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Guest view: Avoid these five common website mistakes

Humorist Will Rogers once said, “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” As a website designer, I can appreciate that sentiment.

I regularly encounter smart people who are experienced and successful in their chosen professions, but who can’t figure out why their websites are falling flat.

When it comes to making your website successful, great content is important, but it isn’t everything. Here are a few mistakes we’ve seen at Sparrow, as well as some ways to keep from making them in the first place.

Not using enough research

Want to know what your customers — or potential customers — like in a website? Ask them.

Potential customers will tell you what you can do to convert them from potential buyers to actual buyers. Many businesses will design and launch a website without actually speaking to customers to find out what they might find appealing.

“Research” can be as simple as gathering together five or six existing or potential customers and making a list of what they find attractive in a website. A simple conversation can reap huge rewards and time savings when it comes to designing your site.

Being too creative

A confused website visitor will leave. Good, brand-focused visual appeal is important, but too many fonts, too many pictures, and too much design-for-design’s-sake can spell trouble.

Every ‘click’ on your site should lead to a clear next step. Help your customers travel the path from learning about your business to using your business by showing them the way. Always give your web visitors clear options to move forward to new information or back to catch up on something they may have missed. Have your phone number, contact email and mailing address prominently displayed so a customer can reach you.

Cutting corners on a hosting service

Think of your own web-browsing habits: You want pages that load quickly, that don’t crash and that feature rock-solid security. The same is true for the people who come to your site. If you opt for the cheapest hosting service and cut corners on speed, reliability and security, it will cost you customers. You might not get a second chance if your site takes too long to load or crashes in the middle of a browsing experience.

Not using the website data

Analyzing your website’s activity will give you valuable details about who is visiting your site, what is working and what isn’t, why people are buying from you and — most importantly — why they aren’t. Here are a few examples of things you might discover by digging into your website’s analytics:

  • Your most popular pages — and how you can leverage them to keep customers on your site
  • Your most — and least — mobile-friendly pages (more than 50 percent of web searches are done via mobile device)
  • Missing calls-to-action or contact information or dead-end pages
  • Information about your products or services that customers are searching for on your site — and perhaps not finding, resulting in lost sales

Letting your website get stale.

Websites are not a “set it and forget it” form of marketing. Even the best websites can lose their luster if they remain unchanged. A business should plan for regular updates in web design and content. Frequency of those updates can vary depending on industry and business. At Sparrow, we recommend adding new images and information no less frequently than every four to five months.

As a rule, if you approach your site design and upkeep from the perspective of a website user as well as a website owner, you have a better chance of creating a rewarding and informative experience for your visitors — and a potentially profitable experience for your business.

Adam Grim is a web development strategist and co-founder of Sparrow Websites in Columbia.

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