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« Money Saving Advertising Question | Main | Finer Typography Points »

Web Sites That are Always Under Construction

Construction How can a web site annoy a user in 5 seconds or less?  By presenting the user with a page that contains the words “under construction.” During the pioneering days of the Internet it was almost impossible to run across a page on a daily basis that didn’t say “under construction.  Thankfully most companies have abandoned the practice of tagging their incomplete pages with the “under construction.” Yet there are enough sites that contain those infamous words to dedicate a post to the issue. 

One area where the under construction plague runs rampant is on personal web sites. If you do a search for “under construction” in Google and you get 52 million results.  There are a few steps any web site can take to overcome the usability issues created by always being under construction.

Users Seek Immediate Content
The problem with most under construction pages is they don’t present the user with any compelling content.  There might be the occasional “stop back soon for updates,” but users rarely go back to the site.  Remember the user’s mindset when they surf the Internet.  If you can’t provide users with information they’ll find it elsewhere.  User attention span is measured in seconds.

What Can Be Done
In many cases you don't need to use an under construction page. Any changes on a web site should be done near instantaneously or in the background. Depending on the versatility of your navigation consider disabling individual web pages or sections that don’t contain any content.  Consider posting a temporary page with some content.

Try not to leave pages blank. From an SEO standpoint pages with little or no content have almost no search value.    As opposed to presenting the user with an “under construction” page, present a temporary page with some relevant content.  Some content is far better than no content. Give the user a sneak peak of what is coming or use the page to build some anticipation.  Just make sure the anticipation isn’t carried out for too long.

Be sure to include good contact information if you’re using temporary home page. What a page lacks in content can be made up with an offer to communicate. Encourage users to contact you if they have any questions.  Keep the emphasis on customer service.

The Internet is always under construction.  Posting a sign to point out the obvious doesn’t help users. Keep the emphasis on presenting the user with some content or the ability to assist them in some fashion.

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