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The company I work for currently has icons on it's website for things like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. but they're just painted on images. Additionally, there isn't anything on the website that you logically would want to share, there's no blog posts or articles or events. It's a bare-bones website. There's also a search box that does nothing. These "dummy" items are all at the top right of the page and when I asked what the purpose of having them was my boss's response was that "companies put in fake links all the time, it makes it look like there's more there." Keeping in mind that the target demographic of visitors to the site are business managers looking for accounting software, does this seem like it would help, hurt, or not matter from a user experience standpoint?

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"companies put in fake links all the time, it makes it look like there's more there."

That's about the dumbest thing I've heard, no offense.

Visitors aren't dumb and shouldn't be treated as such. Only one thing will happen when a visitor finds out that you are lying to them: they will simply leave and never come back.

I suggest you do 1 of 2 things: 1) create the social media accounts that you are linking to and make the search box work or 2) remove the "fake functionality" as fast as you can.

3
  1. I would definitely remove the search box.
  2. However, if...

    • you don't actually have/yet have the social media accounts, or
    • there are issues with your accounts, e.g. you don't have time/energy/resources to devote to
      • creating them
      • making them presentable
      • don't yet have/are still thinking about content
      • etc

    ...then you should at least NOT MAKE the SoMe icons (FB, Twitter, G+) live links/hrefs.

    • That is, remove any anchors (<a href="...">text or image</a>) or JavaScript onClick() events/handlers.

    • In other words, the mouse should not change from an arrow to a hand pointing finger when hovering over the icon.

    The benefit of this is that it will at least NOT ALLUDE to some actionable content in/under the link, which would:

    • at best, confuse the user, or
    • at worst, lead the user to think that your site is broken and you are too lazy and/or inept to notice and fix it.

    At the same time, this hopefully will have the upside of implying that you have a SoMe presence or at least are thinking about it (which I hope you/your employer does/is).

    It may be a slight annoyance when they can't instantly get to one/any SoMe profile page, however. So, you should provide SOME WAY of contacting you... at least have a form, a link to a form, or an email icon that works (with a <a href="mailto:sales@mycompany.com"> link)

  • The only thing that I find problematic with this approach is that implying the company has a social media presence when it doesn't strikes me as underhanded. The company intends to begin managing a facebook page and blog, so at that point I would be happy to include the links. But until such a point the idea of having the icons without any sort of notice that there's no actual content yet makes me incredibly uncomfortable. – Jack Jun 20 '14 at 20:08
  • as I said... I gave you options, and I don't know what your situation is... whether or not you have ANY SoMe pages or not, why you don't, or why you have no content, etc... All, you said is the links are dummies, and that (what seems like in your opinion) there's nothing TO share. Well, honestly, you/he are lacking some marketing creativiting. There must be lots that you can share via social media... e.g. when you have deals, reminders of tax deadlines, links to tax forms, instructions, a "glossary word a day" tweet, etc... I could come up with a hundred things. – Flak DiNenno Jun 20 '14 at 20:22
  • I think your view of this and your acceptance of the answer is based on a purely technical one, without factoring in what SoMe and content really means and is, and how you properly deal with it. I think you need to have a better conversation with your boss, or edit your question. B/c, based on how you've asked it... I'ved given you completely legitimate, solutions. And, frankly, something that can help you create a plan towards an online and/or offline marketing campaign – Flak DiNenno Jun 20 '14 at 20:25
  • I'm aware that there's plenty that could be done, I'm just more concerned about the present. There is no share-able content and nowhere to share it at the present, and it's not in my control to change that. I am not in charge of actually creating any social content, merely skinning the website to what we do have. My question and view are not therefore about approaching the issue with the idea of relying on future creation of social sites, they are about the legitimacy of implying features that aren't present. – Jack Jun 20 '14 at 20:34
  • This is not an issue of user experience then. These are not features of your site. They are nothing more than banners, badges. Nothing different than putting logos of companies, or magazines/newspaper some PR/writeups have shown up in. Whether or not it's dishonest is NOT the issue. If the links DON'T do anything. Then they are not fake functionality. They are not features at all. Your question is one of morality. – Flak DiNenno Jun 20 '14 at 20:37
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These "dummy" items are all at the top right of the page and when I asked what the purpose of having them was my boss's response was that "companies put in fake links all the time, it makes it look like there's more there."

This is simply untrue. One of the main tenants underpinning UX is the removal of distraction from the page, in order to focus on the call to action.

Keeping in mind that the target demographic of visitors to the site are business managers looking for accounting software, does this seem like it would help, hurt, or not matter from a user experience standpoint?

Your answer is right there in the question: "user experience". Simply ask yourself what the user experiences if they click a fake link or attempt to use a non-functioning search box? I believe anyone in your office, even your derp-dee-doo boss, could nail down the right answer on their first try.

Confusion; possible frustration. That's what gets experienced and, thus, emotionally associated with your brand.

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