My friend Aileen is breaking up with her husband Dan. It’s going the way such things usually do, and Aileen is self-medicating with a nice pinot noir when she isn’t building Dan-shaped snowmen to run over in her driveway. I called the other night to see if she needed help with the Tuesday Night Effigy Burning.

“Sure, but we have to do it in the park; the neighbours complained again”, she said. “Maybe I’ll just stay home and wallow instead”.

“I get it”, I offered. “A sad old movie and a good cry are just what you need.”

“Screw the movie”, Aileen said. “When I want to go to the dark places, I just look at our website and down I go.”

Aileen is a B2B marketer with a website that sucks only slightly less than her marriage. And that, naturally, gets me thinking about those of us with sucky websites. We seeIMG_00000093 your emails and nasty reviews; we know our sites suck. We know that each day that passes without some redemption is only making it worse. We even know what needs to be done, and sort of in what order. But B2B websites are like old houses: they were never really conceived of as things that need constant reinvention, just a little upkeep. Years of neglect, rigid templates, ugly content management systems and thin budgets take their toll, and the next thing you know, the floors are squeaky and something growls every time you go near the furnace.

You’ve got a fixer-upper with a three-year time horizon to get funding and redo the whole platform. That’s not going to help much is it? But just as in real estate, there are little things we can do tart things up until we have a better idea. So for Aileen and all the other marketers out there who cry when they see their sites, here is the first of my Three Steps to a Not-Very-Sucky Website

Step One: Fix the Windows

Rudoplph Giuliani is said to have applied Wilson and Kelling’s Broken Window theory to reduce crime in New York City. The idea is that by taking care of minor issues, such as broken windows and other petty vandalism, the community is signaled to pull up its socks and behave. Whether this had any meaningful effect or not, it’s a good place to start with your website. Get in there and clean up the small stuff. That’s probably what makes you most crazy anyway. Start with these:

  • Typos — seriously, no excuses for those
  • Broken Links — also no excuses– we have tools that should find them
  • Images that don’t load
  • Images that shouldn’t be there to begin with
  • Footers that still say © 2007
  • That shout-out to visit your booth at TechExpo 2002
  • Job postings from last year (or earlier) (or that have been filled)

Once you’ve tidied up the yard a little and swept the porch, it’s time to invite the whiny people in for a look.

One of the reasons you feel bad about your site is that other people tell you over and over and over again how much it sucks. These people are also known as either your mother or your colleagues. Mothers I can’t help you with, but my experience with whiny colleagues is to deal with them head-on by inviting them to a cathartic session of website bashing. Put it up on a screen, sit them down with a cup of tea and let them go. Let them whine and whinge and criticize and complain all they want. Write it all down and fix as much of it as you can. I will bet the majority of the issues are in one of the buckets above. Show them progress, promise them action and send them packing.

Next week, we’ll look at Step Two and chewing gum.