10 Common Website Mistakes

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.

Summary

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.


WordPress 5.8 “Tatum” Released

WordPress 5.8 was released on July 20th. The release name is “Tatum”, named after Art Tatum – a legendary jazz pianist.

What’s New?

Gutenberg blocks are key to this release. Gutenberg is the advanced editor within WordPress that was launched a couple of years ago. At ClearSoft we’re not huge fans of Gutenberg to be honest. There are better page editors available for WordPress and we just find it a bit clunky. That said, it is powerful in the right hands and it is free.

Gutenberg blocks are blocks of content that can be grouped and moved around your pages – an easier way to manage page construction than just raw code. This release makes improvements to blocks around widget integration, content looping and template integration. As I said we’re not huge users of Gutenberg blocks in ClearSoft so we don’t see any huge benefits in 5.8 to our customers from a functionality perspective.

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The 10 questions you need to ask your web designer

If you’re in the market for a new website one of the initial steps will be to shop around for quotes. There is no standard template for web design agencies to respond to quotes so it can be difficult for you to understand what the quote entails. The quote itself will show you the estimated price, but that doesn’t tell you what you’re getting for that price.

With this in mind we have created a list of questions that you should ask as part of your quote request. This should help you identify how much bang you’re getting for your buck.

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WordPress – the importance of staying current

WordPress is the most popular website content management system in the world and powers a reported 34% of all the worlds websites – that’s over 75 million sites! So it should come as no surprise that here at ClearSoft, we have a number of WordPress sites in that 75 million.

WordPress is robust, extendable, usable and has a vibrant community constantly working on enhancements and new features. Many of the top websites in the world such as TED, CNN, People Magazine, UPS amongst others use it as their chosen platform.

With great popularity comes great threats. Given the scale of its user base, it can be very attractive for hackers to probe for back doors into this system – and they succeed regularly. And when they succeed once, it’s very easy for them to propagate an attack to hit millions of WordPress installations around the world. The WordPress development community is in a constant ongoing battle to stay one step ahead of the bad guys.

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WordPress 5.7 “Esperanza” is here

WordPress 5.7 was released on March 9th. The release name is “Esperanza”, named after Esperanza Spalding – a musical prodigy who has had an inspiring journey.

What’s New?

As with all recent releases, much of the development is around the Gutenberg editor. It’s now more powerful and easier to use. The editor now allows novice users achieve professional results without having to hire a professional. This is especially useful for those clients who make regular changes to their pages and layouts.

Some improvements have been made to Gutenberg blocks. There is now drag-and-drop functionality incorporated within Gutenberg that allows you easily drag blocks of functionality right into your pages and posts. This has been around in different commercial page builders over the years – but certain implementations have been clumsy in this regard – creating some bad HTML which impacts on site speed scoring. WordPress claim that their native drag and drop functionality is farm more efficient and generates cleaner front end HTML code.

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WordPress 5.6 has arrived. Meet Simone.

On Tuesday (December 8th), WordPress 5.6 was released. This release is called Simone after legendary performer Nina Simone. Similar to 5.4 and 5.5, enhancements to the block editor seem to be the major improvements of this release with the end user having much more flexibility around page layouts with having to write code. There are also lots of goodies for us tech nerds around API integration, PHP 8 & jQuery.

This release was brought us to by an-all woman squad – which is also a first for WordPress.

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Second Lockdown On The Way : Threat Or Opportunity?

Last night the Irish government announced that the country would be moving to level 5 of the ‘Plan For Living with COVID-19’ framework. This is effectively another nationwide lockdown and will come as devastating news to some people and businesses.

This is a very serious time for many Irish businesses and we understand that some will not recover and live to see a brighter day. For other businesses however, there is an opportunity to turn a perceived negative into a positive. This article will explore this.

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LEO Grant – Some Advice

Earlier this year, the Local Enterprise Office announced changes to the Online Trading Voucher Scheme that many businesses have availed of. The closing date for these applications was the end of September – it may well open again in the future so with that in mind – below is some advice to those that may look to avail of it should it be re-opened.

Understand the rules

Lets start off with the ground rules of this scheme. The Trading Online Voucher Scheme is aimed at small business with up to 10 employees to trade more online. Grants of up to €2,500 are available with 10% co-funding from the business. So essentially for €250 input from your business, you can get work completed to a value of €2750.

The grant can be used to develop a new or upgrade an existing e-commerce website, add online payments or booking systems or develop an app. You must be trading for at least 6 months prior to application to avail of this scheme and you must attend an online trading seminar with your Local Enterprise Office. Your yearly turnover must be less that €2 million.

Note: you may only draw down the grant after the work has been completed and the provider has been paid in full. This is very important to understand before applying.

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