Scary Websites

by Nov 27, 2018Website Review

Scary Websites Video & Transcript

Scary Websites video transcript

Hi. I’m Mary Maru. Owner and lead designer here at Mary Maru Design where I create marketing-smart WordPress websites that my small business clients love. Because it helps them establish credibility, starts more conversations and converts more casual visitors into raving fans.

Today, I’m going to talk about 3 common mistakes small businesses are making with their websites and ideas for how I would fix them.

This is a remake of a presentation I gave this summer at my BNI chapter. And I thought you guys might find it helpful too.

Let’s dig in.


This DIY example is for Suzanne Collins. Suzanne wrote the Hunger Games series.

Some of the biggest mistakes I see on this website:

  • First and foremost: her website isn’t mobile friendly. Given that her audience is probably on the younger side, starting in their teens, having a website that works well on mobile devices seems like a no brained.
  • Also, the site looks really DIY and unprofessional, not to mention seriously outdated. There’s no sense of design or branding at all.
  • In her welcome message, she invites people to ‘click around’ to find out a little more about her books. The problem is, the closest link to click on leads away from her website to go someplace else. And I just got here!
  • There’s no engagement with her readers. It’s just a long list of publisher’s quotes and book covers.
  • Her bookseller links go to the bookseller’s homepage where there’s lots of fun and interesting looking items to get distracted with. And none of them has anything to do with the Hunger Games.

What I would do to make this website better:

  1. First, I’d make the website mobile friendly
  2. I’d also make the page layouts more visually appealing and modern and use a mix of full-width images of Suzanne and other visuals that fit within the Hunger Games brand.
  3. I’d create more engagement with readers with a fun fan club where fans can join a community of other raving fans and talk about cools things from the Hunger Games.
  4. While her fanbase is still hot, I’d collect email addresses into a mailing list to stay in touch and create buzz and excitement around any new stories or events. This way if she finds herself with a bad case of writer’s block, she can still reach out to people who love her work and might want to buy something from her.
  5. Instead of linking to bookseller’s homepages, I’d make sure the link went straight to SUZANNE’S page on the bookseller’s website where all of her books are displayed. This way all the reader has to do is click the order button.

Mistake #2…the VISUAL VERTIGO website

I’ve gone to several art and design schools, like FIT, the Arts Students League and School of Visual Arts. All really great schools.

So when I went to check out the Yale School of Art’s website, I was pretty shocked to see the gratuitous use of animation. Everywhere. On every page. This is YALE you guys. Ivy League.

Here’s the rundown on some of the mistakes I see:

  • Gratuitous use of animation on the Admissions page. Now, if I were a parent that was about to shell out over $40 grand per year in tuition for my kid to go to this school, I don’t think it would help my decision-making to be distracted by all this visual vertigo.
  • There are long passages of boring text that’s hard to read
  • A cramped navigation
  • Gratuitous use of distracting animations throughout the site
  • And, like Suzanne’s website, this one isn’t mobile friendly

Some things I would do to make this website better:

  1. I’d get rid of all of the tiled-background animations and put them on a Student Exhibits page where these videos can live as a contained series along with other student art samples
  2. After the background animations are removed and a plain background is in place, I’d present a small gallery of photos showing students creating art in the studio and interacting with teachers and also show a few samples of student artwork with a link to the new Student Exhibits page for people who want to see more. This would give prospective new students and her parents an idea of what they might expect if s/he were to study here.
  3. I’d use standard graphic design principles like visual hierarchy, white space, and typography to make long passages of text easier to read and to draw the eye forward.
  4. I’d simplify the site navigation into a parent section of just 4 or 5 tabs and nestle related topics beneath them to make it easier and faster for visitors to find what they’re looking for
  5. And I’d make the website mobile friendly


A Ghost Town website is one that was launched a year or more ago and hasn’t been revisited by its owner since. Dates are out of date and it looks like no one’s home or cares about the business.
Let’s look at this website for a commercial and residential remodeling business.

Some of the mistakes I see:

  • The work samples are nice. But they’re too small and too few.
  • The layout looks dated—especially for a business that relies heavily on appearance. Though honestly, whose business doesn’t depend on having a good appearance in one way or another?
  • The Facebook share buttons are occupying prime real estate at the top of the page and one of them doesn’t work. If it did, it would take you to Facebook instead of keeping you engaged on the website.
  • The bathroom remodeling award is nice but there’s too much emphasis on this 6-year-old recognition. And there are no related portfolio samples for any bathroom remodeling projects, making the award seem even less relevant.
  • In the Company updates and site information section the most recent entry is from October 2011!
  • This is another website that isn’t mobile friendly

Some of the things I would do to make this website better:

  1. I’d create a section of full size work samples to make it easier for visitors to see and immerse themselves in the contractor’s best work
  2. I’d fix the Facebook share buttons and move them away from the top of the page to a less prominent location.
  3. I’d add marketing copy just below the work samples to help his ideal clients relate to the problems he’s solving for his customers. For example, he might say, Are you a homeowner, tired of your nasty old bathroom tile and stained sink? Wouldn’t you love to have a beautiful new bathroom so that when company comes over you don’t have to give them a long list of instructions like jiggle the handle or be careful of that loose floor tile?
  4. I’d add professionally photographed before and afters of the bathroom remodels since that’s what this contractor won an award for. He should be leveraging the shit out of that award before its shelf life expires, which is very very soon if not already in some people’s eyes.
  5. I’d make this website mobile friendly

To wrap up…

Your website is like your office where your clients come to see you.

If you have a physical office space, you want it to be professional, welcoming, clean, uncluttered.

You want your office space–and you want your website–to earn you points in credibility and trust and to fit what’s expected for your profession and your stature. Better yet, EXCEED what’s expected and you’ll get more business. Design really works.

What kind of website mistakes have caught your eye recently? Share them in the comments.

Thanks for watching and see you next time!