It used to be a case that simply having a website for your business was enough to give you a competitive advantage. This is no longer the case as now the vast majority of Irish businesses have a website – so to gain competitive advantage, your site needs to be better than your competition. We see a lot of good websites and a lot of bad websites and while this can be subjective, below are the top 10 common mistakes we see on business websites.
1. Lack of ‘Call To Actions’ / Poorly laid out ‘Call To Actions’
The most important function of your website is to capture conversions. That is to convert a visit into a sale or enquiry. If your website doesn’t do this well, no matter how well it looks, no matter how highly it ranks on Google, no matter how much it cost you – it’s a bad website and is not working. Strategically placed ‘Call To Actions’ are a must have for any website and they should be clear, intuitive and aesthetically pleasing.
2. Mobile Friendly
While the vast majority of all website designs now are responsive (adapt their layouts to screen display size), we still see huge issues and mistakes on mobile website layouts. Buttons and links that are too small to click on mobile, images that don’t scale well to different resolutions and my own pet peeve – non clickable elements such as phone numbers and email addresses. If a customer decides to call you from your website, thats fantastic and you can’t afford to obstruct that call and make them enter the number manually. In times past you needed to be sure that your site was optimised for desktop number 1 and then mobile. This has now switched to mobile first.
3. Poor layout of content
This is something we see time and time again and it is particularly poor on homepages. The offences here range from inefficient headers (taking up too much space), cluttered text and images, clashing of colours, clashing of fonts, poor logo positioning amongst others. Another fault we see is trying to fit too much information into the homepage – sometimes less is more particularly on your homepage.
4. The power of a blog
Blogs can be really useful tools to communicate with your customers and improve your SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) rankings. A well laid out blog will increase your customers confidence in your knowledge and passion for your work. It’s a good way of building relationships and trust with your visitors. If you have a blog on your site though – you MUST keep it up to date. Failure to do so will make your site look stale and static which defeats the whole purpose of the blog. No blog is better than an outdated blog.
5. Your site needs to evolve
You need to understand that like a car needs a service, like your house needs to be freshened up with paint – your website will need refreshing every now and then too. A well designed website should be future proofed where possible and should do the business for you for up to 5 years. Beyond that, no matter how good the design is, they start to look dated. Web technologies move on, styles change, browser functionality increases and standards evolve. A good web designer will future proof your site as much as possible and build on a platform that allows for easy maintenance. We see a lot of sites that are showing the effects of time and this is a bad look for your visitors.
6. Site speed
This is now crucially important as Google and other search engines will place more emphasis on your sites speed in their search algorithm. It used to be just an inconvenience to have a slow website – from summer 2021 you will now be punished for slow loading speeds in search rankings.
7. Poor quality images / unlicenced images
Images play an important role in the layout of websites and web pages. The phrase ‘A picture paints a thousand words’ has never been so true on a web page. Visitors don’t want to read paragraphs of text when they could view an image for a brief moment and get the same story. We see cases of poorly selected images. Images that don’t relate to the message of the page in question. Images of poor quality (pixelated, bad light, band angles). Another problem we see is unlicenced images. A big mistake people can make is to take images from Google Images and use them on their site – the owners / creators of these images are well within their rights to contact you to take the images off your site or even worse, launch legal action against you. We have an account with a stock image service that gives us access to literally millions of fully licenced images that we can obtain on our clients behalf.
8. Non compliance with data standards
As a website owner you have a responsibility to protect your visitors data, make them aware of how you treat their data and provide assurances of how you dispose of that data. In mid 2018 GDPR compliance was introduced in the EU and your site must comply with these standards or face penalties if found to be in breach. If your site went live before mid 2018 it most likely will not adhere to these standards and you may fall foul of the legislation.
9. Lack of SSL certficate protection
See here for a full article on SSL and what it does. In the not too distant past, having an SSL cert for your site was seen as a bit of a luxury. The big online giants used them but there was no real compelling reason for a lot of small & medium sized business sites to have them until late 2017 when all the major browsers (Chrome, Safari, Edge) made changes to display the text ‘Not Secure’ in the address bar on any site that didn’t have a cert installed. Needless to say the words ‘Not Secure’ are not a good look on any website address so we advise our clients to secure their website with SSL and remove this browser warning.
10. Broken links & non-clickable items
This is a real pet peeve of ours here in ClearSoft. Browsing through a site and clicking on a link that doesn’t take you anywhere or takes you to a wrong page or a page that no longer exists is unforgiveable in our view. Another thing we don’t like to see is a phone number or email address displayed on screen that isn’t clickable and actionable. This is especially true on mobile. If you display a phone number or email address on your contact page for example – that information should be clickable i.e. pressing the phone number will call the number directly on mobile and pressing the email address should open up your default mail client on mobile and desktop. This functionality is so easy to implement and so powerful – but yet we find many examples of sites not using it – forcing the customer to manually type in the phone number to their handset which can be very annoying.
Making a website and making a good website are 2 very different things. If you have a bad website, even if it cost you nothing, it could be the most expensive thing in your business. If you have a bad website that falls foul of some of the mistakes above, you may never know about it. Your visitors won’t tell you that you have a bad website, they won’t tell you that they had a bad experience, they won’t tell you that it was hard to navigate, it looked outdated or certain functions didn’t work. They’ll just go elsewhere.
A good website on the other hand will help convert your visitors to your customers. It will gently and intuitively funnel them to making a sale or making contact with you. It will give visitors confidence in your business, your products / services and your ability to deliver for them.
At ClearSoft we know the pitfalls of creating a new website and we know what mistakes look like. We’re not too proud to say that we have made some of the mistakes mentioned in this article over the years and we know how costly those mistakes can be. For that reason we have created a checklist for each website launch of around 30-40 items to be checked before going live. It takes us roughly half a day to go through this checklist for every implementation but it’s worth it.