Seven Sins of Website Design

Your website is one of your most important marketing tools. Unfortunately what many people don’t realise is that a badly executed website can let you down and cost you sales if it’s not built properly. I consult to a lot of people who approach me when they realise their website is not performing as they expected. When analysing these sites I find the following 7 website mistakes crop up time and time again.

1. Inconsistent Brand Image

This is perhaps more common with websites that were built over 3 years ago but so many websites have no connection with their company’s brand image. When building a website you need to make sure that your web designer has a good understanding of you business’s goals, brand and current marketing materials and can reflect them into the design of your website.

When starting work with a new client I always ensure they send me copies of their current logo and any marketing material they use. This includes, business cards, letterhead, brochures and any advertisements they run. I then use these to help ensure that the design we come up with is an accurate reflection of their company’s image and brand.

2. Not Including an About Us Page

People like to deal with other people not anonymous corporations. If I’m looking to buy a product or hire a company online one of the first things I do when I land on a website is check out their About Us page. I want to know who I am dealing with. If I can’t find one I wonder what that business has to hide. Worse is the boring bland About Us that makes me wonder whether the business is run by humans.

Use your About Us page to engage your prospects, tell them about your company and to encourage them to want to do business with you.

3. Not Including Contact Details

Many websites avoid including their contact details. A big no no in my book. Contact details can reassure your visitors that your business does exist and they are able to get in contact with you if they need to.

This is especially important to websites that are selling products online. If you’re wanting people to hand over their credit card details you need to let people know how they can get in touch with you. This is how you establish trust between your site and your prospects.

In the very least I would suggest including a phone number and postal address. A company with no physical contact details is generally not one you’d want to do business with.

4. Ignoring the KISS Principle

In the words of the renowned usability expert Steve Krug “Don’t Make Me Think”. You have about 3 seconds to capture a visitor’s attention. In that time you have to tell them who you are, what you do and what’s in it for them. If you don’t do this they’re out of there – hitting the back button to try their luck, and spend their dollars, elsewhere. Here are some simple ways to help your visitor’s experience:

  • Design each page to have one main objective. Tell your visits what the page is about and what you want them to do next.
  • Keep your navigation labels (Services, Contact Us etc) simple and self explanatory. It should also be consistent throughout your website. This is probably a little outdated these days (well I hope so) but don’t use obscure images in place of text. We call that mystery meat navigation.
  • Make it easy for your prospects by making sure clickable links look like clickable links. Online, an underlined word signifies a link. If it’s not a link don’t underline it.

5. Not Making Your Website Search Engine Friendly

I’m horrified at the number of websites I see that have not taken search engines into consideration at all. Search engines are one of the most common and popular ways for people to find your website. If your website has been designed and built in a way that is not search engine friendly you will have no chance of ranking in the search engines from the get go. Unfortunately there are many web design companies with no knowledge of how to build a search engine friendly website.

At the very least consider:

  • Incorporating targeted keywords into each page of your website. To do this you need to perform keyword research to select the most appropriate keywords related to your business and then assign one or two to each page of your site.
  • Make sure each page has a unique Page Title that incorporates your keywords and is compelling to encourage prospects to click on the link to your website.
  • Including unique Meta Description and Keywords on each page of your website. Again your meta description should be compelling and your keywords should be the same as those in your page title and body text.
  • Make sure your website includes a Site Map. A Site Map is a hierarchical tree linking to every page on your website. It is useful for visitors trying to find a particular page on your site and also helps the search engines crawl and index all of the pages on your website. You can see an example of a Site Map on our website.

See my list of resources at the end of the article for more information about search engine optimisation (SEO) and building a search engine friendly website.

6. Having Splash Pages

The vast majority of people visiting your website have a task in mind. They want to land on your website do what they need to do and then go. So why stop them with some fancy animation page before they can view your site. In a bricks and mortar store would you stop everyone at the entrance and make them view your commercial first? I thought not. So why put them through that on your website? I can’t think of a better, or quicker way to encourage someone to go elsewhere.

7. Websites That Lack Information

Website visitors are generally goal driven. Prospects visit your website with a goal in mind – whether that be purchasing a product, requesting more information or researching a future purchase. If your website does not provide them with the information they are seeking they will no doubt go elsewhere. Unlike many other mediums cost is not relative to space so you have much more opportunity to provide detailed information about your offerings. Use it. Or risk losing a sale.

I’ll give you an example. A while ago I was looking for a barbeque. I went to the website one of the most popular Australian barbeque brands. They listed everything about the barbeques except their prices. Being in a helpful mood I rang their customer number and explained how annoying it was to research their products but not to find prices. I was told they left off prices to stop their competitors seeing them. I kid you not. They figured they’d rather inconvenience their prospective customers than risk their competitors seeing their prices. Something a quick visit to a store or a phone call would fix. Not surprisingly I bought my barbeque elsewhere.

So there you have it, 7 of the most common website mistakes. If you already have a website it may be time to review the site and it’s performance and make changes where necessary. If you’re about to start a website design talk to your web designer about the points made in this article and be sure to address them. Online success is not guaranteed but with careful thought and planning you’ll go a long way in ensuring your website provides your visitors with a positive experience and performs as you expect.

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