We look at a lot of websites as part of the work we do for our clients. We see the good, the bad, and the ugly. I can usually distinguish which websites were created by a professional web design firm, the ones that were created from a template, and the ones that were created by an amateur.
Poor design is the most obvious indication, but there are other tip-offs that a website was created by an amateur. Below are some of the more common amateur mistakes of business websites.
Mistake #1: Poor Navigation Scheme
People like to know where they are, where they’re going, and where they’ve been. Below are a few tips for good navigation:
- Keep it consistent. Don’t confuse your visitors by switching up your main menu links from page to page. Varying subpage menus are okay, especially for larger websites, but even subpage menus should follow a consistent format that site visitors will understand.
- Clue visitors in to where they’ve been. Use a different color for visited links as a subtle indication that a page has already been visited. Keeping the main menu text the same color is okay, but make it obvious if links within the content go to pages that the visitor has already seen.
- Don’t make them guess. Website visitors are probably not coming to your site to play a game called “What’s Behind Link #2?” Make sure your link text tells visitors what they will get if they click the link.
Mistake #2: Hiding Your Contact Information
I see this one all the time. You’ve created a website to communicate with customers and prospects, but you make them jump through hoops if they want to communicate with you. They have to search for a contact page or scroll to the bottom to find your phone number. Worse, they have to fill out a form because you’re afraid to include a phone number, address, or email address anywhere on your site.
Put your critical contact information front and center and on every page of your website.
Mistake #3: No Text on the Home Page
Okay, so this one trips up a lot of experienced web designers as well. Sure, it seems like a good idea to fill your home page with captivating images at the expense of text, but it’s a bad move for search engine optimization.
When Google and other search engines go to your website and are greeted with images they can’t see, they have very little to go on in determining what your website is all about. Consequently, your website won’t rank very highly for search terms that your customers and prospects are using.
That’s why, in addition to compelling imagery, your home page should include keyword-rich, persuasive content that speaks to customers, prospects, and search engines.
Mistake #4: Using the Company’s Internal Language
Each company has a language of its own with terminology that means nothing to their customers. When I was in college, I worked as a cook in a local restaurant. One of the most commonly ordered items was our Spinach Artichoke Dip, but you never heard “Spinach Artichoke Dip” in the kitchen. We referred to it simply as “Spinart.” All of the restaurant’s employees knew what “Spinart” was, but it would have been idiotic to put “Spinart” on the menu.
That may be an extreme example, but a lot of business websites are filled with the company’s internal language.
Talk to your customer service reps, your tech support staff, and your sales reps. They’re on the front lines in your business, so they know how your customers are talking about your products and services.
Use your customers’ language on your website rather than the company’s. Organize your menus and your information according to your customers’ needs. Don’t base the website’s information architecture on the internal structure of your business.
Mistake #5: No Call To Action
Our web design process typically includes a detailed, page-level content strategy that identifies one or more calls-to-action for each page on the site. The job of a business website is almost never simply to coax people to read a few paragraphs of content. The job of a business website is to get the customers and prospects to do something that will further their relationship with the company.
A call to action is like a road sign. It tells your website visitors which way to go from wherever they are. It defines the next step to keep the customer moving forward in a way that strengthens their connection with your business.
Calls-to-action often come in the form of buttons, banners, links, phone numbers, and persuasive copy. Ask yourself what next step your website visitor needs to make on each page. What does he or she want to accomplish?
What are some of the amateur mistakes that you find on business websites? Add them below in the comments.