In the early days of the web ‘under construction’ notices or animated construction worker images were common on websites if an organisation didn’t have any content to add to a page. These messages have fallen out of fashion but have been replaced by messages such as ‘coming soon’ or ‘information to follow’.
The terminology and formatting of this message may have changed, but the outcome is the same – a dead end for users.
A dead end for users
Imagine a prospective student has clicked through to a page on your website expecting to find something out. Instead of an answer or information to help them complete a task, they are greeted with nothing more than an ‘information coming soon’ message.
How do they feel? Disappointed and frustrated. What do they do? They leave.
Perhaps they come back at a later date to check if the page has been updated but it’s more likely they will go somewhere else to find the information they need or worse… go to a competitor’s site.
People generally go to a website to find an answer to a question or to complete a task. An ‘under construction’ notice doesn’t tell your customer anything and is therefore a waste of their time.
Damage to credibility
‘Under construction’ notices can also damage the credibility of your website. They make the page look sloppy and unfinished. This consequently reflects badly on the organisation, giving the impression that the organisation is uncommitted and unprofessional. It could also mean that users don’t trust the other information on your site.
Bad for SEO
Search engines also respond badly to ‘under construction’ pages. If there’s no content on a page the search engine won’t rank it very highly.
Worse, if the page has a meaningful title containing key words that people are searching for, it may come up in search results. Your reader goes to read more on the page only to discover that it contains no content. This is harmful to your organisation’s credibility.
Solutions when waiting for content
If it’s business critical to advertise something (eg funding opportunities or a new research facility) before the full details are available you should add relevant information rather than a blank page. To do this, you should:
- think about the information you already have about the funding, research facility etc
- add relevant signposting to another site if appropriate
- include contact details for questions until the content can be added to the site
- update with further information as soon as it is available
Finally, if you don’t have any meaningful content to add to the site don’t add a new page. A blank page or a page with irrelevant information is more harmful than excluding information altogether. You wouldn’t publish a brochure containing a blank page with a generic ‘coming soon message’, so the same rules apply to the web.
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