12 Common web design mistakes small businesses make

As a small business, your website is a critical marketing and branding tool. People are coming to your website for a purpose, and you want to make sure that you answer their queries and use your website to sell your products/services effectively. If you get your website designed wrong, you could lose thousands of dollars that you could be making from a well designed website. Grow your bottom line by avoiding these 11 commonly made mistakes among small business owners.

1. A Lack of accessibility

What we mean here by accessibility is the ease with which a wide spectrum of users can access your website. It can refer to many things, such as the languages and jargons you use, to the operating system and browsers required to surf the website. Considering how the use of mobile phones is ubiquitous in this generation, remember, assess how your website looks when it is accessed from a mobile phone, or even a tablet. Does your website design look different when it is on Opera OS versus Safari OS? Believe it or not, there are still many users out there running browsers that are 5 years old. A good website design would take advantage of newer formatting and presentation capabilities, without preventing accessibility on older browser versions.

2. Paying too little or too much

You don’t know how many times people have come to us after theyve hired a cheap website designer, let them make branding decisions that are poor, and ended up with a horrible looking website. On the other hand, there are companies who get distracted by expensive digital marketing agencies that work with big brands, and dont realize these big agencies might not be able to help a small business thats ROI-focused. To put it simple, dont blow your budget on a website design, but do your research before hiring a web designer.

3. Lack of contact information

When you own a local business, you want your clients, clientele, consumers, potential customers, or whatever term it is you want to use, to be able to get your contact information. Is there a hotline they can call, if so, have you stated both the number AND the working hours? Do you also run a brick and mortar shop? If so; once again, have you included the full address with postal code, and your operating days and operating hours? Maybe you should also include simple directional instructions on how your clients can get to your office or store or cafe even. Make it extremely easy for your clients to be able to reach you by placing your contact information in your header, footer, and sidebar.

4. Publish quality content

Content is king, as they say. By publishing quality content, you’re demonstrating to your website visitors your expertise. You’re helping to boost your site’s SEO. But small businesses aren’t big, media companies. Meaning, you don’t have to blog several times a day, tweet several times an hour and so on. As a matter of fact, the most successful small business websites created around 2 posts per month. Think about it. Do you want your home renovation contractor to blog 3 times a day? Probably not. You want them to renovate your house in the quickest time with the best effort. So, if you’re a small business owner, publish less often but keep the content high quality.

5. No background music

Seriously, do not use them. It is hard to find a situation where they are appropriate. We are pretty sure that your clients will not care about whatever music or soundtrack you put on your website. Never mind having a new track for each page or internal link, just don’t use them at all. If absolutely necessary, remember to include user controls so that they can adjust the volume of the music, or even stop the music if they so choose.

6. Bad navigational issues

Navigation within your business website should be seamless and smooth. You want your users to be able to find their way around easily. While there is no measurable standard for how easy navigation is within a given website, it is still important for us to appreciate the fact that navigation should be intuitive and natural. Here are some basic guides to get you started on the idea. If text is used as navigation, it should be concise. If visual metaphors are used, stick to the conventions, avoid reinventing them for style. Hyperlinks should be outstanding from the body of text, and make sure that there are no dead links anywhere on your website. This is not only confusing for your users, it can be a waste of time. Another one that should be avoided, something that is not as uncommon as you think, is links on a webpage that links back to the same page, or even dead links.

7. Poor colour schemes and readability

This is a crucial design aspect for your business website. A good interface design will grab your users’ attention, sure, but can they also read the text to pull out the information they desire as well? A poor colour scheme should be avoided if it will distract your users from what your ‘key take-away message’ is. We promise we have seen plenty of websites that use outrageous colour combinations and bizarre font styles that make the reading a migraine-inducing task within seconds. Also important is to keep the visually-impaired users in mind. If your website uses a coloured text on a coloured background, help them out by offering a high contrast option.

8. No clear call-to-action

What do you want your website visitors to do once they land on your website? Do you want them to call you, email you, subscribe to your e-newsletter, or buy your product? You need to tell your visitors what you want them to do. Your content should answer the question, “what’s in it for me?” and then the call-to-action button tell them what to do next.

9. Pop-up Windows

Cut that out. Not every user is equipped with a pop-up blocker app on their browser. Like the background music, unless you have a very good reason, avoid the annoying pop-up windows and links.

10. Where is the Search Bar

The web is like an archive of information, much like a library, and it helps to have a system through which you can pull out the relevant information desired. Your website is really no different, and a search box is essential for your clients to find what they want. Sometimes your visitor may be looking for something that is not made explicit on your website, and a search box can come in handy. Also, make sure that the search box can be easily spotted by users. We have seen websites where finding the search box is like a mini game of ‘Finding Waldo’.

11. Are your FAQs really FAQs?

Of course, having a Frequently Asked Questions [FAQs] section on your website can be a great idea. It can be a cost and time effective way of providing answers to common questions without having them contacting you. But are you sure that the questions listed have ever been asked, let alone frequently asked. Do not make the mistake of irritating your users by having them go through a list of infrequently asked questions, only to still go away having their query unanswered. Worth noting is the fact that many websites have dispensed with the FAQs section. This is not about how fashionable the FAQ is or isn’t. The point is that ALL of the content on your site needs to be relevant to the people who are going to visit it. Relevance is a rule that should be followed throughout the designing of your web; from its inception to its maturity as you monitor your site. If a question is truly frequently asked by your users, perhaps it is time to update your website to incorporate that information into your website. Relevant content will give your visitors a good impression and it will increase the likelihood that they will take the next step to join your client base.

12. Not Keeping Track of Your Site

Finally, to ensure that the information on your website are always up-to-date and relevant to your users and clients, you have to monitor your website even after it has reached a certain level of maturity. Check your inbox and comment boxes [if any] and see what your clients and users are saying, what they are asking. This gives you an idea of questions that are frequently asked, or even if there is a need to create [remove] a new [outdated] section on your site. There are numerous tools out there that can help in monitoring your site as well. With many that are free of charge, there is really no excuse for you not to monitor who is visiting your site and what they do when they get there.

Xavier Tan
Xavier is the Co-Founder of Heroes of Digital. He started social media marketing and SEM long before it became popular in Singapore. His passion is in helping businesses grow through effective lead generation. He has overseen campaigns for Amara Hotel, NTU, Marina Bay, L'Oreal, and 100+ SMEs.


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