Let’s kick off this conversation by debunking a few common myths about website design mistakes:
- It’s not just about money. You can build a great website on a frugal budget. Conversely, you can sink tons of cash into it and end up with a complete monstrosity.
- Your website is not carved in concrete. If you recognize some problems with your site, don’t freak out. There’s no need to trash what you’ve got. Generally speaking, you can improve things with minor additions, deletions, and tweaks.
- There is no perfect website. Most things are subjective.
Now that we’ve cleared the air, let’s dive in.
Mistake #1: Lack of strategic planning
A good website doesn’t start with design, it starts with planning. Before you jump into the development process, you should do some BIG PICTURE thinking:
- Who is your ideal audience?
- What are you trying to accomplish with your website? How does it fit into your organization’s long-term vision?
- How will you drive traffic to your website? (e.g., social media, search engine optimization, paid advertising)
- What ongoing needs are related to the website? (e.g., security, updates, promotions)
- What tools and skillsets are required to meet those needs?
- Can you handle everything in-house? Or will you need to out-source?
- How much can you afford to spend on the website? (Remember to include the monthly costs of keeping it alive and thriving)
Taking time to think strategically and map things out properly is important. But if the boat has already sailed, and your website is already up and running, don’t panic.
Some of the most common website design mistakes are errors of omission. And fixing them can be as simple as adding new elements to your site.
Mistake #2: Obsessing about prettiness
Every organization wants to have a beautiful website. But once decision-makers start obsessing about aesthetics, things go awry quickly. When everyone focuses on what it LOOKS like, it’s easy to lose sight of what it’s supposed to DO.
Moreover, sites that are designed to appease the vanity of stakeholders often end up with unnecessary bells and whistles. These can cause problems, like slow page load times and complicated navigation.
And guess what people do when a website confuses them, or makes them wait around too long? They click AWAY!
NEVER sacrifice function for aesthetics.
Mistake #3: Lack of CTAs
What do you want website visitors to do?
A call-to-action (CTA) is a compelling prompt that’s attached to a link or button. It’s purpose is to inspire action. Truthfully, if you don’t have effective CTAs, your website is basically just a collection of descriptions. People may poke around on the pages for awhile, but they’re not going to do anything purposeful.
The best CTAs are clear and simple. They work because they tell your visitors exactly what to do. Here are a few examples that may apply to your organization:
- Contact Us
- Join Now
- Learn More
- Sign Up
When it comes to CTA design, the general rule is to stay simple with the words and splashy with the colours. You want your CTAs to jump off the page.
Hint: Red is a tried-and-true option.
Mistake #4: Lack of social proof
Of all the website design mistakes I see, this one upsets me the most because the value of social proof is so obvious.
Have you ever booked a hotel based on the online reviews? Or tried a new restaurant because someone told you it was good? That’s the essence of social proof.
We live in a skeptical world. People don’t trust easily so you need to show them real-life evidence that your organization is great!
Examples of social proof can include:
- Success Stories
- Numbers and Statistics
Testimonials are arguably the most effective form of social proof because they’re authentic. A REAL person had an experience that was positive and they are sharing their enthusiasm with others. It doesn’t get better than that!
Mistake #5: No fresh content
Fresh content gives search engines, like Google, Chrome, Firefox, et al, more reasons to send traffic your way.
The simplest way to keep things fresh is with a blog. Blog posts that provide valuable insights, answer questions, and demonstrate your authority are the BOMB. They attract both search engines and the real, flesh-and-blood people you want to connect with. Folks who come to your website to read those posts may share them with others, which is great. AND visitors are more likely to return to your website, when they know you’re providing valuable content.
Note: To learn more about creating content that attracts search engines and appeals to real people, you may want to read: Writing SEO Content: A Step-By-Step Guide.
Mistake #6: ‘Contact Us’ problems
Contacting your organization should be simple. Each extra step and complication increases the risk that someone will become frustrated and leave.
Firstly, I recommend using a contact form. Filling out a form is easier and faster than writing an email message, and a well-crafted form can gather important details, which helps you respond effectively.
Secondly, I encourage you NOT to vanquish your contact form to the barren wasteland of a contact us page. It can live there, but it should also be available via other pages. For instance, a page describing a program or service should include a CTA, or at least a link, that leads to your contact form.
Take every opportunity to encourage website visitors to connect with you!
Mistake #7: Not monitoring website performance
Your website is an important investment. You put time, effort, and money into it, so it makes sense to keep an eye on things. Little issues can have big impact. For example, a slow-loading image or a broken link, can frustrate visitors.
You also want to regularly analyze the performance of specific pages. This helps you identify what’s attracting and engaging visitors – and what isn’t.
In the words of organizational management expert, Peter Drucker:
“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”
There are lots of monitoring and tracking tools available. When it comes to analytics, the most common option is Google Analytics. It provides tons of information about visitor behaviours and conversion rates, although there’s definitely a learning curve. I recommend reading “How to Use Google Analytics [The Absolute Beginner’s Guide]” by the folks over at Moz.
Ideally, analytics tools are included in the initial site design, but it’s never too late. Speak to your website designer. They should be able to add what you need.
Conclusion: Website design mistakes are fixable, so fix them
Your organization needs a website that’s capable of doing the heavy lifting. It must be able to attract traffic and hold the attention of visitors. Moreover, it needs to answer their questions and lead them to move forward in a way that aligns with your intentions.
To be clear, you can reach all of these goals without spending a fortune. And you can avoid most website design mistakes by thinking strategically, and by focusing on function instead of just appearance.
Ultimately, building a website not a one-off activity. Your website is a living, breathing part of your organization. As such, it requires ongoing care and attention. So if you see a mistake, correct it and move on. Nothing’s set in concrete!