Common Web Design Mistakes
There’s no secret sauce that would define a website as being perfect. Websites always need iterations and always need changes and upgrades and small refreshers to stay modern and current. But from all of the client sites we’ve seen, we’ve noticed some unfortunate patterns that seem to be very common.
Sometimes it’s a little difficult to put our thumb on what’s behind it. Is it a design aspect? Is it just an amateur build? Is it a web developer who also doubles as a email marketer and content developer and SEO and billboard and magazine Ninja?
There are common principles that really should be followed regardless of whoever builds a website or maintains it. There are certain things we need to follow no matter what our goals are, whether we’re a startup trying to put up a basic site in order to talk about who we are and what we do, or if we’re a bigger company with a different set of needs.
First of all, let’s make sure that the theme is correct. It’s the foundational platform upon which we build. Many times, we’ll see websites with good content, good images, etc., but then the theme sucks. Unfortunately, there’s really little that can be done to improve that other than changing it and updating the theme to something better.
Oftentimes we see website owners who really care what the colors are or where this or that particular thing is located. Unfortunately, the conversation moves away from what is best from a functionality and conversion perspective, and instead focuses on the personal taste of the owner. What they don’t seem to understand or care about is the data-driven aspects of what is tried and true. Particular elements are proven to convert, but they get masked over by an owner’s personal preference.
Certainly, owners are entitled to have their feel and look of their brand and their image conveyed through their website, but there are best practices. Sometimes the colors and certain aspects that get pushed onto a website really can have some negative effects.
It’s crucial to really ask, “What is this going to do for the customer?” The owners notice the colors and the layout, but the customer isn’t going to notice the difference in most cases.
We’re not advocating for a site that’s off-brand with random stuff thrown all around it. But after a certain point, the slight changes or differences have extremely little effect on the final outcome of what we’re trying to do. The owner is the only person looking at the website on a daily basis, whereas the customer is making a decision on a split-second basis, based on what they’re seeing on the screen.
We have to remember that our goal is to get the potential client to pick up the phone, not to create some theoretically perfect website.
There’s a best practice we like to go over with clients called “The Three Second Test.” Imagine a random person who has never been to your website. Within three seconds after landing on the site, they should have a very clear understanding about what exactly you do and who you service.
Attention spans are getting shorter with Instagram, Facebook, social media, and websites with video, moving parts, and all sorts of different experiences. Consumers have more options. There’s no shortage of websites out there for people to find content or vendors or other businesses to work with.
If your messaging is not clear, that’s the very first part that needs to be changed. A random person who has no idea about your business, what you do, or who you service should have a very clear understanding within three seconds.
The copy and text are so important. So many businesses that specialize in a specific field or a niche use industry lingo and common terms that make sense to them, but it’s not going to make sense for the consumer or the person they’re trying to educate.
Don’t write the copy from a company standpoint. Instead, write it from a customer standpoint. If you can’t figure out what the customer standpoint is, consider hiring a copywriter to help guide you.
When deciding on content, first ask, “Why is this specific content actually needed? Why is it beneficial? Are we just creating content in order to create content?”
More than likely, any content you create probably exists somewhere else on the web already, unless it’s a super specific niche. Most types of content already exist.
So, ask, “What’s the point of creating this specific content for this site? What’s the direction we’re trying to take? What’s the messaging we’re giving to the potential customer? Are we trying to explain our services in a succinct manner? Are we attempting to nudge someone to fill out a form? To call us?” A lot of the time we lose sight of our goal and not enough attention is paid to those specifics in general.
We often see websites that have either very weak calls to action, or worse yet, no call to actions at all. So often it just gets lost in the mix. They write all this text about who they are, what they do, or the services that they provide, but there’s no call to action. There’s no, “Download this PDF guide” or “Give us a call” or “Fill out this form.”
So, they’re putting together their whole business pitch, but not going in for the ask. All the effort is put into explanations and making every single item right, but never actually saying, “Hire us now.”
At the end of the day it’s all about the customer. It’s not about the company’s position or the experience of the website itself. It’s about the customer and how they are served.
The customer is coming to the website looking for something. They may be looking to do research, looking for more information, looking for personal validation to make a decision, or to move forward with something. Regardless, they’re looking for something, and the website needs to be positioned correctly. All the aspects — from the homepage all the way to the contact page and everything in between — need to be focused on delivering that answer to the customer.
And what’s that answer? It depends customer-to-customer and business-to-business. Ultimately, the goal is to convey, “Whatever it is you’re searching for, we’re the ones to call. Pick up the phone, send us an email, let’s start the conversation.”
At the end of the day, we always want to start a conversation with a potential customer.
We’re web developers ourselves, and we do this even with our own site. We’re constantly asking ourselves, “The message we’re delivering on this page, is it the correct message? Are we explaining the services enough? Do we want to go into long explanations of every single type of service that we do? Or is that too much for the average person looking for a reputable company that does A, B, C, D and E.?”
And it depends on the business. Certain businesses are positioned to educate. Let’s say you’re a financial advisor. Well, some financial advisors are looking for high levels of spend, in which case their positioning and marketing needs to be very different because they’re going to be looking to recruit someone from another financial advisor.
On the other side, there could be a financial advisor looking to get young professionals who are going to need that handholding, guidance, and education. That’s where content is going to be much more valuable. To someone who has never worked with a financial advisor, you should anticipate questions like, “How does it work? How are fees structured? Where do the investments go? How is the money managed?”
In that case, customers are going to need to have that education process to be able to build trust. They’re going to need to go back and forth and do the research so they can make a prudent decision. Whereas someone who is an established money manager, looking to recruit from a major bank, is not going to need as much research-based content.
So, how we position the messaging of the content of the site depends on the needs of the customer. The customer comes first.
Let’s not make it a long, drawn out explanation of who we are and why we’re so great. Instead, focus on how we’re improving the lives of our customers even if it’s in a very specific and simple way.
Understand the traffic that currently exists on your site, look at what the conversions currently are, optimize for an increase in percentage of conversions overall, which has a really great impact on your bottom line, understand the real value of your customers, and be able to track properly to understand who is what and what is who.
The strategy and the framework for your digital marketing efforts all need to fit together to create a successful plan that you can execute and have measurable results on.