What I Learned from Visiting 500 Websites in One Week

Chris Ronzio

About a month ago, I decided to tackle the ambitious project of turning the database of recommendations that I use for my newsletter into a directory that anyone could access on my website.

It started as a project for Fancy Hands. I publicly shared with them the Evernote document where I had been storing every cool website I came across. Then, I created a Google Spreadsheet with columns for Name, URL, Category, Description, and Logo. Line by line, my virtual assistants populated the spreadsheet with all the details about the products and services that I had found.

Over the course of two weeks, at least 20 virtual workers accessed the document. But, the quality of work varied. Some assistants were more tech savvy than others. Some were better writers than others. Some were knowledgeable about the services I was recommending, and others weren’t.

So, I decided to suck it up and visit all 500+ websites myself.

Sure, I could have outsourced this to a dedicated person, but since I’m personally invested in making good recommendations, I accepted the challenge and got to work. Here’s what I learned, in no particular order.

1. Design Matters

First impressions count, and for a website, a poor design is a really bad first impression. Clean design and simple messaging was often the difference between something making it into my database and getting cast aside. Why? Because if a company can’t think through the aesthetic of how they communicate their offering, I’m not convinced that their solution will be intuitive and clear either.

Related: 5 Quick Tips for Saving Money on Design

2. Get the Point Across, Fast

I don’t know what the exact stat is, but I’d guess that most visitors land on your homepage for 3.4 seconds before they bounce away or decide to read on. So, if I couldn’t figure out what a company did after the first couple seconds, I was quickly frustrated.

Take this example from Groovehq.com, a company that I’ve been using recently. Is there any question about what they do?

Screen Shot 2014-11-09 at 7.54.39 PM

3. No Price Means High Priced

I like to recommend tools that cost between $0 and $200 per month. More than that tends to get expensive for a small business. Well, if a company doesn’t list their prices on their website, you can bet they cost more than $200 per month. Likely, they have a sales team and want to show you a demo, sign longer term contracts, and help get their product implemented in your company. But, I don’t have time to sit through 500 sales calls and webinars, and I find that most small businesses prefer not to sit through one. I like seeing the price tag.

4. Share Your Logo

One of the best surprises on my journey through 500 websites was Simply Measured. When I right-clicked their logo to save it, I was redirected to a press page with high resolution versions of their logo. Other business: take note! If it’s hard to get a copy of your logo, everyone will give up. But, if you offer high resolution copies of your logo on your website, bloggers and the like will have an easier time spreading your message. You wouldn’t glue your business card to your wallet, would you?

5. Video Only, or No Video

I love a well made marketing video, but to my surprise, I only watched a couple of them. If you want a visitor to watch your video, put it completely by itself on the page, like Plastc. No supporting text, just the video. Otherwise, I’ll assume that the text next to the video sums it up quite nicely, and I’ll skip watching.


6. Be Dedicated

Did you ever notice that movie trailers include a website for the movie? And that authors usually release a book website alongside their new book? If it’s a real project, it deserves a real website. Not a page on a website. My friends at phxmade.com feel the same way; they’ll only feature products with dedicated websites. So, make sure you have one!

So, next time you have an issue and you don’t feel like going hunting on Google, check out my directory. I’ll do my best to keep it up!



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