Even after following everything from the textbook, many websites fail to perform. Have you ever wondered why? Me too. After giving it some thought, I figured that the textbook theory might cover all the essential stages of website development process, but in practice there are numerous underlying factors that ultimately decide the fate of a business website.
Being in web industry for years now, I know that website development is quite a sophisticated process that requires lots of brainstorming and improvisation. And business owners with little or no technical knowhow are in no way ready to handle the process on their own. Undertaking the process without professional help means they are bound to make some mistakes the eventually results into a bummer.
In this post, I will outline all the blunders that business owners make during each stage of website development process, so that you come to know what not to do when developing your website.
Buckle up! It’s a long ride.
Undeniably the most crucial stage of website development process, but also the most mistake-prone. The first mistake that business owners make during the planning stage is not outlining the goal of their website clearly. Then onwards, it’s the dominoes of mistakes:
Without a clear website goal, the business model remains unsettled; without a settled business model, website’s target audience remains uncertain; without a set target audience, market research about customers’ needs becomes directionless; and the result is a website with no legs to stand on despite a good investment.
Taking professional assistance can help you avoid this chain reaction of blunders. Have an experienced business analyst at your side while formulating the initial website development strategy and you won’t have a tough time keeping things aligned.
Besides these flaws in the planning stage, there are a couple of crucial factors that I have seen most business owners simply don’t even consider. These are:
It won’t be an exaggeration if I say that brand name alone can make or break a business. Most business owners like to go for a catchy brand name without considering whether the name has already been taken. If taken, there can be some serious consequences:
First, you could receive a cease-and-desist letter (or infringement letter) if your brand name infringes any other company’s copyrights. Second, the brand name you choose can already have a bad online reputation, which will inherently get mud on your website.
So, what you need to do is create a long list of potential brand names with available domain name, and then shortlist them based on their relevancy and catchiness. Also, include the service/product name in your brand name, as it makes customers find you even when they are not searching you by name.
In my experience, one of the biggest mistakes that business owners make is that they don’t plan their website from the marketing point of view. There are lots of crucial questions in this context that need to be addressed within the planning stage itself, such as:
Neither business owners nor the development team has answers to all these questions. So, this is where you need to hire a marketing professional. And yes, during the planning stage itself. Because, if you wait for it until your website is live, making changes and adding features will become a formidable task and will take lots of extra time, efforts, and money. Additionally, make sure you hire a third party marketing professional, since only then you can receive unbiased and honest suggestions.
Mark my words, if you fail to involve a marketing professional during the planning stage, in every stage that follows, you are going to regret your decision.
A piece of advice here – ‘Design your website for customers first, not business’. Of course, at the end of the day what you want from your website is business, but then, if it fails to make an impact on the customer, it won’t bring you any business anyway, right?
Here are a few mistake prone zones in the designing phase that you should avoid:
More than professionals of any other field, designers have the knack to do things their own way despite being repeatedly told to do things in a certain way. And that’s where the old ‘client requirements-designer opinion’ conflict comes from. Many clients even give in to designers’ argument thinking ‘they are professional, maybe they know better’. But designers could be wrong.
Point is, while designers’ job is to make things look good, it is your job to make sure that things also work well as per your specific business requirements. This is where the assistance of marketing professional can come handy again – in deciding the right design for your website and in ensuring that it scores well on every aspect of user experience.
Graphics make your website look more alive, true! But not everyone has the bandwidth to support them, especially mobile users. The purpose of graphics is ultimately to enhance user experience, not to kill it. Therefore, it is important to use graphics only when appropriate, because no user has the patience to stay on a website that takes too long to load.
The root cause of bad navigation is poor information architecture (sitemap), which is the result of not having a clear picture of why the user has come to your website and what you want him to do once he is there. If the user will feel stuck at every single point of your website, he would hardly come back to it.
Experimenting is cool when designing a website, but too much of it can just kill things. No matter how intuitive the navigation is, if interface keeps on changing from page to page, it is going to piss off users. Same goes for content layout. If the content is not organized properly, users will probably miss the message you want to deliver. Another issue regarding layout is that it may look okay on one screen size but not in another. Make sure that you have that figured out too.
It sometimes infuriates me that many business owners literally cut off the limbs of their website in order to save some little money. All they think about is money they are spending now and not about the huge pile of money they will be losing in the future. Make sure you avoid these blunders during the development phase of your website.
Amid the rush of timely delivery of the website, ensuring cross-browser compatibility is often left out. Of course, it can be detected and fixed during the testing phase, but then, why leave things for later when they can be fixed with considerably fewer efforts now. Just make sure developing team is switching between browsers and avoiding browser specific codes wherever possible.
Not making your website responsive is like making the biggest mistake ever. Especially, ever since Google rolled out its Mobilegeddon update earlier this year. Sure, building a mobile website is another option here, but it comes with lots of headaches – separate domain, separate hosting; meaning, more maintenance cost. Additionally, a mobile website also dilutes your website domain and hurts organic traffic.
Another goof of the development stage is postponing SEO until development is complete. Folks, that’s a huge slip-up! SEO is way broader than just inserting keywords, meta-data, image alt tags, etc. Components like crawlable site architecture, smart back linking, optimizing site loading time, eliminating content duplicity issue, proper URL structure, conversion funnel optimization, etc. must be implemented within the development phase.
If you have strictly followed every step during the designing and development stages, it doesn’t mean that you can chill-out or even skip the testing stage. No sir, you can’t do that! Even after doing everything right so far, by overlooking following aspects during the testing phase, you would be literally driving your website to the ground.
This is a huge mistake that is ridiculously common. First, developers cannot perform testing at the level testing engineers can do it. Second, finding errors in one’s own code is sort of a formidable task. Finally third, quite often developers skip small code errors, because in resolving them they will have to make painstaking efforts.
Testing is not just about resolving technical glitches, it is also about making sure that the end user will like your website. But this user-acceptance aspect is quite often overlooked, and the result is a zero code error website with no user engagement. ‘Does website works in all computing environments and at a wide range bandwidth?’, ‘where users might need direction on the website?’, etc. are some concerns that need to be answered here.
Micro-optimizations like button color change, minor code optimization, etc. consume lots of time and distract testers from the fundamental issues. This in turn, makes testing an unnecessarily tedious process. I know, this is something that testers need to take care of, but at the end of the day business owners have to pay the extra cash.
With poor hosting services, your website is doomed to become just another occupied domain name. A single mistake here can cost you a lot, and that at the least. These are the mistakes that you need to avoid while choosing a hosting plan:
Anything free sounds nice, but it can get you in trouble. And free web hosting service is a good example in this context. Poor website loading time, error in running scripts, server going down for no explained reason, no importance on search results, etc. are only a few surprises you are going to get with free or cheap web hosting services.
Startups can come into limelight overnight. Amid the situation, not having scalable server space can be a huge letdown for website users, as well as business. Shifting files from one server to another or syncing the existing server with new ones isn’t really a very viable solution in the situation. Plus, it is going to cost you way more than a good web hosting plan in the beginning.
Shared hosting means you are sharing the server space with hundreds or even thousands of other websites. Even if one of these sites encounters a virus or malicious code, it could affect your website’s loading time or may be result into a web blackout because the server is going down. Just compare the business you can lose during that time and cost of a dedicated server, then decide.
Now that you are at the launch pad, you need to ensure that you go only upwards from here. If you couldn’t take the hint, then what I mean is, now you need to make sure that your website doesn’t get a beating from Google because of a stupid mistake.
If same content exists under two URLs on your website, you are in some serious trouble. Without canonical tags, Google takes it as content duplicity and penalizes webmasters for plagiarism. This issue is quite common on ecommerce websites where products available in different colors have different URLs for each color but same content on each page.
Any website can have ‘Not Found’ pages, and ecommerce websites can have a bundle of them. Not fixing them – either by removing or by redirecting – can screw up the user experience of the website and leads to poor ranking in search results.
Pages that you don’t want to get indexed such as admin control and other backend pages (some frontend pages as well) must be disallowed in robot.txt file. Apart from not mentioning these pages in the robot.txt file, many web owners even forget to make the robot.txt accessible to crawlers. And the result is a diluted authority of the website.
Recommended Reading: Crucial on-page SEO Tags to Rank High on Google in 2015
I understand that on-page analysis can get a bit too technical for businesspersons. So, the most mindful solution here is to hire a reliable professional SEO team. Otherwise, you would either simply ignore the on-page SEO factors or will waste a lot of time figuring out things on your own without reaching anywhere – which is yet another mistake.
It’s been a lot of work so far, but don’t stop yet. You have made you website pitch-perfect from design & development perspective. Good! You have made sure that Google is going to love your website. Awesome! But now if you fail to market it properly, all your efforts will go in gutter. Note down these mistakes and make sure you don’t repeat them.
I have seen plenty of cases when the budget is drained out by the end of the development & deployment phase. All is the result of poor financial planning and committing common mistakes during the intermediate stages. Ideally, marketing of a website costs way more than its development. If you fail to see it and act accordingly, well, let me remind you of the gutter again.
This is what happens when you jump right into marketing without professional assistance. Decoding how exactly end user is responding to your website requires year of experience in the field. You may think that your marketing campaign is fetching good traffic, but eventually it could turn out to be all irrelevant and make the bounce rate cross all bars.
It doesn’t matter how large or small your business is, during initial phase, progress will come at a snail’s pace. There is an endless ocean of websites out there. How can you expect to get recognition with the course of a few months? You must make constant marketing efforts for a year or two before you can expect your website to become an established name in the market.
It’s a dynamic market out there whose needs and taste change continuously. Even after establishing your brand name, you need to closely follow market trends and adapt. So, from business model to hosting technology, design to SEO approach, you should be ready to make the necessary changes so that your website is always neck and shoulder above the market needs and also pleases Google.
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