5 Most Common Web Design Mistakes Small Businesses Make

We often come across websites that had the best of intentions in terms of promoting their brand and providing a unique browsing experience, but which fail in keeping browsers interested or sometimes send them running even faster. The web being what it is is only a relatively new concept and most small businesses know very little about IT and less still about the Internet, so it is only natural that a few fundamental mistakes will be made when they design or have someone else design their website for them.  We thought we might help by pointing out the 5 most common web design mistakes that occur:

1. Browsers must know what the site is about in seconds

Imagine that the Internet is full of browsers that have ADD and like little children have a very short attention span.  To make things worse most people browse during the day when they are at work and actually need to be working, so every minute of browsing time they cram in between their tasks is precious to them.  So you can imagine that any site which doesn’t communicate it’s purpose to them immediately will just be left and forgotten.  There is way too much Internet and so little time to browse it. Visit your own website and ask yourself what you think it’s communicating to you within the first 5 seconds.  Is the communication fast and clear? Ask someone else to visit the site who have never before and study their reaction.  If they sort of look confused and ask you “what’s this about” then you know there is some work to do.

2. Make your Content Scanable

Remember the internet is already overloaded with what your kids nowadays would call TMI (Too Much Information).  Your website is a brochure not a book, so don’t overload it with large blocks of text. Rather use bullet points or lists or even icons to help readers scan through the site and figure out what you offer.  Obviously you can use more text in articles and other pages that do require the information, but for your home page keep it short and sweet.

3. Must have a Clear Call to Action

Too often we get lost in all the ideas for the design of our site and concentrate on making it beautiful and listing all your services, which are important don’t get me wrong, but we forget to take the users to the next step. Say they have gotten the idea now of who you are and what you do and they are interested, how do they take the next step.  Do you have clear call to action signs or buttons guiding users through your registration process or getting them to give you a call or fill in a contact form?  Because ultimately that’s what you want, isn’t it?  Life is busy and if the user can’t find how he can sign up or contact you quickly enough something else might just grab his attention and you’ve lost him forever.

4. Don’t have any Barriers to Entry

The route to your home page should be the shortest possible and nothing is shorter than having no pages or steps before it.  So even if you are the world’s best Flash designer, don’t prolong the entry of your site by giving people a choice to view the Flash site or the HTML site first. Take them directly to the Flash one(if it doesn’t take too long to load) and detect if users are connecting via mobile devices to direct them to the HTML version. If you can avoid using flash then please do so.  There are a lot of AJAX alternatives that you can use to wow your visitors with rather than using slow and bulky Flash animations.

5. Do not place Ads on your Company Website

A few types of websites are exempt from this rule like blogs, business directories, news agencies etc.  Basically these types of sites are online magazines or newspapers in the end, and as we all know there is no other way to make real money through these vehicles, but to advertise on them. But if your site is about your business and you don’t fall into this category, putting ads on your site just reduces your creditability. The first thing users think when hey see ads is that you are an exploiter, and that you possibly might exploit them. It also raises the question whether your business is successful or not, why would you need the extra few dollars a month?

Johan Marneweck
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