Most of the articles you will read about common website mistakes to avoid involve either bad web design elements or SEO problems. This article is a bit different.
In this article I’m going to share with you why I feel that the most terrible websites disasters happen LONG before anyone hires a web developer or sets out to learn how to build a website on their own.
I believe that the worst website mistakes either start at a desk in your back office or around your kitchen table late at night.
A NASA project engineer once wrote “The seeds of problems [in a project] are laid down early. Initial planning is the most vital part of a project. A review of most failed projects or project problems indicates that the disasters were well planned to happen from the start.”
When I was in the Army an old sergeant put it more bluntly “Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance.”
I strongly believe that piss poor planning can mess up even the most beautifully designed and constructed website.
The 6 P’s of Planning (Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance) should be used it as a cautionary phrase to anyone whose working a new website or a redesign project.
A good many website issues could be prevented or at least lessen in severity by the use of proper planning either by clients or by website geeks like me.
Most Website Disasters Are “Planned” To Happen From The Start
This is why when I finally got serious about retooling my own business website, I had to change out the theme, modify the color scheme to match my new logo, rework a lot of content, change up the fonts, re-plot my SEO strategy, etc.
Because of my poor prior planning, I had to basically scrap almost everything and start over again from scratch.
This was because I when I first started out doing business on the Internet, I had just slapped together a decent looking website just to get it up so I could start marketing my SEO copywriting service.
I didn’t take any real time planning anything beyond the appearance of my site – I just wanted it to look nice. Or at least not look as crappy!
Sound familiar yet?
I treated my business blog almost like one of those “pop-up stores or shops”. You know the ones that rent out a vacant warehouse or retail space and seems to ‘pop-up” over night?
These stores only stay open long enough to sell out their limited inventory of products then they close down until they have more stuff to sell or it’s a new season.
I was just like one of those stores. I would ‘pop up’ every once and while on my site and ‘write something’. I never gave much thought into what I actually needed the site to do for me long term.
I figured I would just change it around to get more work as a freelance SEO copywriter until I found a real job.
But that was 6 years ago and now my little side business has morphed into something much more stable, more enduring. Which was why I finally had to make the time to rethink and plan out what marketing objectives my website should have.
The Best Websites Always Start With a Marketing Plan
When you think about building a business website, think of it like designing and building your dream home.
If you were designing a dream home, you will probably spend years, looking at other houses to get ideas, jotting down notes, taking pictures or sketching possible floor plans on the backs of napkins and business reports.
Your dream home would be the place where you would eat, sleep, relax, entertain, raise a family, raise hell, cry in peace or laugh out loud.
That’s why it’s called a dream “home” and not a dream “house”. You would do all that planning because a dream home would be the center of your personal life.
Just as your office and place of business are the center of your professional life.
I have seen small business people spend more time wondering what kind of music should be playing in their office space than they do worrying why their web designer has chosen a website font type and size that is too difficult for most people to see – let alone read easily online!
Most business people don’t think of a website as being a part of their sales efforts or that is an online extension of their company.
Yet if run properly a business website will become the central hub of all your online activities. And will be seen by most people as a signal that you are legit and trustworthy company.
So the most important thing you can do is not only plan out HOW your business website will look but WHAT do you need for it do for you.
The Top 5 Small Business Website Mistakes To Avoid
Mistake # 1 – Not having a vision and purpose for your website
You need to determine the overall purpose behind your site. For example, do you want to use it sell directly to the public (an eCommerce store)? Build your reputation as an industry leader or expert?
Mistake # 2 – Not having strategic objectives
You need to be clear on what your strategic objectives are for your website. For example, do you want to announce new products? Or do you want to use it to generate business leads like calls or emails? Or do you want use it to get more in-store or foot traffic?
Mistake # 3 – Not knowing what your critical success factors are
What does a successful website mean to you? Is the number of sales you have generated due to your online marketing? Is it the number of leads?Is it being ranked high in Google?
Mistake # 4 – Not making your website content customer-focused
You need to create and develop specific content, or adapt your existing content to help engage your online target market. Sit down and write out a list of your products or services and how you think they help people. Use this list as the seed to start creating your page content.
Mistake # 5 – Not gathering your website assets ahead of time
The biggest slow down in creating a website, whether you’re doing it yourself or hiring a web professional is failure to collect your graphic assets BEFORE you start your project.
Your website assets can include photographs, drawings, existing PDFs, audio files, brochures, white papers, printed forms, applications, etc.
Whatever your business goals are you need to take them into account and plan out your website needs accordingly.