Part of becoming an expert is making every mistake in a narrow field. For me, that field is WordPress websites and I’m guilty of plenty of lapses in judgement.
Even as a computer engineer, there are times when I struggle for hours, literally cursing at the screen trying to identify the cause of a problem. Then I find that the fix took 2-seconds and was right in front of my face.
I’m human ya’ll. I’m also not Southern but saying ya’ll just felt right… let’s move on.
Here are some of the top mistakes that I’ve made and that you should avoid when you are building a client website:
Focusing on Design Only
If you are a creative person, the design is the first element that you will think about when starting a new website. Obviously having an eye-catching look will set your website apart, but you also need to consider two other important factors: usability and content.
Even though you will strongly want to take charge and make something amazing, don’t make it difficult for the average user to get to the most important pages on the website. I can’t tell you how many times a client asked for a “splash” intro page or music playing on their website to add to the “design”. I used to give in to these requests. Now I tell them it’s not useful and some visitors actually get angry when they see these unnecessary (and outdated) techniques.
Lastly, have a good understanding of the type of content that will be on the website and build the design around the content – not the other way around! The content is what will drive engagement and also search engine traffic, so make sure it is prominently featured.
The header and footer areas will be the consistent sections on each page of your client’s website. That is where you want to put their logo and/or tagline, navigation menus, contact information and other important information.
With WordPress this is a lot easier to manage but if you are building an HTML website, this can be overlooked if you are copying/pasting from page-to-page. I can’t tell you how many local business websites that I’ve been to where they have a different menu on several pages. Some will only have a menu on the home page and if you are reading an inner page you must go back home to navigate around.
That’s not an efficient user experience, and with websites every second wasted loading a page will hurt your results.
In business you are always trying to accomplish something – get someone’s e-mail address, have them call you, sell a product, sign-up for an event, create discussion on a blog post, etc. So make sure you explicitly tell the prospective customer what you want them to do on EVERY page of your website.
It could be as simple as adding a form to collect e-mails at the bottom of the page, or a simple line of text that says “If you found this useful and need help, call us at 888-111-2222”. But be very specific and direct. Give them one simple option and they are more likely to take action.
You can use your design skills to make these call-to-actions pop, for instance creating a button with a contrasting color or adjusting the font size/style to stand out from normal text.
Not Tracking Website Visitors
Some clients won’t care about tracking this information, and I don’t know why. But you should. If you are managing someone else’s website, install Google Analytics on there immediately after launching.
You will learn a lot and you will begin to understand how visitors arrive and interact with your website creation. You can go a step further and actually track conversions, i.e. the number of times your contact form is sent, to gain real insight into the performance. Then you can test and improve. The “aha” moments come throughout this iterative process.
If you become a student to Google Analytics, you will have a HUGE advantage on those who only work on the design.
Not Tracking Your Time
When you are working for yourself, your time is money. In fact, time is more valuable than money because it’s non-renewable. I can’t get 5 minutes back after watching funny animal videos on YouTube (and they still get me) but I can make 5 dollars back if I’m smart enough.
So aim to become a master of efficiency when you are putting together a website. I highly recommend using a free time-tracking program called Klok that I have installed on both my PC and Macbook.
Once you get a feel for how long different tasks take, use templates or pre-made widgets to save time. Then document your step-by-step process so you can do it faster the next time around. If you start making money, use that to find the things you can outsource that aren’t mission critical for you. That will free up your time for more important ideas.
Personally, design takes me the longest so I advise everyone to think more like a business owner and not someone who has unlimited time to construct a work of art. Most of the time, good enough is more than good enough if it’s done quickly.
Not Using Responsive Design
There are probably hundreds of thousands, if not millions of WordPress themes available for you to download when setting up a website. I always start with one that gives me the layout I want, and then customize from there.
But if your theme is not responsive, you’re not giving mobile website visitors the best experience. They will need to do way too much pinching and zooming and will give up before they start. Make sure you select a responsive theme and test out the demo before buying if it’s a professional one.
The internet is not limited to computers and laptops anymore, so this feature is a MUST nowadays.
Not Organizing Your Project
If there is one strength of mine, it’s organization. At my heart I’m an idea guy but I realized years ago that if I didn’t write down and organize my ideas, they wouldn’t happen.
So as a result, I have an organized file structure on my computers, I keep all my client information in a spreadsheet to manage, I document all my steps to create a website, I filter all my incoming e-mail so only important ones reach my inbox.
It’s an obsession, but one that has served me well. If you want to master efficiency, the best way to do so is to organize your life.
Mistakes are going to happen, but in reality they are always blessings in disguise. They are how you improve and how you learn. Without them you are working on abstract ideas instead of personal experience.
And do you know what sells? Personal experiences, great stories and actual results that cannot be refuted.
So be more active, organized and efficient with your work and you’ll see more customers for both you and your clients!