Too many times I have witnessed proud business owners bragging excitedly about their newly-developed whiz-bang website, which is definitely going to boost sales (how could it fail?).
All too often, the eventual results are quite the opposite. The business owner is left scratching his/her head in confusion, wondering why their website isn't magically attracting new customers - after all, it looks so flash and cost so much to develop, it must have been a winning design!
Frustratingly, this scenario is easily avoided with some simple preparation ahead of the project. The key mistake most business owners make is leaving the planning of website layout and functionality entirely in the hands of their designer.
Why shouldn't I let the web designer plan my website for me?
You might ask why allowing a website designer to plan your entire website is not a good idea, after all, they are the ones who do this professionally and SURELY know what works for everyone, right? Wrong! The website you are commissioning is for YOUR business and YOU therefore need to plan its functionality!
It's important to get clear on the things a website designer CAN help you with, in order to know which aspects are actually yours to plan:
- Aesthetics - I would definitely recommend taking advice on how your website will look from your designer - that's what they are there for! Don't get stuck on what a website used to look like several years ago, as things change fast on the web. Of course, that doesn't mean you should allow yourself to be talked into something you simply don't like or that doesn't match your business's corporate colour scheme, fonts, etc. Just remain flexible and a good tip is take a look at some other websites you like using so you have an idea what you are looking for.
- Security - be guided by what your developer advises in this respect. This might include which web host they recommend (a very important decision that should never be solely based on price); whether your website needs an SSL certificate (a definite 'yes' from me nowadays); how to minimise potential attacks; additional software needed for your website (websites built using WordPress have optional security plugins you can add to better secure your site, but some have additional costs attached); and the list goes on. Trust me, you'll want help with these aspects of your website's functionality and don't fool yourself into thinking you're too small to have your website hacked - if you're on the internet, you are big enough to be hacked!
- Search engine optimisation - this is extremely important in order to gain website traffic, but is definitely not dependent solely on keywords and search terms as was the case in years gone by. Instead, this will be an important consideration throughout your entire website as much of the content, multimedia, and layout will assist with this.
- Responsive design - another critical aspect you need to consider when designing a new website and your designer should be able to advise you about this, particularly with over 50% of shoppers now choose to shop with their smartphone rather than their computer. The theme your website is built-on NEEDS to have this capability or I would strongly recommend NOT using it.
However, the one thing your website designer DOESN'T know all about is YOUR ideal customer, particularly if you work in a highly-specialised field such as psychic work or holistic healing. You're the expert, so you need to plan for your customers. Your designer can give you suggestions and advise on what others are doing, but ultimately, you are the one who will know what your customers are looking for before they make a booking - and therefore you need to plan your website accordingly. Are you leaving these key decisions about how your potential clients think, feel and therefore act to your designer, when in reality they are business decisions rather than a design decisions?
Hopefully I have thus far convinced you why the planning stages for your new website are essential and why you are potentially wasting thousands of marketing dollars if you skip this critical step.
Next, let's take a look at those 5 big mistakes you can easily avoid with good planning:
Mistake # 1. Building a website to suit yourself instead of your ideal customer.
First rule of thumb - your website is not for you, it's for your customer! If you don't already know your market demographics (i.e. statistics about who purchases from you), make it your business to know. If you are a niche or specialty business, professionally-collated statistics may not be available, but you can collate your own statistics by going through your past client purchases and looking at the average age, gender, profession, income, etc, of past clients to see if you can build an 'average' profile. If your client-base is varied, then consider the type of person who might use your services - what is their need, their type of issue, their emotional state when choosing your service, etc. Determining 'who' your customer is and how they use the internet means you can design your website to suit THEM and therefore attract the right clientele.
Mistake # 2. Not being clear on the purpose of your website.
This seems obvious, but I assure you if you look at the next 5 websites you visit closely, you will find most do not consider this! For instance, if your main focus is to sell items online, then it would be madness not to feature products for purchase on your Home page. In contrast, if your main focus is to provide information to potential customers so they can get in touch to discuss their needs further, then your website needs to engage the potential customer in that manner. Another consideration would be website features needed, such as the ability to search for products in an online store, which would not be necessary if only offering service outlines.
Mistake # 3. Building a hard-to-navigate website.
Once you know the purpose of your website, this should be easy to avoid. You don't want a complicated and cluttered site for your customers navigate, but you also need to ensure you cover all the information your potential customers might expect from you when making their purchasing decision. A good way to do this is to map-out on paper the pages as boxes and how they link or flow into each other as below:
Start with the home page, work out where you want to lead the customer next (i.e. 'Why use my services?', for instance), and then consider stepping the customer through your site in a logical but useful manner. If you build the website in this way, you will find no unnecessary pages and an easy-to-follow website for your potential customers which will hopefully lead to more sales or bookings.
Mistake # 4. Poorly written website copy.
It goes without saying that a potential customer is judging you by your website, so spelling mistakes and badly written copy are a big no-no! Additionally, try to think about your business from the point-of-view of your customer and not yourself. For instance, if you want to tell your customer what your qualifications are and experience, don't list it as a 'brag sheet' but instead as 'what I can offer you' and why these matter to your potential customer. Another important tip is not to write in industry-speak or using terms someone outside of your field won't understand - write the way your customers might explain what you do instead.
Mistake # 5. Flash websites - don't do it!
I'm a big believer in keeping things simple, so I do my best to avoid flash websites. Additionally, everyone is viewing the website on a different device and there is SO much that can and will go wrong when a website is reliant on a particular plug-in like flash. My advice - keep your design simple and ensure it is viewable on ALL devices.
So there you have it, my 5 mistakes to avoid when having your new business website designed. If you plan ahead and ensure YOU are the one deciding what your business needs from the website, while your website designer works on the design and functionality sides of your website to suit your specified needs, you can't go wrong!
I'd love to hear what you think, particularly about what you love or hate in website design - please do comment below.
Yours in best business design,
Want to work with me on your next website? Read more about what I can offer you here.