Kronda Adair is speaking on this topic at the Portland WordPress Meetup next Monday, February 16th, starting at 6:30PM. I haven’t seen her slides yet, although the title got me to thinking about my own experiences over the years working with many different website owners. Here’s my top 10 list of common mistakes and their remedies.
1. Choosing the wrong domain name
Let’s say that you are a commercial business and that your company name is ABC, however when you search for the domain name of www.abc.com it is already taken. Choosing www.abc.org would be a mistake, even if the domain name is available because the .org suffix is designed for non-profit companies, not commercial companies. Visit the wikipedia page for a complete list of top-level domains.
Short domain names are preferred to long names, and consider using hyphens in your domain name so that search engines can understand what you’re about (i.e. www.tualatin-real-estate.com instead of www.tualatinrealestate.com).
2. Using a Friend’s Web Hosting Business
There are probably thousands of different web hosting companies that you can choose from, so why not buy from a local buddy who operates out of his house? What happens when this friend goes out of business, leaves town, or forgets to pay his electric bill? I always recommend using a web hosting company that has 24/7 support, and that have live people that you can speak with to answer questions or concerns. My recommendations:
Another reason that I like 1and1.com is that they offer domain names, web hosting, SSL certificates, etc., all from one company, so I receive one bill each year instead of multiple bills from various vendors. It is also convenient for the website owner to also own their own domain name and web hosting account, instead of relying upon a third party.
3. Too many menu items
Apple computer is a large brand and well-known throughout the world. Look at their web site, it has just 9 menu choices. If you have more than 9 menu choices, it may be time to reconsider how you may simplify the navigation experience. If it takes too long for a visitor to read all of your menu choices, then they will likely just leave your web site in favor of one that has fewer choices that they understand.
Notice also how all of Apple’s menu names are a single word, think brevity here when choosing your menu names, this is not the place to have a sentence.
4. No Search Feature
Having a web site without a search feature may seem like a neat way to simplify the layout, however visitors really are looking for something quite specific when they visit your site and using a Search will help them find it faster than sequentially visiting and reading each page. Be convenient, and add a Search feature. WordPress users get Search as a built-in feature, so follow the leader in Content Management Systems and use Search.
5. Super-sized Logos
Large logos should be more impressive than small logos, right? Not really. Please visit some popular web sites and then measure the size of their logos: Intel, Apple, Nike, CNN. All of these prominent web sites have logos smaller than 120×120 pixels. Using a small logo will allow the maximum room for content, and content is what your visitors want to see, not a super-sized logo.
6. No Terms and Conditions
Lawyers and legalese, who needs them? You probably do, so please add a link in the footer of each web page for Terms & Conditions to let your visitors know what happens when they visit your site: Cookies, Email, Privacy, etc.
7. Not Mobile Ready
When the web first appeared in 1995 there were rudimentary web browsers, and everyone browsed from their desktop because mobile devices hadn’t been invented yet. Today in 2015 most of us use a Smart Phone with a web browser, so what happens when I visit your web site on my Samsung phone? Is your theme mobile ready where I don’t have to pinch, double-tap or scroll horizontally? Mobile visitors expect that your web site is mobile-ready and has a mobile menu icon that we fondly call the “hamburger”, it stays small until clicked and then it expands to show menu choices.
A modern web layout will be “responsive”, meaning that it will dynamically respond to the screen size available and work for: Desktop, Tablet and Mobile devices.
8. Stale Content
I visit www.cnn.com every single day because they are a news site, and they present headlines and sections of news that makes it easy for me to get updated, quickly. Imagine visiting a web site in 2015 and the footer still says 2011 on it? Now that is what I call stale content. The way to make it interesting for visitors to come back is to offer something new to inform them or entertain them. A blog is one popular technique to offer new content to your visitors, but you have to write something new at least once per month to be relevant.
9. Broken Links
You’re reading an interesting web page and there’s a link, great, clicking the link to learn more and then you suddenly get a 404 page not found, all because that was a broken link. There is a way to find all broken links and it’s free at: http://validator.w3.org/checklink. Another way to check for broken links and other ailments is to create a free Google Webmaster account and then Google will alert you to any syntax issues on your web site.
10. Slow Web Pages
We are impatient people, and expect that any web site should become visible in a few seconds. Having a web site that takes 45 seconds to load the Home page will certainly cause the majority of your precious visitors to simply exit the site, and go back to where they came from. To make your web pages load faster consider the following:
- Use fewer images on your site.
- Use smaller images on your site, especially a slide show.
- Choose a faster web hosting service, many low-cost web hosts share your web server hardware with dozens to hundreds of other web sites. You can upgrade to a virtual server or dedicate server as traffic increases.
- Use some type of caching so that common pages load quickly.
- Ask a web developer to assess the source of the slow pages.
Now you know my top 10 list of what to avoid as website owner, so please consider attending Kronda’s talk on Monday to find out her list which will benefit your web presence.