The 5 worst mistakes you can make when planning a new website
Emily gets excited when she’s asked to plan a website for a new client, but we realise it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
So when we got chatting the other day about some of the worst mistakes she’s seen people make, we thought she ought to jot them down so you could learn from them too.
So, read on for mistakes to avoid like the M32 at rush hour when you’re planning your website.
1) Not knowing why you need a website
Before you get started, think about why you’re building a website in the first place. This may sound obvious, but get the basics right and the rest will follow.
Are you aiming to sell products or services directly, or to build your brand, or to get people to sign up to your email list? Working out the main purpose of your website will give you a head start when it comes to the structure and design, and ultimately your site’s usability.
2) Not choosing a responsive template
By the end of 2016, more people were browsing the web on their mobiles than on desktops – and that upwards trend has carried on*. This is partly due to the explosion (metaphorical, not actual, we hope!) of smart phones, but also to the fast-paced way we live our lives today.
Why does this matter to you? Because to be accessed on a phone, a website needs to be responsive. This means it can adapt to any screen size, so it can be as easily read on a mobile device as a desktop. If your website is not responsive, some of your visitors may not be able to read what you have to say. - not to mention the fact that it’s infuriating having to zoom and scroll from side to read all the content.
Even worse, Google is actually ranking mobile-friendly sites above non-responsive ones for people searching on phones and tablets. So, if you’re not responsive you’re actually less likely to get found.
If you’ve already got a site and you’re not sure whether it’s responsive or not, use Google’s mobile friendly test https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly to find out.
3) Not thinking about imagery
Visuals are a key part of any website, especially with recent trends for parallax design and full-screen images. If you’re trying to choose the perfect photos for your site, you can use stock image, but we always advise our clients against it where possible. It’s hard to get an insight into who you are as a brand if you’re using the same kinds of images as everyone else, even if they are very beautiful.
Instead, use your own photos, or better still invest in some professional shots. They will pay for themselves many times over as you use them across you entire site and all of your marketing channels.
We also love the recent trend for using illustration-based imagery on sites. Bespoke illustrations, designed to match the tone of your brand, can give instant personality to help you stand out from the crowd. One of the most well-known brands to do this is Mailchimp https://mailchimp.com
4) Not focusing on the copy
Sometimes people get so excited about making their site look beautiful that the words become an after thought, and text is written last minute to slot into the spaces available.
What you say on your site is as important as how it looks. Make sure your writing is clear, and that you make the most of on-page SEO (search engine optimisation) opportunities to help Google understand more about your website. You can do this simply by including relevant keywords in headers and scattered naturally throughout each page.
You’ll also need to think about how the copy sells the benefits of your products and services, leads your potential customers and clients through the site to the relevant pages, and communicates clear calls to action that drive profitable behaviours.
Even if you haven’t quite got the budget to bring in a copywriter, at least get someone to proofread your pages. It is almost impossible to pick up every single typo yourself, and Google definitely favours well written copy.
5) Not making the most of simple (non-scary!) SEO elements
There are plenty of easy SEO opportunities to be had in the background too – website builders like Squarespace or Wordpress make it easy to find and update off-page elements that can make a huge difference when it comes to appearing in search.
Look at your site through the eyes of Google crawling your sitemap (NB: Make sure you have installed a sitemap!). Make sure your page descriptions are unique and contain relevant keywords, and turn your page descriptions into mini ‘sales pitches’ to get people to click through to your site.
One final easy win is to update your image alt tags. Google can’t see pictures so it reads the alt tags to help work out what your page is about. You will usually be able to enter them as you upload images to your site.
If you feel you could use a little help with planning your own website, Emily will be so happy to help, so please do get in touch, even if it’s just for a quick chat.