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Top 5 worst website design mistakes for small businesses

24 October, 2019 · 15 min read·Small business basics
Top 5 worst website design mistakes for small businesses
Designing a website is challenging but we are here to help. Here are the top 5 mistakes you should avoid when designing yours.

Having a website is a must for businesses of any size in 2020. Your website forms the core of your online presence, strengthening your brand, connecting with customers, and providing important evidence of your trustworthiness and authority.

While it’s easy these days to conduct many of your online marketing and business activities from social media platforms, your own website is still your most important digital asset.

However, outsourcing web design and development to a professional agency can be expensive. For this reason, many small businesses opt to go the DIY route. Open source software like WordPress has made it cheap and easy for anyone to set up their own website. But if you’ve made the decision to cut costs by building your own site, it’s vital to avoid the pitfalls that so many business owners fall into.

If you’re planning to design and create your website, make sure you’re aware of some of the most common mistakes so you can avoid doing the same thing yourself.

1. Not designing for mobile

Amateur or not, there is absolutely no excuse for creating a website that isn’t mobile friendly in 2019.

Mobile users now account for more than half of all global web traffic. What exactly does this mean for you? In simple language, you’ll be turning your back on more than half of your customers if your website is hard to read or use on a mobile device.

The good news is that web developers have been aware of this for quite some time. Most modern website themes and templates are designed to be responsive, meaning they’ll automatically adjust to fit the screen they’re being viewed on.

However, just because a web design is advertised as being “responsive” doesn’t mean that it will provide an optimal experience for mobile users.

In the past, websites were designed to be viewed on big screens like laptops and desktop computers, and the mobile version of the site was considered next (as somewhat of an afterthought in many cases.) We’re now seeing a shift toward mobile-first design, meaning designing primarily for mobile devices and then thinking about how the site looks on bigger screen devices.

Even Google has made the change to mobile first – mobile versions of websites are now the primary version used in their ranking and indexing algorithms. What does this mean for you? If your website is mobile-friendly, you’ve got a better chance of appearing at the top of search listings.

So how do you build a site for mobile? If you’re using a pre-designed theme or template, make sure it uses responsive design and test it thoroughly before committing. Check the site on a mobile device and make sure everything looks right and it’s easy to navigate.

If you’re designing your site yourself, think simple. Clean and minimal designs tend to translate better to mobile than sites with lots of bells and whistles. Remember that functionality should be your primary aim – a fancy looking website is no good if nobody uses it.

2. Not prioritizing site speed

We’re living in an increasingly impatient world. As technology has advanced and internet speeds have become faster, web users simply aren’t prepared to wait around for your website to load anymore.

This is particularly true for those on-the-go mobile users (remember they probably make up over half of your web visitors), 53% of whom will abandon a site if it takes longer than three seconds to load.

Evidence shows that even if you can shave microseconds off your page load time, it could make a big difference to your bottom line. A study carried out by mobile shopping platform Mobify found that a 100-microsecond reduction in page load time increased conversions by over 1%.

Having a speedy site is not only important for the user experience, but for SEO purposes too. Google has confirmed that speed is a ranking factor, particularly for mobile searches. In other words, if you’re trying to beat your competitor to the top of the search results and all else is equal, speeding up your site could be enough to let you take that top spot.

So how do you make sure your website is loading fast? In today’s world where every millisecond counts, you need to make sure you have a strong foundation. In other words, speed should be a major priority from initial development right through to final touches.

Again, simple sites tend to have the upper hand here – minimal sites with no fancy graphics to slow them down will naturally load faster than designs with large background images.

But it’s not always obvious that a site will load fast just from looking at it. Some web designs are built with speed in mind so if you’re browsing pre-built themes make sure you look for this as a feature.

If your site is well coded and built for speed, you’re off to a great start. But don’t ruin it by overloading it with large images and bloated plugins. All these things can slow down a site so keep them to a minimum. Compress images before you use them on your site and consider using a CDN to serve up pages to users in the most efficient way possible.

You can test the speed of your site with Google’s own tool, which will also give you suggestions for improvements you can make so it loads faster on all devices.

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3. Poor navigation

Prioritizing design over user experience is a mistake even professional web designers make. But the fact is your website is a tool – it’s not just for show – and if it’s not easy to use, you’ll be annoying your customers and probably losing out on business too. It’s important from the very start to map out the content on your site and consider the user journey. Everything should be as easy to find and access as possible.

Some common navigation mistakes include:

  • Using icons instead of text for navigation that aren’t intuitive to figure out.
  • Including too many items on your menu or deeply nested drop-down menus.
  • Diverting from the standard and expected horizontal navigation across the top of the page or vertical navigation on the left.
  • Using ambiguous labels for your navigation (for example, “investment” instead of “prices” is a common one seen on photographer websites).

If you’ve decided to take on the task of designing your website yourself, it’s a really good idea to educate yourself on UX best practices before you dive in.

However, it’s also important to remember that these best practices aren’t set in stone. Your customers might not use your site in the same way as another set of users. The way we search and browse websites is also constantly evolving as new technologies such as voice search become more popular.

For this reason, it’s a good idea to periodically experiment and test your navigation to make sure it’s working. You can set up split A/B tests to do this where two different versions of your site are shown to different users and the results are recorded, or you can use a website testing service where users will actually record their actions and thoughts when trying to navigate your site.

Another option that’s only become possible in the last few years is to utilize the power of artificial intelligence to figure out the best navigation for your site and to set up your website so that it “self-optimizes” to the most user-friendly configuration.

This AI-powered software, such as the service provided by B12, takes the guesswork out of web design, enabling you to figure out the optimal combination of navigation, content, and design for the best user experience and highest conversion rate.

4. Not including clear calls to action

When you’re considering your website navigation, you should also keep in mind what exactly you want the user to do on every page and how you can guide them into performing this action.

Without a clear CTA on every page, you’re at high risk of users clicking onto your site, scanning it quickly, and bouncing right back off again.

You should consider your CTAs both in the overall design of your site (which might mean including your phone number or a contact button above the fold on all pages) and in every piece of content you publish. There’s a whole other set of design guidelines when it comes to adding CTAs to web content. The most important factors are that they should stand out and be crystal clear. Buttons always work well but make sure they’re in a contrasting color to the rest of your site.

One study found that orange buttons work better than any other color, and there may be something to this when you consider that one of the world’s biggest ecommerce sites – Amazon – uses orange for its “Add to Basket” and “Buy Now” buttons. Again this is something you should experiment with using A/B tests or AI optimization software to see what works best for your site and audience.

When your CTAs are weak or you don’t have enough of them, this will result in a poor conversion rate and mean you’re not making the most out of your site. Many website owners focus solely on trying to get more traffic to their site, when in fact they could get a lot more from the traffic they already have just by improving their CTAs.

5. Disregarding SEO

SEO or search engine optimization is the practice of optimizing your site to make it more visible to search engines. In other words, if you sell blue widgets you want to make sure that your site comes up in the first page of search results when someone searches for “blue widgets”.

SEO is a massive industry and many businesses spend tens of thousands on hiring experts from SEO agencies to help them get ahead of the competition.

It’s true that SEO can be a complex practice, but getting the basics right on your own site shouldn’t be overlooked. When it comes to SEO, there are two main branches to consider: off-site and on-site SEO. Off-site refers to things you can do externally to your own website such as link building, while on-site SEO involves the actual content and structure of your own site.

Making sure your web design is structured properly for SEO can go a long way toward putting your site in Google’s good books. In fact, if you’re not in a competitive industry or your competitors haven’t focused on their own on-site SEO, building your site with SEO in mind could be enough to let you beat them.

Again, it’s advised that you educate yourself about the basics of SEO for web design before you start. This essentially boils down to making sure you provide a great user experience, structure your site well, and use appropriate HTML tags to format your content.

A Helping Hand for Business Owners

If all this sounds like a bit too much work, you’re not alone. This is the main reason why so many businesses choose to leave the work of designing their website to the professionals.

However, there is another option. If you want to make sure you’re building your site in accordance with current best practices, but without the expense of hiring a specialist design agency, B12 AI-powered web design is here for you.

B12 combines a team of human designers with AI technology to create a custom website that works for you and your audience. The designs we create are fully optimized for SEO and user experience, and adapt and evolve over time to suit changing needs and trends.

Find out more and get started today.

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