Building your first website is a major event in the life of your business. Find out how to avoid these mistakes that can quickly turn an exciting Web project into a time-sucking headache.
Creating a website for your business seems simple enough, right? Well, it turns out there are some major pitfalls that even tech-savvy business owners fall into.
First and most important, understand you must actually have your own website. Unfortunately, far too many small-business owners mistakenly believe they can substitute a Facebook page for a website. You can’t. Without a site, you’re practically invisible to the billions of consumers who search online daily.
While it’s easier than ever to create a website, don’t automatically embrace the DIY approach. There’s nothing wrong with doing it yourself (or having a friend build it for you), but it’s important to create the right impression, and just building any old site isn’t enough.
Your site, says John Williams, founder and president of LogoGarden.com, is “an essential part of your brand strategy, because it’s often the first impression” consumers get about your company. It needs “to instantly and clearly communicate your company’s promise, who you are, what you offer, and how you can help site visitors.”
Jason Teichman, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at Web.com, says you have about eight seconds for your site to make a good impression. A site that’s not appealing to its target market, or one that functions poorly, can harm a new business more than help it. Your website reflects your business, and as Williams warns, if your website doesn’t perform well, consumers will assume your company doesn’t perform well either.
Related: Go Mobile … or Else
There are seven common mistakes entrepreneurs make when creating their first websites:
Mistake No. 1: Not having a goal
Teichman says entrepreneurs too often forget to determine a goal for their websites. Figure out, he advises, “what you want people to do. Drive business to your store, restaurant or office? Have visitors buy something online? Encourage the visitors to call you on the phone or download information from the site? If you’re a service provider, Teichman says it’s likely you want to drive consumers to call or make an appointment. But, he adds, “You’d be shocked how many websites don’t have phone numbers on them, or have them hidden on the bottom of the page.”
Mistake No. 2: Complicated Web design
Of course you want your site to be distinctive, but both Teichman and Williams warn against going over the top. “Don’t use every technical trick and all the bells and whistles you can find,” when creating your site, Williams says. “If your website doesn’t load quickly and accurately in a visitor’s Web browser or mobile device, they’ll leave and might never return.” Teichman adds that many business owners “fall in love with gadgets and widgets, trying to make the site so techy that it takes the human element out of it.”
Williams’ advice: “Choose design elements that enhance your site rather than damage the user experience. Less is more when it comes to Web design.”
This is crucial advice, especially since millions of consumers are turning to their mobile devices instead of their desktops and laptops. For instance, Flash will not load properly on many mobile devices. Make sure you create a version of your site that is optimized for mobile viewing. You can get information about this from dotMobi, goMobi or several other mobile Web design providers.
Mistake No. 3: Overflowing content
Similarly, Williams says, “Your first instinct may be to fill up the page with text, photos and as much information as possible.” But, he adds, this is “overkill, and you end up sacrificing quality for quantity.” Instead, your Web pages should be “clean, with relevant images.” Think “simple, easy to follow, and useful.”
Mistake No. 4: Being a copycat
Looking like your competitors is dangerous, warns Williams. His advice: “Create your own messages, reputation and strategies, and allow those unique aspects of your business to shine in your website design, promotions and communications. You need to stand out from the crowd, not blend in.”
Mistake No. 5: Lacking credibility
Mistake No. 6: Not doing it yourself
Do not, Teichman warns, delegate buying the domain name to a friend, colleague or employee. All too often that person registers the site in his or her own name, and if the employee leaves, or the other person “stakes a claim,” the site ownership can be in dispute. “We get so many calls every day [at Web.com] because of this. Do it yourself,” Teichman urges, “it only takes a few minutes.”
Related: Should Your Business Go PC-Free?
Mistake No. 7: Believing 'If you build it, they will come'
Attracting Web traffic is not as simple as the famous advice Kevin Costner received in the movie “Field of Dreams.” There are several ways to drive traffic to your website. Consider joining affiliate programs, sending email newsletters, and partnering with other sites and businesses to build traffic. It might be worth advertising on sites like Google or Facebook. You should join the online conversations happening on blogs and social media. By publishing comments and sharing your own expertise, you can post links to your relevant content.
Above all, be patient. This is not a get-rich-quick effort. Success doesn’t happen overnight.