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Considering a new website? Beware of avoidable mistakes.

I’ll show you how to avoid the most common mistakes we see in web development.

The children’s fable “The Three Little Pigs” is one of my favorite stories from my youth. The moral of that story is to do it right and perform the task correctly– even if it’s harder, takes longer or costs more– as you will reap the rewards later. I put together some suggestions to consider so you won’t “build your house of straw” and make huge, yet common mistakes when designing and developing your website. While these tips are not hard and fast rules, ignoring or neglecting them could completely derail your organization. The choice is yours — straw or brick?

Website Goals and KPIs 

Put a post-it on your wall. What is your goal? You will never achieve it if you don’t know what it is. And conversely, your design agency most definitely won’t be successful if you aren’t able to share what that is. You’d be surprised at how many clients know they need a new website, but haven’t articulated why or what it needs to do. Define your goals and track your traffic, engagement and activity accordingly.

Function-over-Form 

Too many times, designers make things look good first and then try to apply functionality. We suggest the reverse. Will your new website work toward your goals? Yes. Great, now make it look good.

Calls-to-Actions 

I will assume you didn’t build a website, spend months and thousands of dollars for just fun. Your website has a purpose and I would imagine you want people to engage with your company— raise their hands of sorts. Do you want people to sign up for your newsletter, fill out a request form, buy a product, download a white paper, contact support, apply for a job, etc.? Assuming the answer is yes, do not hide calls-to-actions. Make sure the actionable items are obvious, clear, and legible. Consider adding buttons to your header or footer and make sure they are readily available. 

Information Architecture 

Just like the story of the Three Little Pigs you need to organize the structure of the walls. How will it be organized and built? Please don’t stress about the words and pictures until you know how the foundation will be poured. This might be the most crucial aspect of any site build. Make sure you have created a sound sitemap before proceeding to the next step.  

big bad wolf blows at straw house as pig runs

CMS Choice 

Similar to the architecture, knowing how you will be able to maintain your site before building it is mission-critical. The wolf should’ve gone after easier prey, but he literally got boiled both figuratively and physically. If you don’t have a huge internal team or have a deep knowledge of front-end-development, you should not work with a complex CMS that is difficult for you to maintain. Be realistic. Research the many platforms available today and make an informed decision.

Maintenance 

So you launched it. Congrats! Consider this a warning as in the next 36 – 48 months you likely will embark on that same journey again. It could be longer or shorter if you don’t maintain your website. Most websites these days are built with a CMS. If that CMS requires core updates, many of which are security updates, you must do them… If you don’t have a plan for maintenance from the start, you’ll be making a huge mistake. You must keep things up to date.

Just a quick reminder — A big, bad wolf comes and says, “Little pig, little pig, let me come in.” But the little pig says, “Not by the hair on my chinny chin chin! I will not let you in!” So the wolf says, “Then I will huff and I will puff and I will blow your house down!”  The modern digital wolf might not have fangs, but cybersecurity is something you can’t just hope for the best. You must plan ahead.

Mobile First 

Sure you might not think you are getting a lot of traffic from people on mobile devices. That could be the case still, but that is definitely changing. The common mistake we see is adding mobile design as an after-thought. You cannot neglect your users on the go. So when designing your responsive new website, make sure you consider mobile, tablet and desktop. Perhaps even in that order. 

Search Engine Equity 

If this is a site redesign you likely have already built up some search engine equity and you clearly don’t want to lose that. Your website, even if it’s terrible (being pc) still likely has some positivity with some key terms or rankings. Make sure you preserve what you earned. Even if earning just means that you lived with a terrible (again being pc) website for way too long. Make sure you have a plan in place to redirect the pages and keep the permalink structure if applicable.

Choosing Your Design & Development Team

This is not when you hire your friend’s sister’s nephew. Your website will be likely more valuable than your Director of Sales. Don’t be cheap. Hire an expert. Look at their work, get references, learn about their process and how they think they would approach a project with you.

Budget

Yes budget means dollars. But it also means time.  A lot of it. One huge mistake we see is not allowing enough time to create content. Content could mean many things, but the most time consuming aspect of any website is writing the actual words that would appear on the screen. Give yourself time or set aside enough financial resources to write the content. Designing, developing and maintaining doesn’t come cheap either, especially if you want your website to last more than once cycle around the sun before it starts to fall apart. Yes, you could build your site yourself, but the old adage is true–you do get what you pay for.

With these obvious, yet often overlooked tasks you need to ask yourself, which route you will go? Will you build a straw house on your own? Or, will you consider the longer term, take the time to do things right, and get professional assistance building a more solid structure? I’ll ask again: straw or brick?

I’m happy to provide consultation and offer friendly advice (I assure you I’m not the wolf hidden in sheep’s clothes!) to nearly just about anyone.

So, when you’re ready, let’s make awesome together.

Keith Glantz is the Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Glantz Design. A native New Yorker, he has called Evanston his stomping ground for 20+ years.
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