I first addressed this topic back in 2012 and although much has changed, and improved, in the digital world it seems we are still making many of the same mistakes…particularly when it comes to designing a website that we want to be an effective tool for our business.
For most small businesses their website is a major investment and also a key component of their overall marketing strategy. In today’s digital world, in order to be considered relevant and viable you must have a professional website presence. However, creating that perfect website for your business is about much more than simply picking the right colours and best looking logo.
Before you design anything you must answer some questions….
- Who is your desired target audience?
- What is the primary purpose of your website?
- Do you want it to generate Leads? Sales? Create Brand Awareness? Educate?
- What do you want visitors to do when they get to your website?
- Do you need a mobile website or a “mobile friendly” website?
- Are you going to maintain the content or will you hire someone to do it?
- Will blogging be a major part of your online marketing strategy?
Although there are many things I see here are five of the most common mistakes in website design.
- Avoid Complicated Web Design
In order to be most effective you must design your website like a pyramid. At the top of the pyramid is your homepage and under the homepage are a number of other pages (categories). These pages in turn refer to even more pages (sub-categories). All the subpages within the pyramid structure should link to the page at the top of that same pyramid. Also, linking pages that are closely related to each other from a content perspective increases your website’s possibility to rank. Laying out the design in this manner helps the search engines understand what’s related and what is not!
How quickly your website loads in the browser is also an important design component. A clean design and framework usually helps it to load quickly and delivers both a good user experience and a good search engine rating. Remember the old adage; “you only get one chance to make a first impression”. This is never more important than with your website. Choose design elements that enhance your site rather than damage the (UX) user experience. In good website design “less is nearly always more.”
- Make Your Content “Scan-able”
Most people today will not take the time to read content. They will first scan it for items of interest and then if they find something they will then stop to read it. So make sure your content is “scan-able”. Use sub-headings, images and bullet points to help break up the text.
The latest research indicates that you have less than three seconds to communicate your message on a web page before your visitor will leave. Never try to substitute quantity for quality when it comes to content. Make your message clear throughout your website describing your type of business and the products and services in which you specialize. Complement this written message with clean, optimized and relevant images. And perhaps most importantly, write with the reader in mind, not the search engine. Use keywords, but only where they are appropriate.
- Create Your Own Identity
And never worry about looking like your competitors. Be unique. Project your own image. Make sure you stand out from the crowd, not blend into it. Create your own messages, reputation and strategies, and allow the unique characteristics of your business to shine through in your website design, promotions and communications.
- Avoid Poor or Just Plain Bad Navigation
Navigation within a website should be seamless and visitors should be able to find their way around easily. If text is used as navigation, it should be concise. If hyperlinks are used, then they should stand out from the body of the text. Dead links that go nowhere should be removed immediately. This increases user confusion and wastes time. Make navigation smooth by using textual descriptions for all links. Organize and structure your navigation in tandem with the theme of the website.
Remember, if users can’t find what they want in less than 3 clicks, most will leave immediately.
- Don’t Just Build It and Wait for Something to Happen
Do not develop a “Build It and They Will Come” mentality. This has never worked and still doesn’t. Always set aside a portion of your web and online budget for marketing. Once you have your great looking website you will need to get creative and find ways to bring relevant traffic to your website.
The bad news is that getting traffic to your website takes knowledge, effort, time and investment. The good news is that you have more options than ever before to spread your message; you can advertise on Google, Bing, Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, you can create a great blog and then utilize social media to spread your message. You can comment on other blogs and share your expertise to help build credibility and relevance for your own website.
And above all, use “Calls-to-Action” (CTA) to capture your visitor’s email address so you can begin marketing to them. Your email list will become like gold if you use it properly.
I wish you continued success and as always your comments and feedback are welcomed.
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