9 Common Mistakes You Might Be Making with Your Website
Many solo business owners spend a lot of hours building their own websites. This is especially true when they are first starting out and funds are tight.
I think of my website as a virtual home for my business. A place where I invite people to come in, have a look around and get comfortable.
As you know, creating a comfortable and cozy home requires a lot of skill and expertise. There are many necessary elements to creating a living space: architecture, plumbing, electrical work, and interior design, to name just a few.
Similarly, there is a lot of nuance and psychology to effective website design planning. Not to mention the technical know-how to make it all work across a variety of screen sizes.
I've watched the web come into existence and then completely reinvent itself over the last 20 years.
And now, I've compiled this list to help you avoid the biggest mistakes I see on many different websites.
Mistake #1: You're not sure where to begin, so you assume the personality of someone else.
Contrary to popular belief, no master formula for building the perfect website exists. Far too many are buying into opinions that are not their own. Your client wants to know YOU. And though the process can feel excruciating, you can't shine through someone else's words.
I like to guide my clients through this little exercise to give them a starting point.
- What do they (your best clients) know?
- What do they NOT know right now?
- What do they NEED to know right now to take the next step?
These three questions can help you connect your work with your clients’ emotions. And when you show that level of understanding, the words come a little easier.
When it comes to the visual style of your website, it also needs to represent you. Too many people start by finding sites they "like." And although research is good, when you copy their look, you've already lost clients.
Part of your website’s purpose is to embody the experience of working with you. This creates an instant, personable connection between you and the client. Kind of like when you meet a new friend at a party. You chat a bit, but there's that immediate gut reaction of, "We're going to be friends!"
That's the feeling you want to create when people visit your site.
Mistake #2: Listening to Bad (For You) Advice.
There's a common theme in both physical and virtual businesses: Everyone is looking for more. More subscribers, more followers, more clients.
I once got caught up in this endless pursuit of more. It cost me stress, friendships, money and almost my business. But hey, I was trying to build a successful business. Wasn’t that what I was supposed to do?
Turns out, there's a big difference between more and better. Your website isn't your door to more. It's about attracting better clients and the money you need to keep your business going.
When we chase more, we often lose sight of everything else.
So for now, as you're building your website, think about what's better.
- Is there a better way to foster connection with the people you want to work with (even if you're not quite sure who that is)?
- Is there a better way to communicate the transformation you help your clients to experience?
- Is there a better way to meet your client’s current needs when they first land on your website?
- Is there a better way to show who you are and what the experience of working with you is like?
I challenge every client I work with to define their better because it's that important. In my own business, better looks like this:
It's better to attract 1 client than 10 because my best work comes from total focus on a single person.
It's better to guide and support one client than drown thousands of them in knowledge they can't apply.
It's better to have a sustainable life based on my values than make millions "chasing" the dream.
It's better to help someone see all that they have to offer than give them more instructions to follow.
That's a few of my main definitions of "better" when it comes to building and marketing my business. I encourage you to take some time to define this for yourself before you start building your website. The end result will be far stronger for it.
Mistake #3: Working in a silo.
This one’s hard for us introverts. Part of the reason I wanted to start my own business was so I could be alone! Office life was tough for me with so many other people around.
But I've learned over time that solo doesn't mean alone. As I've reached out to a larger community of my peers, my work and my words have only gotten stronger. I've gained insights and clarity I couldn't achieve on my own.
So as you are building your site, enlist mentors and friends that can offer support. Remember to choose carefully. You need people that have an ability to contribute constructive feedback. Not ones who'll only say it looks nice.
Mistake #4: Using images without a license.
This is the single most costly mistake to your bottom line. I get that Creative Commons and Uncopyright are a thing. But there is no protection for YOU in it.
What happens when that photographer decides to sell that piece of work - copyright and all? You have no written permission to have it on your site. That means lawyers get involved and they are expensive!
The good news is that a little leg work will keep you out of court. Here are your best options:
Direct registration or subscription to a reputable photo service. My current favorite is Death to Stock. But there are many available through companies and individuals.
Written permission for use from the creator. Send an email and ask to use the photo. (Even if it is free for use under the Creative Commons.) When you have explicit, written use permission from the creator, you've got a leg to stand on with the law. It doesn't mean you're airtight, but it should help you avoid fines and court costs. In your email, be explicit about your intent for use of the image. Also, I'm not a lawyer. So consult a real one if you want guaranteed protection.
Mistake #5: Incomplete, long and confusing copy.
As a visitor to your site, I have to understand 4 things immediately:
What do you do for me
How do you do it for me
How it helps me with my problem
What do I do now
If you can cover that, consider yourself done with the copy.
Mistake #6: Inconsistent visual style.
55% of what your website communicates to a potential client comes from the visual content. That’s your logo, images, graphics, etc. All of the components that add to the “look” of your site.
Often, these visuals also extend to your social media channels and marketing materials. It is important to be visually consistent across every touch point that your client has with you. Be visually professional and consistent. Remember, you're trying to create the experience of working with you in a virtual space. What visuals support and embody that experience?
Choose 3 colors that create the experience you want them to have. For example, if you want them to feel excited when landing on your site:
Use saturated, bold colors like red, yellow and orange.
Choose images that also have these bold, saturated colors.
Use darker versions of these colors to make links and headings pop.
Use lighter versions of these colors to accent or draw the eye to specific information.
How do you darken and lighten a color? It’s simple. Once you’ve selected your base color, use black to darken and white to lighten the shade.
As a brand designer, I’ll add complementary colors in varying shades and tints to my client’s brand palette. But you don’t have to go that far. Simply choose 3 colors and darken or lighten with the basic black and white.
Another tip is to not fear using the same picture multiple places. Although we want content to feel new and different, that doesn’t mean you have to find a new picture for everything. You can use an image in different ways and in multiple places.
One of my favorite ways to use the same image twice is to use the full version on an article. Then I crop the image down to a certain portion to use with a social media post promoting that article. Just give yourself the freedom to get creative.
Mistake #7: No security, broken links and forms/buttons don't work.
This one is so vital, they even built it into the Google Search ranking criteria. Go with a reputable and secure hosting company (I recommend SquareSpace, here's why.)
Make sure you check every link on your site monthly to be sure that it goes where it should. Fill out your own forms and experience the process your potential customers do. Tweak and fix any issues or roadblocks.
It pays to be diligent and thorough in this area. You don't want to be like one potential client I spoke with recently, who said, "I don't even know if people can buy things on my site because I've never made a sale."
This is an easy fix. Buy something from your store and see if it works. You can always refund the credit card charge. What you can't afford is waiting for the customer to tell you it doesn't work.
Mistake #8: Not tied to a single business goal.
The first question I ask any client when they come on board is this: What do you want the website to do for your business? The answer depends on your business model and your marketing strategy. But there should always be one goal.
My site goal is to have a call with the potential client. And all roads lead there. It's because I value that personal connection before working together.
Your site goal may be to build your email list. Or it could be that you want people to share your writing to help spread a message far and wide. Whatever the goal, make sure it is singular, clear and a has a distinct presence all over your website.
Mistake #9: That time could have made you money.
I've been in business my entire life. Seriously. My dad serves on the board of directors for a family-owned company. He's the only one on the board with a different last name.
My favorite activity starting around age 6 was to go to the plant with him. I loved it. I always paid attention when he was on business calls or talking to the owner of the company. I shared in the hardships of low revenue and the highs of exceeding quarterly goals. I've watched them expand and contract and expand again over the last 35 years.
I've also worked for (and with) over 10 family-owned small businesses in my life before I started my own. I know what it takes to make it and what slows down the sales momentum.
Your most valuable resource in your business is your time. And you have to divide it between leading the business, serving your clients and finding new ones. Here's the secret. DIY-ing your website means taking time from one of these three areas. Is that a sacrifice worth making when you could be focusing on selling?
Let's say you could sell 5 new clients on your business in the one day it takes me to build your website. What would that revenue mean to your business? Then think about how many clients that new website can help bring you when built well. What is possible for your business then?
In 35 years of watching small business owners, the biggest lesson I've learned is this . . . there will always be trade-offs between hiring someone and doing it yourself. Just try and make sure you're not costing the business more money when you take it on yourself.