These Are the Worst Mistakes You Can Make on Your Website
In her first column for My Domaine Australia, creative director of Smack Bang Designs, Tess Robinson shares with us her insights into the special kind of madness that is creating a website from scratch, and five common mistakes to avoid like the plague.
Ever copped a snowball to the face? It stings. I’ll tell you what else stings? Executing an epic marketing campaign to directs the right gang of customers to your website, but no one purchases a g-damn thing. They don’t even submit a cheeky little ‘hello’ through that cute AF contact form of yours. You wait a few days thinking that maybe everyone is just taking their time and will add to cart once they’ve finished their cup of tea. And you wait. And you wait. And you wait. And the only thing that happens of note, is a tumbleweed rolls across your checkout and out your door.
What on earth went wrong? The marketing campaign was obviously tight, it attracted all the right customers, and hell, they even made it right to your front door. But in the eleventh hour, your website let you down. It fell flat on its face and those customers that had travelled from near and far, came in one door and went out the other. They didn’t exit via the gift shop. A kick-ass website is an absolute must to ensure the highest level of conversion at the most pivotal of times. Because otherwise, all the hard work you put into the marketing campaign and building your brand is as useless as a chocolate teapot.
I, of all people, know from first hand experience that building a website is tough work. But when you get it right, it does wonders for your brand: inviting people in, showing off your latest projects, communicating your deepest drivers and providing an online platform for people to hand you their cold-hard cash—KA-CHING! Your peeps can flick through your website on the bus, they can show their mates at a party, hell, they can even check it in the shower while they're simultaneously on the phone to their best mate. Building a kick-ass website is a fine achievement and a great depiction of your life’s work.
...But putting it together might almost kill you. Like really, probably your closest call with death so far. Building a site from scratch is a test of patience and requires a lot of elbow grease. After noticing clients struggle with all the little decisions required to build a website from scratch, I decided to simplify the process. I built First Flight. We offer pre-designed, easily customisable website templates for people who want to bypass the often time-consuming process of embarking on a website mission from the ground up.
In the hope of saving you a few headaches when building the site of your dreams, I’ve compiled a little list of mistakes to avoid like you would the plague. Buckle up!
Mistake #1: Your photos are as a dodgy as a speed dealer
If there’s one thing I believe you should splurge on (straight after your branding, of course!), it’s your imagery. I’m not talking dropping a Kimmy K bling-to-the-ring-splurge, but I do believe that investing what you can in creating some bang-on, original imagery will work wonders for your website. Cheesy stock photos do nothing but make visitors want to douse your website in petrol and light a flame on your homepage. Ensure that your imagery is on brand, on tone and representative of your brand personality. You don’t need loads of photos, but make sure the few that you use are of a high standard and reflect the essence of your brand. Check out Stocksy.com for some non-cringeworthy photos that won’t make you gag on your ham sandwich.
Mistake #2: It looks like a dog’s breakfast
With humans, it’s what’s on the inside (not the outside) that matters. However, when it comes to websites, outside looks and inside... innards matter just as much as one another. Ensure that your website reflects your brand and you’ve got some form of consistency between your fonts, colours and overall tone. In my opinion, simple design is king, and white space the underrated godsend of design. Admittedly, my gorgeous Kelpie’s breakfast lacks direction, cleanliness and educated navigation; let’s hope your website doesn’t too? Make it easy for your users to get around your site and allow them to find exactly what they’re looking for with ease and aplomb. If you don’t take pride in keeping up appearances, you’ll be counting your followers on one hand.
Mistake #3: It’s still using dial up internet
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s 2017. We’re regenerating human stem cells and texting people from our wrists. Similarly, people have hand-held devices called mobile phones they use to look at your website, each and every day. Ensure your website is mobile friendly and doesn’t require the user to zoom in and out 6 trillion times to go through the checkout process. Dial up internet was a genius flash of the modern world, but we’ve outgrown it. Waiting for a slow loading site is like crawling into a coffin. Time stops for no-one and users will wait only 3 seconds for a page to load before saying sayonara. Keep your content fresh and up to date! Unless you’re Shakespeare back from the dead, the copyright note in your footer should not say copyright 1614—this is not a good look.
Mistake #4: You’ve forgotten what you’re here for
Rihanna and Calvin Harris were clear on what you came for, so you should be too. I often come across websites that make the civil engineer in me (my alternate calling) go red with rage. It’s sometimes all too clear the person behind the site didn't spend enough time planning what their website should achieve and how, and rushed into how it should look. Get clear on what your website needs to achieve and hit it home, on brand and on purpose. Each page should be clutter-free, straight to the point and include a clear call to action that tells the user how you want them to behave and which step you want them to take next. Of course this needs to be done with gentle, affable invitation rather than a Hitler-esque tone.
Mistake #5: Your copy is harder to read than a roadmap
Writing engaging, effective and entertaining copy can sometimes seem harder than saying no to an ice-cold beverage on a smoking-hot day. But if there’s one thing that’s worth it, it’s getting your copy right. Having well written, clear, concise and compelling words on your website will add the final touch of magic that takes a ‘meh’ to a ‘yeeeeeeah!!’.
Unless you’re an especially good writer, consider using a pro copywriter to write or at least edit your content. They’ll be able to make it tight, get the SEO cranking by knowing which keywords to feature to help move you up the ranks in search engines, and nail your tone of voice and personality so that your brand comes to life in front of you. Just as design turns heads, copy turns minds, so use your copy as an opportunity to emotionally engage, express your personality, be irresistibly original and resonate with your people. If you connect with your words, your people will respond with their clicks, their wallets and their hearts.