The Internet has done great things for the smaller business community, allowing sole traders the same might and power as large-scale multi-nationals when it comes to the digital marketplace. However, many small businesses fall at the very first hurdle – website design.
Some choose to utilize the skills of a web designer whilst others try and give it a go themselves. You wouldn’t be surprised if I told you that those that try to muddle through it themselves often make fatal mistakes in the early stages of the design process, but worryingly, there are many so called ‘professional’ designers out there that charge a fortune and actually make the same mistakes.
Regardless of whether you are going to go for it on your own or place your trust in a designer you MUST MUST MUST ensure you keep the next ten points in mind at all times. If you get this right then you have fought half the battle and won.
Sin #1 – Getting waaaaaay too technical
Communication is key to your digital success, yet all too many websites fail to communicate in a way that their site visitors can understand. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the more ‘technical’ your site sounds the more likely you are to look good and thus attract business. In reality the complete opposite is true.
Know your audience, and communicate with them on a level that they will understand and feel comfortable with.
Sin #2 – Embarrassingly Poor Navigation
Seriously, if you want to convert visitors into paying customers then at least have the decency to make it easy for them to find their way around your site. Make it as simple as possible for them. Just because you know the structure like the back of your hand doesn’t mean that everyone else will too.
Clearly define your navigation structure, and try to make sure that you don’t have a structure that goes more than three tiers deep. More than three clicks and you’ve lost your visitors attention. And where possible leave them a breadcrumb trail so that they always know where they are and how to get back to the home page.
Sin #3 – Technology itself can be a sin
Tech is a great thing, but it can also cause massive problems. Not everyone uses the latest versions of software or plugins, and not everyone has access to certain technologies, handheld devices and so on. Some even block various scripts and file extensions etc. for their own security reasons.
When building your site you should make sure that it can be run on the most basic of systems, it can be viewed on the smallest of monitor sizes, and that it can be loaded on the slowest of connections. Believe it or not there are still people out there accessing content over dial-up Internet.
Sin #4 – Failure to Globalise
If you don’t build your site for a global audience then you immediately limit the area in which you are able to sell. This may not be an issue for a business that is looking to attract only local custom such as a take-away delivery service, but for a business that relies on mass-download of a digital product this is disastrous.
Sin #5 – Terrible Spelling and Grammar Errors
It’s the simplest of things, and with modern word processing applications there shouldn’t be any excuse. If you want to portray a professional look then this is something that you really need to spend a bit of time on.
At the very least make sure you proofread your content for spelling, basic grammar and typos etc.
Sin #6 – Inconsistencies throughout the site
Nothing screams “amateur” to your visitors more than an inconsistent website. Examples could be the branding, the layout, the navigation, the types of fonts used, and even the way you refer to yourself.
Sin #7 – Waaaaay too much choice
Keep it simple. If you give your visitors too much choice you loose the effectiveness of your site. You have to engage your visitor throughout your site, and the aim should be to convert them into an action (such as making a purchase), but giving them too much choice means that they can loose interest, get confused, and even loose what they were looking for.
Give your visitors just enough information to make them want to know more, point the way they need to go to find out more, and keep things interactive.
Sin #8 – Too much text, not enough visual stimuli
People don’t want to read your life story. You need to shorten your message into just a single paragraph so that you keep the reading to a minimum, and then tell the rest of your story with visual content. Pictures speak a thousand words! Apple is brilliant when it comes to this kind of approach. They use pictures to sell their products and text to provide the key information.
Sin #9 – Who needs white space. Right?
White space is key. Visitors tend not to read a website, but instead just scan it from left to right and top to bottom. Giving sufficient white space allows you to draw attention to key information and action points on your website.
There is a common misconception that you have to cram as much as possible into a page. Take a look at Google’s home page. They take the use of white space to an extreme, but look how successful their approach is.
Sin #10 – Writing purely with SEO in mind
You know what I’m talking about. The content on any given page repeats itself, or uses the same phrases with different combinations of the same word. As soon as you read it you know that it isn’t there for the benefit of the visitor, but rather for the benefit of the search engines.
A site that performs well does so because it is designed with great standards in mind, doesn’t use trickery to improve search rankings or to trick visitors into taking actions, provides useful and meaningful content, and has a sole purpose of making the experience of every visitor the very best it can be.
If you dedicate every aspect of your online presence to providing the very best experience to each and every user then your search engine rankings will come naturally, your visitor numbers will improve quickly, and your conversion rates will be astronomical. Otherwise, I’d just give it up now as you have already failed.