Today we’re talking about the most common mistakes people make when designing & building websites.
What’s In This Episode?
- Saving $ On Hosting (1:55)
- Wrong CMS & Theme (4:12)
- Too Much/Little Going On (8:12)
- Missing Your Target (11:08)
- No Clear CTA (13:20)
- No Analytics (14:50)
- Confusing Navigation (17:02)
- Design > Function (20:40)
- Weak SEO (25:01)
Josh: Today is a fun topic. We’re talking about the most common mistakes people make when designing and building websites.
Welcome to Creative Juices, the show where we help you feel personally confident about your online presence. I’m your host Josh and today I’m joined by the full team, Julz and Em.
Julz: Hey Josh!
Em: Hey Josh!
Josh: Hey guys! How you doing?
Julz: Good good!
Josh: Today is going to be a little bit of a fun one. And it’s something that we always talk about because we come across so many things along this topic, and that is the common mistakes that people make when building websites!
Julz: Yes, all too common!
Josh: All too common! So many mistakes! So how long have you been designing websites now Julz?
Julz: Since 2012, I had to think about that.
Josh: And here’s another question. On average per month, how many website design mistakes do you see approximately?
Julz: Well we probably assess, well at least half a dozen websites a month properly, do audits and things. So yeah it’s fairly common and like obviously with all the different areas of websites we see different issues. But yeah.
Josh: Pretty much every single time we assess a site, it’s very rare that we find one that’s….
Julz: ….there’s pretty much always something.
Josh: Yeah. So it’s a fun one today, and so we’re going to go through a few of the biggest mistakes. Of course, there’s a whole wide range of mistakes but we’re going to just touch on the biggest mistakes that we see people make, particularly when they’re building them themselves. Although we have also seen proper web designers make similar mistakes and we ourselves have made mistakes as well.
Julz: Yeah it’s always a learning journey.
Josh: Always a learning journey. So number one. What’s our first mistake that we have seen?
Julz: Number one’s always like that foundational stuff that we’re always banging on about. So of course that’s hosting and who you hosted with.
Josh: There’s this temptation to kind of skimp on hosting, you know save money on your hosting.
Julz: There is, and I think part of it is because when people start out either in business or just building a website then you know sometimes budgets are tight. We get that and things like that. But down the line that’s often the thing that causes the most issues.
Josh: Yeah. At what cost? Saving money but at what cost?
Julz: Yeah, you got to kind of keep your mind on the bigger picture at hand.
Josh: And so why is hosting such a big deal? Let’s say I purchase a cheaper host, like I see an advertisement on YouTube when I’m looking up how to build a website and it says “host with us $12 a year”. What’s the issues?
Julz: Well it is super competitive, and it depends really on how bespoke you want to get. Like you’ve got your local guy, you’ve got the big companies like GoDaddy. We know that we’ve had issues with them in particular in the past. I find that almost sometimes the bigger the company, the less they focus on maximizing performance. It’s kind of got to that point where we found that with really big companies they go for profit over performance. And they might have started out well and good but over the period of time, they’ve kind of sold out so to speak.
Josh: And so for me personally, it’s like I build a site and it may be really good, but my hosting is bad and so that affects performance right?
Julz: Yeah. And it’s not a difficult thing to necessarily change. It can be a bit of a, bit of a headache depending on your setup and what CRM you’re with of course, but yeah.
Josh: Yeah. So first biggest mistake that we’ve seen in website building is when you are just skimping money on hosting. And number two, you kind of alluded to it just then, and that’s choosing the wrong CRM. What is a CRM?
Julz: CRM well or CMS is a central management system and that’s kind of what your website is hosted on or is built on. So WordPress or Squarespace or Wix, they’re all CMS systems.
Josh: Yeah. So you know there’s this temptation to go I’m just going to again skimp money on the drag-and-drop kind of builds which is okay depending on who you are and what your setup is. But we do think that there is a superior CMS. What is that and why? Why can’t I just choose any CMS?
Julz: It’s probably about scalability. So again it’s coming back to like what’s the bigger picture at hand? And this is probably where we come in. We like to definitely consult with people. We find with our clients that when they talk to us about a rebuild or getting a website built that we start asking them questions that are much bigger than where they’re at right now. And that’s because we go well this information that you’re telling us now, that kind of vision, that thing that you’re talking about that you want to do in 12 or 24 months, that affects what we do now and how we build your site. And not all CMS’s are created equal. I think we’ve mentioned that in a previous podcast. Yeah so for us, that’s WordPress. We find that we know that that’s open source, which means yeah, WordPress might be free, the actual CMS, but the involvement with themes and scalability and flexibility is probably the biggest thing. Flexibility across SEO, flexibility across ecommerce. We found that WordPress is ultimately endless in a way. Possibilities are endless!
Josh: Yeah. Most definitely! And so you mentioned that WordPress kind of runs on themes and that kind of, it kind of comes into the exact same heading of choosing the wrong see our CMS. It’s also choosing the wrong theme.
Josh: And so, we’ve come across themes that people have chosen that are just no good.
Julz: Yeah. Only just recently actually. I looked at one just the other day. They were building out a dance thing, dance website. And you could tell when I looked up what theme that actually used and it turns out that they use like a dance theme. And that’s like, man! Beginner mistake 101! It’s kind of like I’m going to look for a theme and it’s going to be dance cuz my client is dance. You know what I mean?
Josh: And then you end up with a theme that’s code heavy, hard to edit….
Julz: Yeah! It’s kind of like we’ve looked at what’s appropriate to the client, but not necessarily thought about really their needs and look deeper into, is this actually a decent theme?
Josh: Yeah. And so we’ve seen themes have the result of reducing page speed, site speed.
Josh: The amount of code that they’ve implemented.
Julz: Yeah! Impacting SEO!
Josh: Yeah SEO. Good SEO has a higher ratio of text to HTML instead of too much HTML to text which is a result of the code. And so theme or and CMS is a massive deal! And so before choosing a CMS, and before choosing a theme, actually think about your target markets, think about your future plans and actually research all of those things before you decide to go I’ll just do this because my clients has a dance studio and this says dance studio.
Julz: Yeah! And talk to a professional. Seriously, invest in that! Invest in talking to a consultant like us to talk about that. That’s probably the best foundation that you could do!
Josh: Definitely! And so we get to number three biggest mistake we see is too much or too little going on in your website. So over designed or under designed. I’ve come across this little statistic that states, as the number of page elements like images, text or headlines increases from 400 to 6,000 that includes every single letter, 400 letters to 6,000 letters, the probability of conversion drops by 95%. 95%! And so one thing that we come across a lot of the time is over design. Do you have any examples that you’ve come across?
Julz: Too many! Yeah. I think that it’s overthinking it and with the bombardment of suggestions on what to do on a website now, everybody’s trying to cram everything into tiny spaces and things like that.
Julz: And so, I can see why. I mean even Google hates it! You know, if you’ve got search console they report on whether you’ve got too many text elements that are too close together, things like that. They’re looking for clean, easy readability and things like that.
Josh: And now, on the other end of it, they’re looking for clean but they’re not looking for hyper minimalistic.
Julz: No! They want to know like you know, is your navigation easy to get around? Have you got a good site structure, a good site map?
Josh: Yeah. So don’t reduce the amount of content on there just to create more white space. You want to provide the content that the user is interested in but you also don’t want to overwhelm them.
Julz: Yeah, exactly!
Josh: And so a great example is above the fold. You may have heard above the fold which is like when you land on the site, what’s the very first thing you see? The temptation is to cram that with all this information, but we would say actually cram it with the most important part which is number one just a call-to-action.
Julz: Yeah. There’s been so many different trends on that as well over the years that I’ve noticed. Some people like, oh you can only do a third of the page for above the fold, and then right below that you’ve got to do this, and there right below that you’ve got to do that. It’s always changing and I find it actually changes as technology changes too.
Josh: And this also comes down to your site structure, particularly when it comes to too much. I know that Em, when you started your Dossier Blog you kind of started off with a massive range of what you were writing about, but since then you’ve kind of niche down a bit.
Em: Yeah totally! And that’s partly due to getting feedback and seeing what’s popular. And it’s also about niching down and finding that target audience that really is where you’re going to get the most conversions and the most profit for your business.
Josh: Which is our number four point, one of the biggest mistakes we see is that people just miss their target!
Josh: So what do you mean by that Em?
Em: Well when we’re talking about the words on your website or the copy, you have a target audience that your business wants to reach. So that’s probably the first step, identifying who your ideal customer might be or who your audience is. And probably one of the biggest mistakes I see people making on their website is that they write about themselves. Now that’s fine, but and that’s kind of like the default, you know, about us, we’ll write you know, we’ve been in business 20 years, we’re family-owned, things like that. But really what’s important is what your customer wants to hear and how you can solve their problem. So if you’ve got someone on your business website then they’re often there for a reason and that’s because they have a problem that you might be able to fix. So the words on your website should really be aimed at how you can fix your customers problem and what that looks like, what that can achieve for them personally.
Josh: Yeah, and it also comes down to how you design the site as well. Like for example home pages used to be that you would land on the home page, there’s a big hero image and then there’s a whole section of this is who we are and then underneath that it finally gets into this is what we can offer. But Julz, I’ve noticed a trend in your website design that on the home page it’s like you’ve got your hero image with the call-to-action and then we just get straight to the services. Is there a reason why?
Julz: Yeah. Well mostly because people are there for a reason. They land on your site, particularly I think people forget that if a person actually lands on your site is generally not by mistake. Some people will, and you know if you’re specially if you’re running weird ads, or ads that aren’t optimized properly, they might click by mistake, but nine times out of ten if they land on your website then they’re there for a very good reason. They’re interested in what you’re doing and what you offer. And so, we just want to get straight into it!
Josh: Which then comes to our number five mistake, one of the biggest mistakes we see is that there’s no clear call-to-action!
Josh: And so when you design a site what are you thinking of when it comes to call-to-action? How does that affect how you design?
Julz: It’s probably two things. I’m thinking about what the client wants ultimately and what the goal of their website is actually there to achieve. I think that’s mostly primary because we really want the goal to end up for a win for our clients, but we also want to make it really clear for the visitor.
So it needs to be strong. I mean obviously the major one for us is ‘book online’ or ‘book now’ or ‘make an appointment’ those are the things that with our kind of clinic niche that we work with, that’s their primary goal. And so it works to both advantages. For the clinic owner, they get the booking and for the user, they need to make a booking so….
Josh: Most definitely! And so, we kind of expound on that concept a little bit more in Episode 11 and so you can listen to that. But the whole point is you just don’t want to overcrowd with call-to-actions and you don’t want to remove call-to-actions. You need a call-to-action and you need to make it clear.
Josh: And then you need to track it, which is number six. And one of the mistakes we see is that people just don’t have any analytics.
Julz: Yeah, it’s true! Or if they do it’s set up wrong! We’ve seen that a number of times too!
Josh: Yeah, and we’ve also seen that it’s set up right but they don’t actually look and see what their analytics is doing. Analytics are massive. It helps lead you with your content strategy, in how you design pages. Em, you actually use analytics all the time?
Josh: How do you use it and why?
Em: Well, there is just so much untapped information that you can find out about your website and the way people are using it in analytics. So you can not only see what pages are most popular but you can see who your audience is. You can see their demographics, where they’re coming from. There’s so much in it and a lot of the time like you said, we do see people who they might have analytics but they don’t even know how much traffic their websites getting. And that’s like a huge problem, because you can optimize your site so much better when you know more about your analytics. So some ways that you can do that is that you can see what pages are popular and you can look at those pages and see how they’re set up. Are they set up in a different way? Can you use that set up on your other pages to get more reach on those pages, or maybe you can even expand on the content or the topic of that page and maybe you can run some ads if that’s a topic that’s really popular. Maybe you want to reach more people in that sense. So that’s just a few ways that you can use your analytics and yeah optimize your website with them.
Josh: Because here’s the thing. Time like longevity doesn’t equal success only evaluated longevity does. It’s like you might have a website that’s been there for 10 years, but it’s only as effective as how you see how it’s being used. It’s like you go on to the page you know, this content is actually way more popular than this other content, so let’s invest more of my time and resources into that. Let’s invest more of my time resources into these kind of landing pages that actually produce the sales that I want.
Josh: And so we get to step seven or number seven. One of the biggest mistakes we see people make when they’re building a site is confusing navigation, confusing navigation. Here’s a little statistic I came across. Once visitors come to the home page of your site 86% of them want information about your products or services, 64% expect to have your contact information and 52% want to know about your business. And so this should really inform how we design our sites. So what are some of the keys to building out good user experience through navigation?
Julz: Probably keeping it simple in a way. Over complicating it or using too much jargon in sitemaps or site headings, page headings and things like that, if the general public can’t understand it you’re not winning that’s for sure.
Josh: So we actually had that as well when we first set up.
Julz: Yes that’s true.
Josh: So do you remember what we had as the top level?
Julz: Not off the top of my head but I went too creative. I swung too far and I think it was… I know that we called our podcast Creative Juices, and so my actual sites page, the page of our podcast or the blog was actually called you know /CreativeJuices and that doesn’t mean anything to anyone or Google or anything like that. So I went back actually, to our site map and change that out to be, well /podcasts.
Josh: Yes and I remember we had our services was titled collaborate.
Julz: Collaborate. Yeah.
Josh: Because collaborate was our main USP. That’s what we were about and so instead of putting services we were like let’s put collaborate.
Julz: And that’s what we wanted to do. We wanted to collaborate with people. So yeah, it got a bit too creative if you will and we had to pull it back a bit.
Josh: And so copy is important. What are some other mistakes you see people make when it comes to like headers?
Julz: Probably around headers and copy not being synced. So like it doesn’t line up with the page or you know, if a person clicks on a menu in an item but then the headline is something totally random, or they might think that it’s on topic but it’s actually not on topic. That can create a really confusing user experience for that person. Landing on a page they’re going to second-guess whether they’re actually on the right page or not.
Josh: Yeah, definitely! And then, a few other just really quick practical things before we move on is when you make your header auto hide for the rest of the page probably bad usage of that. You want navigation to be easily accessed at all times. It’s ok that when you scroll it disappears and maybe you scroll back up and it reappears, or on mobile you have a little hamburger menu or at all times, but it needs to be very clear how to get to where you want to get to.
Josh: And then the other thing is that a good user experience is that a user should get to where you want them to get to within three clicks.
Josh: If your navigation requires your user to click through a header, which then clicks through a sub header, which link clicks through a link, and then you finally get to where it is…
Julz: That’s frustrating!
Josh: That’s too much! And so, to clarify it and make it easy and clear.
Josh: …which does intertwine to our next point, second last point, number eight, prioritizing design over functioned. This is the cardinal sin of website design.
Julz: Yes, and this one is probably one of the most common because nine times out of ten people only, I mean with such visual creatures you know what I mean, so when we’re prioritizing design over function it’s like…. what’s an example…. that dance site again. I’m going to come back to that again because it’s fresh in my mind. It was like super pretty but then you look at that whole menu thing, and that navigation and you know, it had all the tricked out bits and pieces and effects and all that stuff but it didn’t work at all. And in fact the buttons weren’t working properly and that comes down to poor coding and poor theming and all that stuff so….
Josh: Yeah I’ve come across sites where you’ve got a full height row and what happens is when you scroll it like snaps to the next. It’s like turning pages instead of actual scrolling but the issue was is that there was no header at all and so I had to scroll down this site, like maybe four different scrolls until I actually got to services. And it may look pretty and it’s really cool, um but what’s the function of your site?
Josh: It should work for you not against you!
Josh: And one of the biggest things about that, is that when we prioritize design over function, it does affect page speed.
Julz: Yeah and page speed affects conversions and all that! So you’ve got every second over three seconds loses 30% of visitors, and I mean that’s massive! 30% and I know that for Em, like every, every single person matters that lands on that website. I think you saw something the other day where it was like even if you only get 10 people to your blog post, there’s still a chance that you could convert, yeah?
Em: Yeah. Absolutely! It comes down to conversion rates and page speed is a big part of that. If people have to wait for your page to load then they’re not going to stick around for too long.
Julz: Yeah, particularly for blog posts I find. Like if you’re trying to get access to information, I don’t know about you guys, but if I have to sit there for too long waiting just to read something and it’s not necessarily something that I’m buying or anything like that then man, you lost me!
Josh: I’m out! I’ll find the information elsewhere!
Julz: It’s like it wasn’t that that important anyway.
Josh: Yeah, which is interesting because I read a stat the other day that was if particularly on mobile if your site takes more than three seconds to load most mobile users would leave and go to another page. Like 57% is what I mean by most.
Julz: That’s crazy!
Josh: Crazy! And so when you’re thinking about page speed you also need to think about mobile first.
Julz: Yeah for sure! So important!
Josh: So important!
Julz: And Google have actually just recently changed their search console to include mobile usability as like the primary viewability of websites. So they are no longer prioritizing desktop, they’re prioritizing mobile. And so that’s a big shift!
Josh: Massive! And so when we’re designing, we generally, most people, most web designers and most drag-and-drop builders, you design on your desktop.
Josh: And so you design for Desktop
Julz: Yeah. We do that to start with, and before we go live or before we get things approved, then we go through and design for tablet and then for mobile and I think that’s probably an important step that most people forget.
Josh: Yeah. Because it might look good on desktop and then you go on mobile and it’s like everything’s broken!!
Julz: How do I fix this? Oh no I bought a bad theme! I can’t do it so too bad.
Josh: So 40% of people will switch to a different search result if the first one is not mobile friendly. 40% there we go. Crazy!
Julz: That’s if that search result even shows up now that Google is prioritizing mobile-friendly over….
Josh: True! Definitely! And so it’s so mobile-friendly actually helps with your search engine orientation.
Julz: For sure!
Josh: And so, back onto our last point which is one of the big mistakes about building a website is having weak SEO.
Em: Yeah, absolutely! So a lot of people don’t realize but a lot of your website’s foundational things and the things that happen in the setup are actually a huge part of SEO. So we know that Google is now looking at things that we’ve already talked about like is your website mobile-friendly or how fast is your webpage load. Those things are really important and they generally happen during when a website is built and so when they’re overlooked you basically lessen your chance of being ranked well. And I find a lot of people will try and improve their SEO and they’ll be working on keywords or their content, which is great those things really do need to be worked on as well, but when you are building a website it needs to be set up properly for SEO too.
Josh: And so there’s a whole load of different things involved in that which we actually expand a little bit more and we teach you step-by-step on how to do that in our SEO for Small Businesses, Local Businesses course. And so we will link that course in our show notes. But SEO, once it is set up technically and the site is all good it’s all about ongoing as well which you mentioned too when it comes to your analytics. Check on what’s going well, localize your content, restrategize based on that feedback.
And so, just a recap before we finish, some of the common mistakes people make when designing and building websites. Number one, skimping on hosting or saving money on hosting going for the cheap ones. Number two, choosing the wrong CMS or theme. Number three, too much or too little going on. Number four, missing your target market. Number five, no clear call-to-action. Number six, no analytics. Number seven, confusing navigation. Number eight, prioritizing design over function. And number nine, weak SEO.
And so that’s it for today. Thank you so much for listening audience and thanks Em and Julz.
Julz: No thank you!
EM: Thanks Josh!
Josh: Next episode! On episode 15 we’re talking about originality and why statistics show that people don’t care how pretty your site looks! What they care about is familiarity.
Josh: See you next week!