for fewer, much longer pages thinking it’ll save clicks, be more engaging, and they’ll won’t have to wrestle with navigation.

Be careful! You only have seconds to engage with a visitor and presenting them with a wall of text usually doesn’t help.

You may have seen “marketing gurus” do this on the net; they write huge sales pages that seem meant to either hypnotize you, or make you so miserable you’ll click any Buy Now button just so it’ll just end.

These insanely-long sales pages work really well on other “marketing gurus,” but may cause your visitors to stick forks in their eyes.

A cluttered website is a website that doesn’t do its job, and a home page that jumps from topic to topic lets people know that your company is as scatterbrained as your website and you’re in desperate need of an editor.

#5: Psychedelic Color Schemes

Visiting this website could cause seizures, blindness, or Christianity.

We still don’t understand why the web was littered with websites with black backgrounds and neon sky blue text, or psychedelic purple fonts with flaming orange yellow backdrops.

Maybe it was due to the smaller number of web-friendly color schemes available in the 90’s, but more likely it’s due to limited design chops or over-enthusiastic geek fascination with color.

We still come across these trippy websites today and it has to stop.

Crazy color schemes can not only make your eyes bleed, they can cause visitors confusion and dilute your brand (and your credibility) all in one fell swoop.

Choose a limited color palette and make sure it doesn’t blind anyone or cause seizures.

#6: Hit Counter!

Hit counters were an easy way webmasters could track visitors back in the 90’s. It was also a way of bragging (read: displaying social credibility) to the masses. “Look at me! I have 3000 hits!”

Not only do hit counters look dated, they give away all of your stats to your competition.

Don’t give your stats to your competition. There are much better ways to track statistics, including Google Analytics and, most likely, your hosting account.

If your web designer puts a hit counter on your site, get another web designer. Now.

#7: The Guestbook

Need I say more?

Before blogs and forums, guestbooks were a way to get public visitor feedback, “Come sign our guestbook.”

Now we have comments, social media, and contact forms that allow us to keep in touch with our visitors.

Guestbooks never worked well and, if you still have one on your site, you are giving away your secret: you are a dinosaur. Take it out and install a real contact form.  Please?

The Wrap

If you have one or more of these elements on your website, it’s time for a facelift.

You can take care of four of these items easily by either changing links (in the case of the “click here” links) or removing elements (such as animated GIFs, hit counters, and guestbooks).

If your website still has a deep 90’s feel and your company is alive and kicking, it’s probably time to invest in revamping your online identity.

Trust us, it’ll make your customers happy.

4 Responses to “7 Signs That Your Website is Stuck in the 90’s”

    • Eric Amundson

      We’re looking forward to launching a new site for you too, Barb! We’ll bring you up-to-date with style!

  1. Marty Diamond

    Another great post Eric.

    Got a question on the navigation – Agreed that the 2000 Amazon navigation is too much – Today we’re seeing a lot of new WordPress Themes coming out of places like Studio Press with what I call tiered navigation – your main navigation bar and then a supplemental navigation bar at the top of the page.

    Also you see the big retailers all seem to be using a nav bar at the top of the page along with a left hand product navigation that includes some sort of faceted search usually.

    Curious as a designer/developer what you’re seeing as the dominating trends.

    Thanks – Marty

    • Eric Amundson

      Another great post Eric.

      Thanks Marty!

      Got a question on the navigation – Agreed that the 2000 Amazon navigation is too much . . .Curious as a designer/developer what you’re seeing as the dominating trends.

      Honestly, although that image from Amazon’s nav in 2000 seems crazy now, it was the best they could do at the time and it was pretty innovative. Still a bit cray-cray, as they say, but it worked then.

      Of course, one of the benefits of being an internet retail giant pushing bazillions of page views is having team(s) of conversion and optimization folks like you that can test and analyze your nav choices and improve them.

      The trend that I see (and what I try to do) is compartmentalize, or collect, related navigation together.

      So, main nav might have the overview pages of services or products along with easy contact info or links (kinda like IvyCat). Then, especially on e-commerce or membership sites, it’s common to see designers create a utility navigation which often appears top-right and contains links like: Login, Your Account, Wishlist, Cart, etc.

      Sometimes, as on IvyCat, you’ll see other related navigation in that area instead. In our case, it’s currently Contact and Helpdesk; both ways that customers can get in touch if they have questions.

      Another thing you’ll see is contextual navigation, similar to the left hand product nav you referred to. Again, these are collections of related links, usually within a larger context, such as the section of the site you’re viewing. It’s a more specific navigation.

      On EddieBauer.com, for example, once I’m in the Men’s section, all of the links on the left hand side really are only relevant to dude fashion. It’s like a more specific, or fine-grained navigation.

      I think both of these user interface patterns have been around a while, but have been refined a lot thanks to constant testing and experience over the last decade.


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