Building your first website can be a daunting enterprise. You have seen really good websites , but have a tight budget. This article explains some of the most common mistakes and how to avoid them.
1. No clear objective
Most businesses have a website, ‘because everybody has one these days’. Although this statement might be true, the reason for having a website should be that it can perform several useful functions:
- Information about your business is available to everyone anytime
- Communication with your clients and prospects can be simplified (not only because they know where to find your phone number)
- You might be able to offer extensions to your products online
- Strengthen customer relationships with add-ons, tips & tricks, manuals, etc
All this means that you should only have a website with a clear function. Do you want to use it as additional promotional platform? Do you want to win new business with it? Do you want to speed up support? Think about what the main function of your website should be and plan the design accordingly. Don’t ‘just quickly’ put a couple of words together, put it on a grey background with a logo and potentially damage your business reputation more than helping it. If you need a website fast, why not try one of the free and easy to use templates from Winweb?
2. Cheap, rather than useful domain
Once you have decided to have a website, you might as well do it right. Don’t save money on your own domain name. At Winweb, for example, your own domain is part of our basic web hosting package. There are still some businesses who try to save money by having their site on another domain. Although this is a good way to get online fast, be honest, which web address is easier to remember, http://businesspages.hostingsite.co.uk/~kplumbing, or www.kensington-plumbing.co.uk? Your image is also significantly enhanced by your own clear and simple domain. And yes, sometimes your domain is not available anymore, which is unfortunate. If that is the case, avoid being too clever or make it too complex. If your company is called Kensington Plumbing, don’t be tempted to use something like www.knsngtnplmbng.com, but try www.ken-plumb.co.uk, or www.k-plumbin g.co.uk, or something similar people can relate with your business and remember easily.
3. Distracting gimmicks
If you were introduced to the Internet in the early 90’s you will remember the vast amount of personal home pages packed with animated images of folding envelopes, digging ‘under construction’ signs, flashing, d ripping, curling lines and buttons and all sort of other gimmicks that look ‘cool’ the first time you realize they are possible. Now, if you like showing off your latest gimmicks on your personal home page, that’s absolutely fine. Your business clients, however, will not be impressed. They are at your site to find out i f you or your products and services can help them, not whether you spend a lot of time collecting gimmicks. Also, too many flashing images distract. You want to guide your visitors through your website and make sure they learn what you need them to know about your business. Guide them through your website, don’t leave t hem in a jungle of animated lines, buttons, icons and cartoons.
4. Too much design, too little content
When you create your first website, it is very tempting to get distracted with what other companies have , the vast amount of information that is already out there and overusing hyperlinks ‘because you can’. If t he description of your product takes four A4 pages in your brochure, cut it down to the basics for your web site. Give people the information they are looking for. If you need more space, consider offering a PDF version of your brochure as a download. Research indicates that if visitors have more than 4 clicks to get to the information they need, they give up and go somewhere else. Don’t be afraid of having less than 10 pages on your website. Give people the exact information they were looking for. On the Internet quality is king, not quantity.
5. Neglect navigation
Sometimes you spend so much time designing your website, that you know all the pages by heart. This can lead to neglecting the navigation. Just because you find every page and to you layout and navigation is easy, doesn’t mean that an outsider won’t get lost. You understand how your products and services belong together, new visitors don’t. Consider having a navigation bar which is in the same position on every page, also site maps and search functions should be available on every site. Make sure you test your website with someone who has never seen it before and (if possible) doesn’t know much about your products. Maybe you can even ask a friendly client to have a look at the test version and get their comments. After all, they are the reason you build the site in the first place.
6. Hidden contact details
For some reason some web sites forget the outside world. You write the copy, source the images, program your website and everybody is happy. What, however, if someone wants to get in touch with you? Your website is unlikely to give all the information a (potential) client needs. Also, existing clients might use your site as first contact point if they have a question, need support or want to extend their contract with you . Make sure your contact details are very easy to find, whichever of your pages your visitors might currently be looking at. Another important point is to mention not only your email addresses, but phone numbers an d address. It is often more comfortable to speak to a person, than send and email to an impersonal info@YOURCOMPANY.com.
7. Online version of your brochure
True, your website should represent your company and if you have already spend considerable time and effort to make sure your brochure achieves this, it is very tempting to save the hassle of recreating everything for the web. However, there are significant differences in the way people read a printed brochure and the way they use the Internet. For once, the screen size is usual smaller than A4, which means the copy and images you used in your brochure won’t fit on one screen. If there is an incentive to scroll down, fine, but people online usually don’t have a lot of time or patience. A brochure can be read on the train, or during a tea break, a website usually has to be a lot more concise and to the point. Of course you should bring t he same message across as your brochure, just be aware of the different format. Don’t just copy your brochure, but design for the web.
8. Large graphics and animations
It is very tempting to use a lot of imagery, be it pictures of products, people, maps, etc. Remember, however, that the majority of people don’t yet have a broadband connection. Even if you use small images, but several on the same page, it will take a long time before the page is displayed the way you designed it. Another mistake is to create your site using only images. The benefit is that you can control exactly how the pages look, however a lot of your visitors might not have the time to wait for long downloads and choose your competitor’s site instead. Also, information and keywords mentioned in images cannot be read and indexed by search engines. Keep it simple and if you want to use images, make sure you test your site using a slow Internet connection before you set it live for everybody to see.
9. Separate online from off-line effort
In order to impress visitors with your website you have employed an agency or the neighbors’ son who is really creative and knows the latest technologies. All too often this means, that your website doesn’t fit in with your other collateral. Make sure that your existing brochures, stationery, etc. and you website have more in common than your logo and contact details. Use a set colour scheme and maybe you have a company font you always use, or you have certain images that identify your company. Make sure that your existing customers instantly recognise your new website as yours.
10. A site nobody knows exists
Too many companies concentrate on getting their website off the ground, that they forget to tell people about the site when it is finally available. Make sure your website is mentioned on everything you produce, i.e. business cards, stationery, packaging, advertising, e-mail signatures, brochures, exhibition stands and material, etc. There is no point in having a website if nobody knows it is out there. The next step is obviously ensuring that your site is featured on major search engines, your entry in the yellow pages and possibly top 10 lists of your industry’s publications or association newsletters. Why not try Winweb’s search engine opimisation service?