These days, every business needs to establish their online presence in order to compete in the digital marketplace. While an attractive and effective website used to be more of a luxury than a necessity, it’s now a make-or-break part of every business strategy.
The major problem that most business owners encounter is that they lack the expertise to develop their own website and face budget constraints for hiring an in-house web designer. No matter how they choose to approach this mission-critical task, there are several common web design mistakes that must be avoided at all costs. Here are the top 5 scary, yet incredibly common website design mistakes to avoid when building your website.
An Incomprehensible Homepage
One major and all too common website design pitfall is the layout and content of the homepage. When a novice approaches designing a site, they don’t always know how to decide exactly what, and how much information needs to be on the homepage. There’s a tendency to want to cover far too many topics, which can lead to a frustrating, ineffective first impression.
If a potential customer can’t discern the specialties of a business immediately upon reaching their website, they’re going to leave and give their business to someone else. It’s critical to give serious thought to what message needs to be conveyed to every new visitor upon their arrival. Whatever the area of focus, it must be distilled to a simple, clear and easily digestible message that’s presented front and center. Your homepage should:
- Establish Brand Identity – Who you are, what you do for your customers and how to find out more information.
- Be Clear and Simple – Visitors shouldn’t feel overwhelmed. Text should be simple and easy to read, and clear navigation should be available.
- Be Organized By Importance – The core message should lead the homepage. Visitors won’t bother to scroll down if they think you’re not right for them.
Forgetting Mobile Users
With the massive shift to smartphones and handheld computing, chances are good that many of your visitors will be using a mobile web browser. This is an important thing to consider when building a website. Differences in screen size and data transfer speeds can render a website ineffective on a mobile device. If your site is not optimized for mobile devices, you’re cutting yourself off from a large and growing audience.
There are two major ways to accommodate mobile users. Designing your entire site with a responsive template that can automatically adjust to the size of the user’s screen is one way to make your pages mobile-friendly. The other option is to use programming to determine when a visitor is using a mobile device so you can reroute them to a purpose-built mobile version of your website.
Creating a specific mobile version of your website is usually the best option because “designing down” for mobile browsers can lead to a less than optimal desktop experience. By creating a mobile site, you can rework the complexity and presentation of your pages to be easier to digest on a small screen. You’ll also be able to include navigation that’s suited to touch screens such as horizontal swiping and click to navigate or call features.
Use of Non-Optimized Images and Media
Visual elements, such as photos or videos, can be the perfect way to communicate your message to potential customers. The problem is that the more of them you include and the larger they are, the slower and more frustrating your website becomes. All media files must be optimized for delivery to the viewer to prevent slowdowns and loading issues.
If you’re going to be using large quantities of images, you’ll need to have them compressed properly to make them load swiftly in a web browser. There isn’t a single approach that works in all cases, but the rule of thumb is that photos should be compressed to the maximum possible degree without sacrificing significant quality. Keep in mind that most cameras and phones are designed to take photos for maximum quality, not smallest size.
If video elements will be a significant portion of your site, you’re going to need to choose a format (or formats) that can be viewed by the widest variety of web browsers. You may need to use a CDN (content delivery system) to assure speedy video delivery. A great option is to use Youtube to host your videos because they can handle high traffic and can be a stand-alone venue to build your business audience.
All Style, No Substance
While simplicity and overall attractiveness are excellent for homepages, it’s the total content of your site that will determine its success. After you’ve got a visitor interested, you’ll need to provide them with high-quality, engaging content that is useful to them. Focus not only on the services that your business can provide but on how you can make their lives better.
Consider the tone of what’s written on your website. You’ll want to make sure that everything is focused on the needs of the customer (or how they perceive their needs). Talk about solving problems and provide useful information, while letting them know you’re there to help. Including a blog with regularly updated content can both drive traffic to your site as well as promote brand loyalty.
Ignoring SEO Concerns
If your website doesn’t take search engine optimization (SEO) into account, you may create the greatest website nobody’s ever going to see. Most people are going to find your site by searching for keywords and topics that are of interest to them. You must take steps to make sure the major search engines return your pages high up on the list of results in your areas of specialty.
There are many advanced ways to optimize your site for search engine success, but the basics are:
- Crawler Access – The search engine must be able to catalog your site’s content using automated systems. Configuration issues can sometimes prevent this and must be addressed.
- Use Short and Specific Page Titles – If your titles are too long and overly broad, search engines will not be able to clearly link your pages to relevant searches.
- Offer Unique, Useful Content – Search engines want to direct their users to useful results, and by creating unique content, you’ll make sure they can’t find it anywhere else.
- Use Alt-Text for Images – Search engines can’t see your images, so if you’ve got a lot of them, be sure to include alternate text with descriptions of what they depict.
Your website can have all the bells and whistles, but it’ll be ineffective if the areas listed above are ignored. Your website is an extension of your company in the digital realm—make sure it wins visitors over instead of sending them straight to the competition.