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Top 16 Website Mistakes Made by Small Businesses

website-mistakes-smHow many of these website mistakes did you avoid when building your site? Did you get caught by any of these?


1. Don’t shop around and pay way too much

Because small business owners and managers are so busy managing multiple areas of the company, it is tempting to look at one company that appears to be capable. Consider at least two different website developers. If you don’t know another website developer to get a quote from, ask the current web developer that you are considering or ask other businesses who they use.

2. Unbridled enthusiasm leads to a “backward implementation”

The concept of being a business with an online presence can be very exciting. Many businesses get so excited about the potential that they approach the project totally backwards – they get a domain name and the hosting, develop the web site, and determine what customers want. A company should follow the following steps in this order for lower cost and improved success: 1) Define customer expectations and needs; 2) Develop the web site – you can reserve a domain name at this time, but hosting is not needed yet; 3) Select the hosting and activate domain name; 4) Upload web site to server and integrate your internet presence into your marketing approach.

FREE TIP: Don’t buy a dozen domains just because you “might need them.” What a waste of money.

3. Poor structure and formatting

Look at some of the most widely known web sites and you will see nice, clean formatting and a structure that is easy to navigate. Many sites have terrible navigation with broken or unclear links, horrible formatting like dark text on a dark background, and inconsistency from page to page. Poor structure and formatting causes potential customers to leave as soon as they see the first page.

4. Overkill on graphics and personal photos

Web design software allows a designer to place more graphics on a website than is practical. In addition, a large image can be shown as smaller than its actual size, but could still consume a large amount of bandwidth. Personal photos do not always present a professional appearance and should be used sparingly.

5. The Company Vision is listed first

The last thing a potential customer wants to look at is your company’s internal practices and vision statements. Ask yourself “Why is a potential customer looking at my website?” Chances are that most potential customers want to look at the benefits your products or services provide to them – list them on the front page or provide an easily noticed link to the products and services information.

6. Listing of e-mails (This is bad? Yes, it can be)

If you list your e-mail on a website, a spambot can locate it and use it to spam you. Some companies understand this risk and will still list their e-mail address, which requires them to install anti-spam software or even have a larger e-mail server to handle the junk mail traffic. A better option that works well is to have an entry form that influences how potential customers communicate with you. This form does not expose your e-mail address to the web, but can still forward customer comments directly to your e-mail.

7. Restrictive or intrusive forms

While forms are a valuable way to gather information about potential customers, many developers make each field a requirement and ask intrusive questions. This prevents potential customers from contacting your company. A better approach is to have non-intrusive questions with most fields being optional.

8. Trying to do it all – self hosting, domain name purchase, and updates

Unless you have a very large corporation with strong network support, it is nearly impossible to effectively host a web site from your own server and keep all updates current for security maintenance.

9. Wrong service – storage, bandwidth, provider reliability, support, technology, or other options

Because of the wide variety of options available for getting a website up and running, many organizations have made costly mistakes. Depending on what your customers need on a website and your plans as an online enabled business, your website needs will vary widely.

10. Web site looks old or has dates indicating that there are no updates

The path to heck is paved with good intentions.

Developers think that they will update the website every week, but it never seems to happen that way. Website designers may include “updated on” dates, dated news, and other dated materials that indicate that the web site is not regularly updated. Unless you have a full-time web developer that LOVES to write, listing dated materials can be problematic. You could also hire a great writer.

11. Use of family and friends to refer “experts”

I just heard a dozen professional developers cringe! Find a website developer that has done the work before. Ask other businesses, ask the local chamber of commerce for contacts, or browse existing websites to locate good developers.

FREE TIP: Ask for their portfolio or go see their site. Weird thing – some great developers have crappy sites, but do great work on their customers’ sites.

12. One person’s view is not enough – you need two or three

Imagine that your website is nearly done. Are you going to make the final approval without asking anyone else what they think? You should contact a few people to develop ideas and find criticisms to improve your final website design.

13. Spelling, grammar, and style problems

The most common embarrassment in websites is not technical functionality or appearance; the most common mistakes are grammar errors, spelling mistakes, and poor readability. A website developer should correct any of these errors on your website for free; even better, the errors should never appear!

14. Use of large files to deliver information with the assumption that everyone has a fast connection

Some small businesses have their website on their company server, where scarce resources are shared between customers, employees, and updates. This potential speed problem is made even worse by overly large files and unnecessary graphics that prevent fast download – the slowdown is on the company server, not with the customer’s Internet connection.

15. Overkill on animation, blinking text, and other distractions from communication to the customer

This problem has declined over the past several years. A great website will have easy navigation, appropriate graphics, a good color scheme, and will avoid anything that drives potential customers away.

16. Customers have a sense of “What now?” when they enter the site

Value-added content is information that helps your customer’s business or enhances their life. Do you produce wire harnesses? List the 10 best ways to protect the harnesses from damage or the 5 best ways store the material effectively. If they don’t find what they need, there needs to be a quick way to request information without having to provide a detailed biography in the Contact Us form.

Know of any other really bad mistakes made by small businesses on their first website? Let us know in the comments.

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