Designing a website for your business? If you aren’t a professional web designer, there are several common website mistakes you could be making.
There are plenty of items on your to-do list when you’re starting a business. You need a name, a location—cyber or physical, and of course, money. The “book of shoulds” also says that you need a website. If you don’t have the money to hire a designer, you probably set out to do it yourself.
Here’s the good news: In the beginning stages of your business you can certainly design your own website but before you dive in, here’s what to avoid.
1. Thinking Any Website Is Better Than None
For many, if not most business, a website is a must, but you can have an online presence without a website. You’ve likely seen business listings online that don’t have websites attached to them. If you can’t afford to have a professional-looking website set up, at the very least make sure your name and phone number can be found through online business association member listings, Google My Business, Bing Places for Business, and social media sites. As soon as your income allows, do plan to get at least a simple website set up. This cheatsheet will help you understand the web development process. The reason: you don’t own or control outside resources, but you do own and control what goes on your own website.
2. Not Knowing Why You Need a Website
Some people will start the process of building a website without first knowing what they want to get out of it. Like finding a solution before identifying a problem, not having a goal with your website will lead to online failure.
Are you trying to gain exposure for your business? Get leads from your site? Maybe you’re planning to sell products online. Each of these goals require a different type of website. Your website is a tool that serves your business, but you need the right tool for the right job. Take the time to determine and write down your website needs before you do anything else.
3. Trying to Make It Too Pretty
Do a quick Google search of websites that have won a prestigious award and you’re going to see some seriously amazing eye candy. The websites are beautiful—like a magical piece of art in the finest museum. If you’re a web design studio or advertising agency, an award-winning look is important, but for most businesses, it’s not necessary.
First, unless you’re a skilled visual designer, you probably can’t pull off a design of that magnitude so don’t try. Second, your customers care more about the information than the design.
Yes, strive for polished and professional look with a cohesive website color scheme, but there’s no need for cutting-edge design.
4. Not Making Navigation a Priority.
How many websites have you visited that made design more important than navigation? Simply put, it was pretty, but you had no idea how to find anything. When your customers come to your site, they won’t put time into figuring out your website.
If you’re selling products, make the link to your products page big and noticeable. Read and understand the F Pattern, which says that people read online content in an F pattern—down the left side and across but only at the top and part of the middle.
5. Using PDF Files
Bottom line: They’re annoying! You’re reading a page, click on a link, and impatiently wait for the PDF viewer to open. Then, the text looks different than what you were just reading, you have to scroll through the document, and if you want to save it, good luck finding that command. Anything that causes your users stress will prompt them to click away from your site.
6. Not Writing for Online
Want to see your customers click away from your site at a blistering pace? Place a giant block of text on your website. If you’re reading a book, endless lines of text are fine, but in the online world, it’s bad…really bad. Online readers skim pages before they read them and images. Big blocks of gray text are offputting to people surfing the web on their phone or computer. Break up your content into short paragraphs and use lots of subheads to help the site visitor see what’s important on your pages.
7. Online Advertisements
Your business website likely has the goal of gaining customers. That’s fine, but if you get the idea of including Google ads or something of the like, push that out of your thoughts – unless your website is a magazine-type site or blog. You want people to buy your products and services and not click away on an ad that caught their eye.
8. Trying to Be “Different.”
Where do most people spend the bulk of their time? On websites OTHER than yours. Clicking on the logo of a page will take you to the homepage. Clicking a link will make it change color so you know you’ve been there. “About” and “Contact” are pages they can go to learn the important points of your business and contact you if they would like.
Make your website function like most other sites on the web. People like comfort.
9. Not Asking for Opinions
You know your business better than anybody. That alone makes you biased when it comes to your website. You’re judging your site based on the knowledge you already have. What you need is a group of people who know nothing about your business to offer feedback. Did they find what you wanted them to find?
Can they tell you what sets your business apart from others after less than a minute of reading? Were they able to find the information they were looking for? If they don’t understand your business after a minute two, you’ll need to make some changes.
10. Designing for a Computer
Designing a site that looks good on a computer is fine, but many people will look at it on a phone or tablet. Be sure your site looks good on both mobile and desktop platforms.
A simple website will land you more business than one that is stuffed with pages and information. Make sure there’s a lot of white space (no content) on your pages, the navigation is clear, and your most important points catch their eye the second they arrive. That’s the recipe for website success.
Find More Website Tips and Hints
Need more ideas for building or improving your website? Read the articles in these two sections of Business Know-How:
Web Design, Usability and Navigation