Having evaluated and been a part of the creation of at least fifty websites, I have learned some fundamental rules that should be a part of every website, regardless of the business or industry. Many, many business owners that I talk with, who built their websites some years back have fallen into making some of the same mistakes and I thought it might be helpful to bring some of these up now. Website development has changed pretty dramatically in the last few years with a strong move toward websites that invite the visitor to participate and become engaged. Gone are the gaudy, Flash-driven websites that were more show than substance. Here’s my list of common mistakes:
- Not building your website on a Content Management System. You’ve heard the story before, “My webmaster, who built my site, decided to move to Tahiti and now I can’t get anything done.” Or, “Every time I request a change, it takes three weeks before it happens.” Unless you are a programmer and understand HTML or XHTML coding, always have your website developed on a Content Management System or CMS. This will make it as easy as typing in Microsoft Word to add content, upload images or add additional pages. There are a number of CMS platforms, some free and some that cost. There are advantages and disadvantages to all CMS platforms so be sure you understand what you’re getting and that who you hire knows the platform well. The main thing here is that you are in control.
- Not owning your website domain. I can’t tell you how many times I find that an owner’s website address (or domain name or URL) is registered in the name of their webmaster. If this is the case, even though it’s your business, you have absolutely zero control of that domain name and for all intents and purposes, you are not the owner. If you have spent years building equity and recognition of that domain name, yet it is in someone else’s name, you could be held hostage. Always have your name and address as the “administrative contact” and your website developer as the “technical contact.” That way they can talk to the domain registrar on your behalf, but you are still the owner. If it’s not that way now, stop reading and call your webmaster and request the change, now!
- Keeping your website content static. If you don’t keep the information you have on your website fresh and new, there is no reason for someone to come back to your site and be exposed to any new offers or specials you may have. They’ve seen all they need to. Your site is just an electronic brochure. Plus, if your site stays static then the search engines will also have no reason to come back and index the content of your website so you will not be rewarded with inclusion in the “first page” search results. Search engines crave new, original content. Blogs, news releases, white papers and announcements are all good ways to keep your content updated and changing.
- Not having a number of methods for collecting information about your visitors. Some experts claim that there should be up to four ways to capture critical information about the people that come to your site. This can be in the form of having them register to receive a newsletter, request a contact, download a free whitepaper, receive a coupon, or enroll in a seminar. By collecting this data, you can start to build a database of potential buyers, who although they may not be ready to purchase now, could be later and by knowing how to reach them, obviously with their permission, you can stay in front of them with future offers or information. It’s always important to be building your pool of leads.
- Making your website difficult to find information or to navigate within. When it comes to your web presence the rule of thumb is to keep it as simple as possible. Visitors to your site need to be shown where to find the information they are looking for. They need to be guided as to what you want them to do. Everything, especially the navigation, needs to be very intuitive and straightforward. This is not the time to test how smart your visitor is. Some would say to keep it to about the third grade level, and this would include the text as well. The old K.I.S.S. principal definitely applies to websites.
Here’s a bit of a bonus as well. In today’s world, everyone is using search engines to find the people, information, companies and locations that they are looking for. If you cannot initially do a full Search Engine Optimization of your site, budget for that down the road but at least make your site is as “search friendly” as possible.
I hope this helps and if you have comments, please let me know.