Website hit counters clutter up the computer screen and run the risk of looking like an unsophisticated attempt to impress visitors. If traffic numbers matter, use analytics software.
We’ve just entered the second decade of the 21st-century where, sadly, all the classic human frailties and foibles show no sign of going away.
Greed, war, lying, microwave meals, watching TV’s Love Island, pretending to need to use the toilet when your spouse asks you to dry the dishes… well, it’s all there.
But there’s another societal ill persisting well into what the Victorians assumed would by now be the age of enlightenment.
The Website Hit Counter: Let It Die
Like a smug grin stuck to your monitor, this still-used 1990s waste of space needs to be exterminated along with guestbooks and chatrooms and dialup modems.
The cartoon clip art design has mostly disappeared, but the idea of publicly bragging about website hits is still seen as tacky among serious businesses.
Frankly, no one cares that 50,000 people have visited your corner of the web. And that’s assuming you or your webmaster haven’t spent hours refreshing the page to inflate the figures.
Presenting such numbers – real or fake – isn’t going to win you any respect. It just comes across as an ill-deserved badge of honour in the absence of any genuine signals of trustworthiness.
However, there’s an exception to the rule.
When To Use a Counter
Counters work in an ironic context, such as for classic online writers like Maddox (The Best Page in the Universe), who, as I write this, has 224,141,093 visitors.
That is genuinely impressive but not surprising considering he was one of the first to launch a popular website back in the early 2000s.
You’ll also notice his counter has been incorporated into faux-grandiose sentences to provoke amusement. This kind of thing works well because it’s part of his shtick.
It gives me an idea. I run a highly-trafficked website containing local fast-food menus available for download.
Perhaps a hit counter could be configured to measure visits rather than views and woven into a prominent sentence that says something like “90,000 people are too lazy/stupid to cook.”
It’s cheeky. It’s funny.
The website would, therefore, be able to humblebrag about the high traffic numbers while appealing to the self-deprecating self-image of the average burger-gobbling Brit.
But a counter on a website advertising professional paid services?
Creating a Sense of Community
Perhaps it’s harsh to assume that showing off numbers of hits is motivated by vanity considering that a certain amount of chest-beating is to be expected in any industry.
Yes, we do live in a shallow world. First impressions do count. Online marketing is just a computerised egg and spoon race with cash prizes.
But if there’s a real desire to create a sense of community, tools including but not limited to comment systems and social Likes/Shares can be implemented to much greater effect.
It may have been the case that before decent search engines and before Twitter, Facebook et al, there existed no way to gauge the popularity of a website.
Today though, we live in a world of feedback, reviews and rankings.
Social Media took up the mantle for popularity metrics many years ago and a brand’s popularity will be evident based on something other than a simple counter.
Measuring Traffic and Engagement
When an individual or organisation invests time and effort in a website, they want to know whether the party is packed and pumping or as dead as a Monday night dive bar.
That’s where the free-to-use Google Analytics comes into its own.
You might have gotten a visitor, but did they actually mean to visit your page? Maybe they’re there by mistake. Did they enjoy looking at your site, or was it a waste of their time?
With a decent structure, fewer distractions and real value, visitors will stick around.
They might even like, comment and share. Woo!
It’s Easy to Build a ShitSite
I’ve noticed that cheap instant online website builders are often the culprit for terrible design/development choices if only because it’s easy to include anything and everything on offer from the administration panel.
A plethora of easy-to-add gimmicks means many websites are doomed to resemble a casino slot machine rather than a respectable information resource.
Wix still carries drag ‘n’ drop hit counters, ready to be published within seconds, as does GoDaddy’s instant website builder and probably many others.
Because of this, hit counters are almost always a feature of what I will, from now on, refer to as a ShitSite.
If you want to go that way, fine. But the entire website could just communicate amateurishness.
Summary: Minimal Design Elements = Better Experience
Don’t fall into the trap of supplementing a basic lack of value on the site with “big numbers”. We’ve been conditioned to believe high figures/ratings for the sake of it are impressive, but counters generally don’t help.
Getting rid of excess baggage/eyesores from a website is akin to pruning an apple tree so that it stops wasting energy on foliage and starts bearing fruit.
Another thing; there’s the issue of counters containing dodgy third-party code, which can expose visitor’s computers to viruses, malware and adware.
Finally, if your website doesn’t get much traffic and you have a counter on which the number shown is low, remove it! It’s definitely surplus to requirements in those circumstances.
Imagine this… how different would your website design be if you were charged by the pixel?