Your company’s website is one of your most important brand assets and your strongest marketing tool. Any flaws in functionality or design translate directly to customers and dollars lost. Follow these tips to offer the best possible user experience.
A website is an essential source of lead generation, conversion, and customer service. Too often, companies miss opportunities by making or overlooking fundamental web design mistakes that create barriers for potential customers.
The goal is to make your website as user-friendly as possible, so that a prospect’s path from discovery to conversion is seamless, with minimal obstacles to disrupt their journey. Whether your website is already up-and-running or you’re just starting to think about it, let the following list of common website mistakes be your guide.
Sometimes the best way to learn what to do is by learning what not to do.
Let’s dive in.
1. Too Much Text
The Problem: People visit your website for one of two reasons: Either they’re a prospect looking for solutions, or they’re a current customer looking for service. In each situation, finding a homepage filled with dense paragraphs of content will overwhelm and discourage them.
The Fix: Hire a copywriter. You would never try to design a website in place of a professional web designer, but many people make the mistake of thinking that being able to write a proficient email = being able to write copy on behalf of their company. Copywriting is an expertise just as much as design. Hire a professional to do it right, whether that’s starting from scratch or editing your existing content to focus your core message.
2. Not Enough White Space
The Problem: A web page filled with photos, graphics, and text overwhelms users and inhibits legibility. Cluttered web design distracts visitors so that they struggle to actually comprehend the content displayed.
The Fix: Strip your web design down to its most essential elements. Each page should focus the visitor’s attention on what’s most important. On the homepage, that would be a concise summary of who you are and what you offer. On an interior page, it might be your services, portfolio images of your work, a newsletter signup form, or a checkout button. White space isolates the focus element, drawing the eye straight to it rather than to competing page elements.
3. Unorganized Layout
The Problem: When a visitor lands on your web page, you have a limited window of time to make a good impression and deliver what they’re looking for before they click away. Your website needs to be well-organized so users can intuitively find the information they seek. If they have to dig for information, they'll quickly become too frustrated and move on.
The Fix: The first step of your web design process should always be to create a sitemap. This is your opportunity to identify the pages that will live on your site and outline the content each page will contain. Make sure the flow of pages and content is logical and intuitive, and that no single page is overpopulated.
Show your sitemap to someone not directly involved in the project to verify that it makes sense to a third party. Ask them to walk through the path they would take to find a particular piece of information, starting from the homepage. If their path is successful, you know your sitemap is sound.
4. Inconsistent Design
The Problem: There are many DIY website design platforms out there today, offering thousands of options for fonts, colors, and layouts. It can be tempting to go wild with these options, using different variations on every page. However, you do so at your own detriment. Not only does constant variation create the kind of visual chaos we cautioned against in #3, but the absence of any cohesive style also confuses your brand message.
The Fix: Before you start designing your website, define your brand style guide. This will consist of a designated font (or two, max) and a set color palette of no more than four or five different colors you will use throughout your site. Working within these parameters will give consistency to your design, essential for establishing brand familiarity and cohesive messaging. Unless someone on your team has prior design experience, you may be better off putting this process in the hands of a professional web designer.
5. No Clear Conversion Goals
The Problem: Your website does a lot of things. It houses information, answers questions, builds and maintains connections, aids discovery, and establishes brand. But the fundamental goal of your website is to convert prospects into customers. It is therefore shocking how common it is for companies to neglect building calls-to-action and conversion channels into their web design.
The Fix: Start with a clear conversion goal. What next step do you want visitors to take after they browse your website? Make a purchase? Sign up for an email list? Whatever it is, give that action prominence on your website. The call-to-action should appear multiple times throughout the site and the action itself should be easy to complete, requiring just a simple form or click of a button.
6. Not SEO Optimized
The Problem: Search engine optimization is about more than just stuffing your website full of keywords to rank highly in search results. Optimizing your website for search means providing search engines the information they need to verify your domain, crawl and archive your web pages, measure your authority, qualify your content, and, yes, determine where to rank your website in results. Providing inaccurate or incomplete information will damage your domain authority and lower your rankings.
The Fix: SEO has both on-page and off-page components that contribute to the overall SEO “health” of your website, some of which are in your control and some of which are in the hands of readers and visitors. Educate yourself on the elements you can control, such as page titles, meta descriptions, image alt tags, content quality, and site architecture. If your site is already live, go back in and fill any gaps. If you’re still building your site, make sure you’ve crossed your T’s and dotted your I’s before the site goes live.
7. Not Mobile Friendly
The Problem: The future of web is mobile. Over half of all web traffic now takes place on a mobile device – 56% to be exact. Average conversions on smartphones are up 64% over desktop conversion rates. One third of all ecommerce purchases during the 2015 holiday season were made on a smartphone.
The Fix: Google reports that 61% of users will not return to a website they had trouble accessing on mobile, and 40% end up on a competitor’s site instead. There’s no way around it. If your website is going to be successful, it must be responsive and mobile-friendly. Responsive website design allows a web page to load and format correctly across all devices. You need to hire a programmer who can create a responsive web design, or work with a web design platform that offers responsive options.
8. Not Equally Accessible
The Problem: We all come to the internet with the same goals – connection, entertainment, information – but we don’t all come with the same set of abilities. Particularly for companies in industries such as senior housing or healthcare, it’s important to make sure your website is equally accessible. An accessible website is one that is user-friendly for all visitors regardless of any visual, auditory, cognitive, or physical impairments.
Accessibility is not only best practice for marketing to certain audiences, but may soon become a legal requirement according to forthcoming regulations from the DOJ that will require websites to adhere to Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 508 of the Workforce Rehabilitation Act.
The Fix: Start by assessing your website for the essential elements of accessible web design. We put together a Web Accessibility Checklist as a resource for our senior living and healthcare clients. The primary categories of importance are images, text, and video; navigability; functionality and user interface; and programming. Download the checklist to use as a guide, and plan to implement accommodations wherever you find areas of weakness.
9. Broken Links
The Problem: A broken link is one that delivers the user to a 404 error message or a non-existent page. Broken links signal to visitors that your website is out of date and/or uncredible. They also have SEO repercussions by signaling to search engine crawlers that your website is riddled with dead ends and has overall poor usability. Broken links can be both internal and external – links heading toward your site from outside sources, and links directing visitors to different pages within your website.
The Fix: There are many free online services that will search for and identify broken links for you. Use one to diagnose the URL health of your site. Redirect any internal broken links back to your homepage or another relevant interior page. If the link is simply outdated, delete it. External broken links most commonly happen when a company migrates their site to a new server or URL without setting up the proper redirects. Before making the move official, implement a site-wide 301 redirect to automatically forward visitors to your new online home.
10. Pages Load Slowly
The Problem: As internet speeds have increased, our patience for slow websites is nonexistent. With each second that a page takes to load, page abandonment increases exponentially. 40% of online consumers report that they will abandon a page if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. Server speed and page load time are thus critical ingredients for a positive user experience – and a successful business.
The Fix: Free tools such as GTmetrix will analyze your site’s speed and offer recommendations for how to improve it. Depending on the severity of your website’s lack of speed, solutions range from image compression and code revision, to redesign and hosting migration. If you don’t have any in-house web development experts, you’re probably going to want to outsource this one.
Think You're Guilty of These Common Mistakes?
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