Common Web Design Mistakes

The web design agency how, what & why

Choosing the right web design agency can be very difficult.  The prices can vary wildly from £2,000 to £30,000 with web design agencies offering a range of different apparently ‘essential’ elements that your business needs.

This guide will help you understand the different types of web agencies (their strengths and weaknesses), how much you should spend, the decision making problems you face and how best to future proof your website so you don’t have to keep paying for a completely new website every couple of  years.

Who’s this guide for? Anyone who is considering using a web design agency and needs insight into what’s involved as well as an understanding of the common problems and pitfalls to look out for.

Never pay for a full website redesign again

It is simply staggering the amount of companies that have websites built only to realise when they start online marketing that they need to redesign the entire darn thing.

We are not talking about spending only £2,000 to £5,000 on a re-design we are talking maybe £30,000 or more.

Yes, some companies get away with it, and in my best game show voice “It could be you”! But if you are a business owner that likes a business plan with a clearly labelled financial forecast, be aware that potentially nothing quite decimates your bottom line like having to rebuild your website.

So here are a few absolute must-haves (and mustn’t-haves) to be aware of when you decide to rebuild your website.

I will show you how to ensure it is SIGNIFICANTLY less painful than it might otherwise have been.

Use WordPress / Woocommerce unless you have a specific reason not too

For those that don’t know WordPress then this is your lucky day.  1 in 4 of the top websites use this website builder because it’s the easiest to use and understand.

There are thousands of themes and plugins to save you a ton of money on coding costs and most importantly WordPress is constantly updating and improving, so it’s easily the most future proof website builder as well.

If you are considering Wix, Squarespace or any other cheap website builder then let me say this.    They are great companies. You don’t need to hire a web designer at all to build a website and host it, but if you want to understand their limitations then only have to check out their feature lists.  Bear in mind that WordPress has over 47,629 additional features.

Yes, that is too many, but what it demonstrates is that it offers the latest and greatest marketing and design features (mainly for free), all the time.  Can your business afford not to be part of this technological movement? I doubt it.

If you are happy with a standard look and feel then fair enough. But there are issues with the web designers available for Wix, if you need anything bespoke.  You can always choose which website builder is the best, based on the standard of web designers you can get for a good hourly price.

I will of course leave you make up your own mind but please have a look at http://arena.wix.com/pro-designers to see the standard of designers and judge if this is something your business would be happy with.

I do have a soft spot for Magento, in the same way as I have a soft spot for duck a l’orange.  I’ve tried to learn how to cook it, burned either the duck or the l’orange over 3 times and then gave up and ordered a curry, but I would love to return to it one day.

Magento is really not for the feint hearted, it’s more expensive, more complicated to set up and it’s mostly used by much larger businesses as there are some pretty detailed advanced features, such as upselling and cross selling functionality.

HTML is a coding language that was created in the 1980’s back in the time of shoulder pads, leg warmers and when Abba were still making hit records. However this coding language, for our purposes at least, is in the past and should stay there.

You can buy HTML templates and people still build websites in HTML but this has been slowly dying out as business owners are less interested in learning the coding language required just to add a title or a page to their website and who can blame them.

Choosing WordPress, with a little guidance, is the equivalent of buying a car and then having the ability every couple of years to get a complete upgrade for nothing or a trivially small fee.

However, and this is the important point, just choosing WordPress as your website builder is not enough.  You need to very carefully select the theme you choose to work within.

Keeping this analogy alive, if you are going to choose a car then choose a BMW not a Ford Focus (other cars are available).  It’s my job to show you the difference.

Now, there are hundreds of places to find themes and one of the biggest mistakes that companies make is to choose a theme based simply on how they look.

In fact, possibly 95% of all those who buy themes, choose them on that basis. So if you think that is a perfectly normal approach, it is, but actually it’s the wrong approach.

A WordPress theme is like buying the car without the engine.  It’s buying what the website looks like to your visitors (called front-end).
A WordPress framework is the working engine.  You cannot buy a WordPress framework separately (called the back-end), as you always get a WordPress theme and framework together.

The best way to explain it is in terms of price.   Remember that designing a website to look like another website does not take that long to do and if you are a serious business you would have the website re-designed anyway.

What takes a far greater amount of time and cost is when you discover a website theme has bugs, problems and other functionality issues that you didn’t consider at the time when you choose the theme based on looks.

It’s like choosing a girlfriend based on looks and then realising that she is a bit of alcoholic and quite stupid.

So if you are looking for website theme, choose one with a great WordPress framework that can also provide you with great functionality.

Where can I find the best WordPress themes?

Here is a shortlist of websites that made it into our top 10. The theme type ‘WordPress’ is informational where ‘Woocommerce’ is eCommerce.

Top Themes (static websites) Type of theme Price
http://www.salienttheme.com/ WordPress £50
https://theme.co/x/ WordPress £50
http://www.kriesi.at/ (otherwise known as Enfold) WordPress £50
https://betheme.me/ WordPress £50
http://kaliumtheme.com/ WordPress £50
http://flatsome.uxthemes.com/ Woocommerce £50
http://shopkeeper.getbowtied.com/ Woocommerce £50
http://demo.xtemos.com/basel/ Woocommerce £50
http://themes-pixeden.com/wordpress/demos/?theme=Molly Woocommerce £50
https://themeforest.net/item/mega-shop-woocommerce-responsive-theme/7488456 Woocommerce £50

The next step is to buy a bottle of wine.  Yes, you heard me.  Buy a bottle of wine, open it, pour a glass, get comfortable and start looking for themes you like on www.themeforest.net.

Spend no less than a couple of hours searching through the list of themes, or at least until you’ve done justice to the bottle.

Once you have created the list of themes you like with the features you need you can make the purchase in the full and certain knowledge that you’ve saved a packet on design and development and from that moment on any changes can be made at minimum cost and upgrades will be made available for free, certainly for the first year.  Congratulations!

The golden rules

1

Get the branding basics right

When building or redesigning a website it is common to spend thousands of pounds on brand consultancy fees.  Ouch!  So to reduce this expense do as much research as you can so you can fully to understand how you want your business to be perceived by customers.

Most web design companies offer a branding guide to help understand your requirements better but branding consists of more than writing down your vision and who your target audience is.

It’s about creating a story around your business, defining your reason for existing and understanding who you are trying to help or sell to.

If you have never read a branding book but want to, these made it into our top 3:

  • Seth Godin: Linchpin
  • Seth Godin: Purple Cow
  • Simon Middleton: Build a Brand in 30 days

Here is a summary of your main branding considerations:

Who is your competition?

No business relishes being in direct competition with another business especially if the only differential is price.

Have a look at your main competitors and list out what they currently do well and not so well.

Using that research, try and differentiate yourself by visuals, messaging and/or values.  Compare those factors with your competitors and make sure you happy you are unique enough to appeal to your customer’s needs.

It is incredibly hard to know what your customers want of course unless you have asked them. So if you are redesigning your website, make sure you speak to your current customers to understand why they decided to engage with you rather than the opposition and what values they used to make their buying decisions.

Define your USP’s

What is your business known for?  Do you provide a service like no other, have you figured out a cheaper way to deliver a solution or is your business proposition better than the rest.

Try to define your USP’s as the cornerstone of driving more business to your website.

Create a pitch and slogan

As a valuable exercise start by attempting then define your business in 3-5 words. Next create a single sentence and after that try devising a 30 second chat. Imagine how convincing you could be if pitching your business on ‘Dragons Den’, or would you hear the dreaded words, “I’m out”?

Why does this really matter for my design?

It just gives you a great start.  It allows the web designer to understand where your USP’s should be located on the website, what your main headline should be and also helps clarify how the website should be structured.

That’s fine, many companies test their headlines and USPs.  This is simply a starting point so at the website construction stage, make sure that you mention that you may wish to change or test this approach going forward, the web designer should then be able to build the website in a way that simplifies such future changes.
2

Don’t just copy a competitor, unless it’s the right one

It is almost inevitable that you look at a competitor’s website and think “if only my website could look like that”.

I can honestly say that there has not been one person I’ve worked with who doesn’t have a favourite competitor website and whether it’s subconscious or not, the design always tends to take shape under the influence of the website you like most.

However, this approach is not a good idea until you have collated worthwhile business intelligence on that competitor. For example the technology they have adopted to build their website and the analytics and tracking they use.

Luckily for you, you can do this quite easily by visiting http://builtwith.com/.

Builtwith is a business intelligence tool that enables you to legally interrogate other websites and learn which technologies they have used to construct them. It creates behind the scenes profiles on the methods they’ve used to cultivate more leads, improved conversions and maximise sales.

If you are not familiar with the world of lead generation and competitor analysis, then this may seem more than a tad daunting but it really is the best way of understanding where a competitor is taking their business and their methods of web design and online marketing, whether it be good or bad.

The rule of thumb is, if a competitor is using lead generation tools and conversion rate optimisation software then they are truly embracing latest technologies and are company worth taking inspiration from, at little least.

A conversion is a desired action by a visitor on your website (enquiry, download, and/or sale).  Conversion rate optimisation software is a tool that allows you to monitor and improve those desired actions by revealing which parts of your websites require improvement.   If you detect that a business is using such a tool then you know that they are spending time changing and improving the pages on their website to improve their conversions.  Which means there’s a higher likelihood that what they are doing is working for them, so will probably to work for you.
A lead generation tool is a piece of software that allows you to test diverse marketing material that you use to generate leads and tells you which is a hero or a useless villain. These tools can also analyse the types of leads you are getting and help you gain a greater understanding of people who are interested in the marketing material you have produced.

The point of a lead generation tool is to be able to refine and improve your marketing so that you can focus on the type of marketing that brings in the most leads.

3

Think about your lead magnet

A lead magnet is an irresistible free bribe offering a specific chunk of value to a prospect (potential customer) in exchange for their contact information.

The offering need not be lengthy or complex or even time-intensive to create, they just have to ‘connect’.

Types of lead magnets a business can use:

Guide / Reports

Create a guide or report that you feel would be of interest to your customers.  In almost every industry there is someone who has created this type of lead magnet, so make sure that the topic you choose is specific to a type of customer you want to attract.

Cheat Sheet/Handout

Do you have a type of business that can offer a cheat sheet?  Obviously this is limited to some specific companies like poker, marketing, finance etc. but people love to know ‘secrets’. So offering a cheat sheet could be a great way to titillate a customer’s intrigue.

Cheat Sheets don’t have to be long and cumbersome; they are just a great bit of info that works.

When you redesign your website, always try to include at least one lead magnet so that you can start to build your email list.

Many companies just offer a newsletter, but that may not be strong enough.  View your competitors, ask your current customers, brainstorm ideas and include it in your design.

4

View what your customers do on your website first

Ever wondered which areas of your website are performing well and which are not?

Well using https://www.hotjar.com/ software can be added to your website to better understand your web and mobile site visitors using heat-maps that visually represent their scrolling behaviour, clicks or screen taps.

It’s easy to install and also gives the opportunity to ask questions about your current design etc. in the form of feedback polls and surveys.

5

Build a website with the intention that it will make you money

One of the great questions I love to be asked when building a website is, “will this re-design make me more money”?

It’s always a nice question to hear because it means that we are very much on the same page, but not all web designers like to hear that question.

It’s impossible to know with certainty to what extent a new website will improve sales, but when you re-design a website the best chance you have to grow your sales, leads and enquiries are to have a good digital strategy integrated into the website and have clear and concise tracking tools that monitors your visitor’s habits.

If you do not have this approach, then you are simply relying on the website designer to get it perfect first time but unfortunately that is almost impossible to achieve.

Really good websites grow, change and adapt based on customer activity and feedback. That’s it.

6

Focus on credibility and pain points

Credibility is another way of saying ‘social proof’.  It is just human nature to be more attracted to a product or service when other people (preferably with similar values to you) have used it and love it or it is recommended by a respected source.

If you have those fundamentals already then make the most of them on your website. If you don’t then try during the build to work with your designer and marketer to obtain valued recommendations and integrate them into your designs.

Companies such as http://www.reviews.co.uk offer a way of asking your customers for a review that will give you a ‘star rating’ on marketing platforms such as AdWords or even in your Google rankings.

This not only boosts your sales when people interact with your website, it also attracts people to your website.

With pain points, we are making reference to things that customers must clearly want to see before they feel comfortable buying from you.

As an example if you offer jewellery for sale online, a pain point occurs if you do not have a clearly labelled returns policy.

Look out for pain points on your competitor’s websites and add solutions into your designs.

7

Don’t just design the home page

Most web design companies offer a uniquely designed home page as standard but not the other pages. Now I am not saying that every page should be completely unique using a graphic designer as some pages will correctly mirror others.

However these four most important pages i.e. ‘home’, ‘about us’, ‘product/services’ and ‘contact us’, should be unique and you need to discuss this with your designer.

The cost of the other pages will be less than that of the home page, so you will pay less than you think and will make a massive difference to the look and feel of your website.

8

Have a Digital Strategy

Now, we are not talking about a global digital strategy penetrating new markets, littered with technical jargon that would be simply incomprehensible.

Instead you want a nice and easy to understand, clear and concise route to market with inbuilt tracking tools that track your visitor’s habits so you can react accordingly.

Please see below a rough example:

  • Reach – Investigate and find the best marketing methods (SEO, PPC, Inbound Marketing, Video)
  • Act – Encourage visitors to your website to take the next desired action making it as clear and as simple to do so
  • Convert – Find a way in which you can change your visitor into a paying customer
  • Engage – Keep your customer engaged with your business so you can benefit from repeat purchases