I've been online since the 1990's (probably even the late 1980's). My first forray online was using Prodigy, then AOL. I then migrated to a commercial Internet Service provider. From there, I was enamored with the world of websites and HTML.
Back then, simply having a website was enough. You were a rock star if you could do any coding in HTML. Now, with so many template web design sites and services like Elance giving us web developer experts at the click of a mouse, everyone can have a great website, or so you'd think.
What I've found is that while many websites are awesome, especially from well known companies, many smaller businesses still struggle to have well designed websites. Part of the reason is that many of us aren't web designers (or have any design skill). The other reason is that we follow bad habits when building our websites.
If you're building your website for the firs time, you have two choices:
1. Use a free or free based template based web design service
2. Hire a web developer
They're going to be pricier than a template based web design service, but you'll get more flexibility, and precisely what you want.
Jerry Allocca, the founder of CORE Interactive, is a guru of web design and his mission is to help people avoid costly mistakes with their websites. Below are nine mistakes business owners make when it comes to building their websites and/or working with a developer to build it for them.
If you learn from the mistakes of others, you won't have to make these mistakes when you build (or mostly likely revamp) your own website.
1. Denial– “It’s ok as is.”
If you made the mistake of hiring a rude employee who was frustrating, confusing and drove customers away, you’d probably fire that person immediately. A website that frustrates, confuses or drives away your prospective customers is actually worse. It will drive customers away 24 hours a day, seven days a week (and you will probably never know about these lost opportunities!)
2. Getting advice from friends and family
There’s that old saying, “Good advice isn’t free and free advice isn’t good.” Would you ask your best friend’s brother—who’s not a doctor—to take a quick look at your sore throat and offer up his opinion? Probably not. Don’t do that with your website either.
3. Asking the right employees to work on the wrong tasks
You wouldn’t ask your IT team to write web copy, nor would you ask your PR team to write html code. Ensure the right people wear the right hats and stay true to their strengths. Make sure you utilize specialists that will help you effectively showcase your skills and services.
4. Skipping the Due Diligence
This one has cost many of my clients a fortune in time and money. Before you hire a web development firm, be sure to check references, look at the company’s portfolio and Google them before you partner up with them. Be sure you know who you are doing business with.
5. Being invisible
If your potential customer can’t find you on Google, then you don’t exist. Sounds harsh, but it’s true. People are looking to solve their problems immediately. Be there right up on top of the Google results when they search and they’ll be much more likely to choose you. Otherwise, they are going to go with your competitor – who is at the top of the Google results.
6. Not fully understanding what they are buying
I can’t tell you how many of my new clients have come to me and said, “Well, I don’t really understand what S.E.O. is, so I guess I didn’t know what I was buying.” It’s up to you to know where your money is going. And any reputable service provider should be able to explain what they are offering you in terms you understand. If they don’t, it’s time to keep looking.
7. Poor communication
Listen Up! People interpret information in a variety of ways. When you just read the phrase “Listen Up!” did you hear it in your head as a playful request or a stern demand? The copy on your website needs to appeal to your audience and communicate your value in a way that the reader will understand. How many times have you spent 10 minutes on a website and you still had no idea what the company actually does?
What’s worse is you couldn’t figure out the value they would bring to you. Sometimes the message is too generic, or is a laundry list of facts. Make sure your website communicates clearly to your audience and in as few words as possible.
8. No USP - too similar to your competition
Congratulations! You did everything right so far and got your prized potential customer to click from Google to your website. But getting them to visit your site is not enough. Now, you need to tell them exactly how you are unique from your competitors, and why you’re the clear choice. The Internet makes it easy to shop around. Make sure your customers stop—(and shop!)-- when they get to your website.
9. Buying services based solely on price
You can buy a lot of different products based on price alone. Just ask Walmart. But when it comes to services, it’s a whole new ballgame. With most services, you get what you pay for. When you buy services based solely on price, you sometimes get a lot less than what you bargained for. Choose a service provider based on what makes them unique – What can they bring to your business that is clearly better than their competition.
If you're interested in more web design tips, check out my 10 Rules For Business Class Websites.