Are you shooting yourself in the foot with your footer?

The ‘footer’ on a website has become such an accepted part of web design that people don’t even consider if it’s needed any more. Just for a moment, think about these two questions:

  • Why do we need something else, after the content of our page is finished?
  • Why do we need the same thing at the bottom of every page on our website?

There are answers to both questions, but they’re not universally good ones. Certainly if the point of your page is to lead up to a call-to-action, why then add something else afterwards?

Salespeople might end their pitch by looking the customer in the eye and asking them if they want to buy. Do they then mumble: “or can I show you something unimportant instead?”

Of course they don’t.

As a graphical device to show the page has ended, the footer works. But so would a solid black bar.

The sites where footers filled with interesting links are appropriate are reference information or news sites, because the ‘call to action’ on these sites is to read another article. On a selling page, a footer full of ‘read next’ links doesn’t make much sense.

If your designer has given you one of those standard, boring footers, with a bit of site navigation and some stuff just to fill the space, ask them why. Although I warn you, the answer could be a bit dispiriting.

I think I would advise having a footer on most commercial websites, but a very simple one containing information, rather than ‘things to do’:

  • The full company name, address and contact details, for example (and an ‘Impressum’ link if you’ve got a German office)
  • Something which reminds the visitor of your competence, like trade association membership or quality standards badges
  • A link to the home page, or back to the top

That’s it really. Take a look at the footer section on your website. Ask yourself if it’s a genuine benefit, or just distracting from what you’re trying to get the visitor to do. I suspect the designer spent a few minutes putting any old stuff in there, without much justification for any of it. Maybe they should spend a few more minutes throwing it out again.