The List of 9: Common Mistakes in Web Development

Earlier today while looking for a case study on how websites are priced, I came across a blog post created by a web design company about some of the more common mistakes small businesses make when creating a website. Now being in the business that I’m in, I see these posts a lot; in fact it’s a common blog by design companies to educate their client base on what to watch for when creating a web strategy or having someone create it for you.

Most of them are pretty good blogs, worth pushing out to those of you following me on Twitter (and if you’re not, you can find me @ianscampbell), but this one made me cringe. I’m not going to go into why and, obviously, I’m not going to name the site or badmouth the company in anyway, but it did inspire me to create my own list for today’s post.

So here they are. I call this “The List of 9” (as you probably figured out from the title):

Go Fast and Cheap: There’s an old saying when it comes to anything you have to pay for: there are three ways of getting things done: fast, cheap and good; you can have two out of the three, but one is going to be sacrificed. It’s not often I hear truer words spoken. If you need something fast, but done well, you’re going to have to pay a premium to get the best people to put a rush on your project. If you want it done well but inexpensively, it’s going to take a bit longer than if you were willing to pay the standard price. Those two combinations are fine, but it’s the third where people tend to get into trouble; fast and cheap are never a good combination. Quality is sacrificed and, when it comes to your business, can you really afford that? I don’t care if your uncle knows a little something about websites or your cousin is taking a design class at the local community college, when you’re dealing with your web strategy, the leading form of marketing these days, your business can’t afford to take the hit.

Bad Design: There’s a science to design. Obviously, your site has to look good, but do you know how your reader actually reads your content? Do you understand the flow of someone’s eye as they move through a web page? Little things like not having your call to action in the right place or not having a web capture form (the form used to capture information from your visitors) visible can severely hurt the performance of your website.

No Call to Action: There’s really no pretty way to put this. If you don’t have a call to action on your website then how are people going to know what you want them to do? In sales, it’s pretty well known that if you don’t askfor the sale, you’re not going to get it (in fact, if you’re in sales and don’t know that, pick a new career). It’s the same thing on your site. Ask your visitors to contact you for more information and make them want to do it today! Create excitement and urgency and make it easy for them to talk to you. I promise you your competitors are.

Duplicate Content: This is something that most people don’t get, but I’m going to put it into clear terms:Google (and the other search engines) penalize websites with duplicate content. For better or worse, the search engines look down on websites that copy from other websites. It’s their job to find the best original resources and present them to the user. It’s your job to provide it.

Great Expectations: This is pretty common with all marketing.  Expectations need to be managed so we know what sort of result is realistic. If you build a new site, it’s not going to rank tomorrow. That doesn’t mean, however, that you should cut and run, it may just mean that it needs to be analyzed to find out why. Successful marketing is long term; the key to winning the race is staying in it until the end, not just until you hit your mark.

Advertising: This actually gets a little sticky, believe it or not. There are a couple different schools of thought here and both are perfectly valid. Some say that there should be no advertising on your site because advertising moves people off of your page and adversely affects conversion. Others say that advertising is an excellent source of revenue and should be utilized to help your site pay for itself. I actually agree with both, but in moderation. I would never post any advertising on my company website. However, any associated blogs (not this one) or podcasts could be supplemented by advertising why not? Just be sure not to light up like Times Square.

Careless Linking: It’s fairly well known now that linking is a very important aspect to your web strategy. Remember, it’s the search engine’s job to provide their users with the best resource available, and they’re looking at your backlink count to judge the popularity of your site. Not all links are created equal, though. You need to make sure that the sites that link to yours are reputable and worthy of linking to or they could do more harm than good.

Bad Domain Choice: Contrary to what some people think, having a .biz domain name isn’t the same as having a .com domain, especially if someone else owns the .com domain. When’s the last time you remembered to type in .biz for a website? When someone tells you to go to their site, unless it’s a non-profit or a school, you, along with 99% of the public at large (and no, I don’t have an actual stat for that, I’m hyperbolizing) automatically think .com. When choosing a domain name, make sure that you can get your .com name and if you can’t, pick another name.

Too Much Flash: Flash turned out to be a pretty dangerous invention. I love flash. It’s dynamic, it’s fun and it’s interesting…when I’m trying to play an online game or look at a map. When I’m simply trying to find a website or get information or look for someone to do business with, it’s slow, it’s distracting and it’s annoying. I’m not saying don’t use flash, in fact, in certain circumstances, I think it’s great for conversion. Just be tasteful.

So that’s it. My “List of 9”. I’d be interested to hear back from you. Are there any other common mistakes that you can think of?


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