21 Mistakes to Avoid and Idiot-proof your Do It Yourself (DIY) Website!

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The new age of internet has dawned upon the human civilization and technologies have evidently become more human-centric in every walk of life including how easy it has become to set up a generic web presence. Every intelligent internet literate individual knows how to set up a website or webpages using Do it yourself (DIY) kits and software which are plenty abound.

With easy drag and drop features, the goal of setting up a website using an enabling software that even ‘apes’ can use has never been easier. So, the question becomes, why do website design and development services demand/charge such a premium on their value?

The short answer is that they make less mistakes.

There is a world of information, we fail to pay attention to when developing a website ourselves. Some of these mistakes may hurt your business without you even realizing it. This article is directed at raising that very awareness which we don’t care to learn about or information which do not feel the need to understand.

Here is a list of some common mistakes that are made by businesses while designing/developing their website:

1. Planning too little - Planning is essential before making any investment and sometimes we fail to plan due to lack of time and excessive business operations.1 As Benjamin Franklin once said “if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”. The same applies to setting up a website.

Technology oblivious individuals treat a website as mere business/visiting card to showcase that they are in sync with the digital age and the buck stops there. In reality, a website is much more than just a web address to list on your business/visiting card. It works as a revenue churner if you set it up right.

2. No clear course of action - Clearly defined business goals and course of action helps sort out your design process. It allows the web design/development process to stay focused, coordinated and reduces the risk of stepping off in the wrong direction.2

Without a clear online strategy, you are headed on a path to nowhere making it extremely challenging to determine whether you are succeeding or not? Strategy framework is critical for decision making during and post the design/development phase. Do adequate research to ensure a quality outcome. Step up your game and invest time in bringing up a website giving due consideration to organizational stakeholders for a successful design.3

3. Lack of unique value proposition - Now a days e-businesses are emerging with such a rapid pace that there is no real differentiation left in the market. Unique value proposition has become even more critical than before to find and make business on the internet.4

Most websites without a unique value proposition have a very high bounce rate. If yours is a business website, make it so in every way possible and ‘differentiate’ yourself in the every aspect to gain necessary traction. Brand yourself right. Accentuate visitor’s trust in your brand by asserting yourself as a reliable and credible vendor.

The strength and quality of your unique value proposition determine the potential of your website and accentuates the conversion.5

4. Too Much Urgency - This is one of the most common mistakes that businesses make while setting up their website. Usually, in this format, the design precedes the value proposition and business content whereas in an ideal scenario, the design ought to be content led and driven. This urgency often leads to a design and content mismatch very likely resulting in an ineffective web design.

Approach design as the means of delivering content.6

5. Designing the ‘look and feel’ - The first thing we see and understand is the ‘look and feel’ of the website and that’s what a site building application allows you to put together. Website’s look and feel are the foremost drivers of user’s first impression.7 In fact, 94% of a user’s first impression of a website is design-related.8

We have a tendency to put up a ‘look and feel’ together based on our personal choices and preferences instead of what is most suited from a prospect/user’s perspective. It is quite natural for us to only see what appeals to our own eyes and without exception the same applies to every prospect/user and so it makes sense to step into your users’ shoes to discover the design’s limitations.

We don’t fully understand a User Interface (UI) and ordinarily feel lost when trying to fathom the idea of User Experience (UX). It’s a practical difficulty to understand and implement a UI/UX design without a formal education and the necessary experience.  Developing a UI/UX which likely engage users and prospects is methodical and scientific exercise in ‘Communication Design’ (a subset of the overarching discipline ‘Design’).  To avoid getting lost in uncharted territory, try and keep your design simple and minimalistic which is helpful in avoiding the design conundrum. However, minimalism is not easy to master as it works on the concept of less is more, which means breaking things down to the barest essential elements.9

6. Information Architecture and Navigation - Research reveals that 10% of web design and development fails to meet business goals due to poor information architecture.10  Most businesses fail to outline a clear information architecture, which results in a poorly designed navigation confusing users/prospects.

A website’s poor navigation and information structure affects both usability and accessibility, so make it a primary concern.11

If you are new and not clear on how your website’s navigation should work, keep it simple. Take feedback from users and prospects (not simply friends and family), review them and make changes to that effect to enable users/prospects to easily find what they should be looking for.

7. Naming/listing menu items/offerings and other objects - It is common to observe that naming menus, offerings and all other website objects is quite a misunderstood art. Business owners fail to realize that long and complex names should be avoided.

From a user’s point of view, these can be confusing as well as annoying, so analyze your menu items, categorize them, organize them and name them aptly. The primary purpose of listing menu items is to enable users to comfortably find, browse and skip choices.12

A rule of thumb is to ideally list a menu item in under three words and the lesser the word count the better it is. Making long names with the object of clubbing related services/offerings is not the ideal way of listing objects instead listing them individually not only results in simplification but allowing each such object to have its individual landing page gives the listing/offering/object a fillip from popular search engines’ perspective (i.e. Google, Bing, yahoo, etc.). Therefore, list all the crucial categories independently on succeeding levels.13

8. Imbalance with information overflow - Excess of information always perplexes users. A design with unnecessary information kills the effectiveness of website and does not allow visitors to distinguish between what is important and what is not.

Information overload can be little intimidating, therefore, to create balance all you need to learn is the prioritization and organization of information.14  To cope up with this dark side follow 3 Fs: Focus, Filter and Forget.15 

9. Cluttered web pages - Clients want web pages to be packed with fancy fonts, flashy imagery, animations and other design elements. But, cluttered web pages create distraction and hinder your communication with users.16  Clutter leads to performance degradation and reduces usability.17

There should be enough white space for your content to breathe. Do not put too many elements on a single web page; arrange them sparingly to enhance the visual appeal.

10. Main information is not above the fold - This trend of content above the fold has travelled a long way from print to web. Nowadays, placing important content above the fold really matters in the web world as it balances the information, maintains usability, attracts attention and communicates quickly. This pattern is preferred so that users can immediately access the most important information without scrolling.18

Research reveals that 80% of the web users focus on the information above the page fold.19  In fact, a study conducted on Fortune 500 companies show that 63% of them have content above the fold.20

11. Overemphasizing graphics over content - Visuals are processed much faster than text by the human brain but that should not mean that images can substitute or make up for poorly written content. A good copy along with suitable imagery is called an intelligent design.

 We purposefully use graphics to illustrate our content efficiently but applying the same idea everywhere does not serve that purpose. Always use graphics judiciously to highlight the content, not to create distraction for the critical content.21

12. Chasing trends can kill your business - Business trends change very frequently and chasing these trends every now and then can ruin your startup. Take inspiration but design as per your specific business needs and stand apart and don’t be like every other e-business website.

Differentiate your business and emphasize the aspects that matter to your users.22

13. Flashy Vs. minimalist - The design of your website must be eye-catchy but it should not be too busy or flashy to push the visitors away. Design has more in common with usability than aesthetics. Minimalism is good approach to design unless exuberance is a business necessity.

In a minimalist design, every detail has relevance, therefore, omit all needless elements that do not directly contribute to the content and function of the website.23 Both form and function guide design.24

Almost every well-known internet/technology business has embraced minimalism and look no further than Google itself, its minimalist designs are a perfect blend of form and function.

14. Design over functionality - Design or functionality? What is more important? The debate on this topic is never ending. We call a design well-built only when it balances both aesthetics and functionality to function seamlessly. People seem to be concerned more about how a site looks than how it works. Functionality and design always go hand in hand. An appealing web design is nothing without a solid functionality. Functionality is always prioritized over all other design considerations including usability, ergonomics and aesthetics.25

15. Not being dynamic - A static website will soon turns into a dead website. In this day and age, dynamic web design is current technology. Dynamic websites are a blend of advanced functionality and sophisticated technology with a human-centric communication design.

16. Trying to target wide audiences - Designing without keeping a potential group/audience in mind is like fishing without a net. Targeting everyone is like interacting with no one because if you try to be everything to everyone then your outcome becomes vague and less impactful.

Most website redesigns are led by marketing teams which are looking to attract or target a specific audience. The design is meant to draw in the money for them and not the other way around. Do your homework and design for your audience in the most intelligent manner.26

17. Failing to engage clients - Interaction is engagement. Technology is rapidly changing and new and upcoming designs will focus on creating more interactive content to appeal to the ingrained sense of curiosity and playfulness of humans in their attempt to further humanize human-computer interaction. Interactivity is still a costly exercise and not yet out in the DIY domain but the low hanging fruit in the entire ‘engagement and the future of design debate’ is to keep your design current. The ideal web design is a right mix of form, function and feel.27

18. Lacking call-to-action - A critical error in design is the lack of a clear call-to-action. The web elements arranged on their website are just for the purpose of decoration, which do not persuade users to take action. People think that call-to-action is just limited to e-commerce websites. However, without a clearly defined call-to-action, it is not possible to create a conversion funnel.

Call-to-actions are key drivers of lead generation which guide your users with a clear sense of direction.28

19. No mobile optimization - Websites optimized for mobile platforms ensure that no matter which device your audiences use, your website will deliver the result in the most efficient way. Sixty two percent of the companies which have a mobile optimized website reported increased sales.29 Mobile usage continues to grow rapidly at the rate of 25% of the total web usage 30 and you can’t afford to be left out of the mobile optimization race if you wish to offer an optimal user experience to all such users across platforms.

In a recent Hummingbird update, Google has made it apparent that mobile is likely the future of search and the websites which are not optimized for mobile platforms will see their search rankings suffer.31 

20. Outdated content - Your target audiences expects your website to deliver the most up-to date information about your business. Your site loses its luster if you do not try to be current, innovative and ahead of the competition. Websites that update their content continuously score better on Google search results.32

21. Content duplication - Most businesses indulge in content duplication on their website as well as various web pages created on social media and elsewhere. With so much repetition across platforms and web links, the  material will not only lose its authority but in all likelihood result in popular search engines marking the same as spam. Search engine giant Google also has several algorithms and tools for identifying content duplication and if your site is engaged in such deceptive practices (which falls under the violation of copyright law) then Google possesses the right to remove your site from search results.33 

By avoiding all the aforementioned mistakes, you can easily improve your web design, enhance your web presence and can make your website user-friendly.

If you have to ‘Do it Yourself’, doing is right must be an imperative.

* References

1 Ben Seigel, June 9, 2011. “A Comprehensive Website Planning Guide

2 Ira Kalb. January 21, 2014. “3 Methods for Setting a Goal that will Help you Achieve your Potential

3 Jonathan Boutelle. May 6, 2004. “Understanding Organizational Stakeholders for Design Success

4 Eric T. Wagner. December 9, 2013. “Five Reasons 8 out of 10 Businesses Fail

5 Chad Vanags. May 10, 2014. “How to Create A Unique Value Proposition that Converts

6 Jose Salmeron. August 22, 2012. Social@Ogilvy. “A Simpler Way Forward for Web Design

7 Conversion XL. November 15, 2012. “First Impressions Matter: The Importance of Great Visual Design

8 Kat Kocurek. July 3, 2013. “The Truth About Web Design and Why You should Invest in it
9 Cameron Chapman. May 13, 2010. Smashing Magazine, “Principles of Minimalist Web Design with Examples

10 Jakob Nielson, April 16, 2009. “ IA Task Failures Remain Costly

11 Grace Smith. April 10, 2011. “Top 5 Web Design Mistakes Small Businesses Make”

12 Anastasios Karafillis. December 3, 2013. Smashing Magazine. “Efficiently Simplifying Navigation, Part 1: Information Architecture

13 Ibid

14 Web Designer Depot. July 27, 2010. “How to Handle Information Overload

15 Derek Dean and Caroline Webb. January, 2011. McKinsey and Company. “Recovering_from_Information_Overload

16 Article on Tremble Digital. October 28, 2013. “Web Design Deadly Sin #3- Website too Cluttered

17 Ruth Rosenholtz, Yuanzhen Li, Jonathan Mansfield and Zhenlan Jin. MIT Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. “Feature  Congestion: A Measure of Display Clutter

18 Shaun Cronin.  January 25, 2010. “Designing for the New Fold: Web Design Post Monitorism

19 Jakob Nielson. March 22, 2010. Nielson Norman Group. “Article- Scrolling and Attention

20   Rachel Sprung, July 31, 2013. “17 Compelling Stats that make the Case for Smarter Site Design“ and Infographic by Go-Globe “ Web Design Trends of Fortune 500 Companies

21   Jakob Nielson. October 31, 2001. Nielson and Norman Group. “113 Design Guidelines for Homepage Usability

22 Seth Talbot. Startup Collective. “4 Startup Trends you should not Follow” and Fox Business Small Business Center. “4 Startup Trends You Shouldn’t Follow

 23 Cameron Chapman. May 13, 2010. Smashing Magazine, “Principles of Minimalist Web Design with Examples

24 Sherice Jacob. Kiss Metrics Blog. “4 Ugly Websites that Make Millions

25 Steven Bradley. March 23, 2010. Smashing Magazine. “Does Form Follow Function

26 Web Designer Depot. December 27, 2011. “Designing for your Target Audience

27 Rafal Tomal. CopyBlogger. “3 Ways your Web Design can Better Connect you to your Audience

28 Data from Hubspot Publication. “101 Examples of Effective Calls-To-Action

29 Rachel Sprung, July 31, 2013. “17 Compelling Stats that make the Case for Smarter Site Design

30 Mary Meeker. May 28, 2014.  Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers.”Internet Trends 2014- Code Conference

31 Ian Mills. April 16, 2014. Huffington Post Blog. “5 Reasons you Absolutely Must Optimize your Website for Mobile

32 Data from Official Google Blog. March 11, 2011. “Giving You Fresher,  More Recent Search Results

33 Data from Google Support Articles. “Duplicate Content

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