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by Andrew Cox

Fortunately a lot of the mistakes which occur in web design projects are avoidable.

And it's true that both clients and designers are equally guilty of poor decisions, strategic errors, and planning screw-ups. We've certainly made our share!

We've consulted the best minds in web design – authors of some of the top blogs, and leaders of some of the best businesses – to find out how to avoid the four most common web design mistakes. 

Forgetting About Opportunity Cost

One of the biggest mistakes that businesses make is that they hire cheaply. If you pay under a couple of thousand dollars for a website, it's almost a guarantee that it'll cost you in the long run. 

Jacob Gube,  Six Revisions

We've all heard disaster stories about inexpensive website quotes.

More often than not, clients set out with an ambitious project and a limited budget, aiming to get as much as they can for their money.

Unfortunately, things rarely run according to plan.

Not only are clients pushed through hundreds of hoops and a shopping list of inconveniences, but they're typically left with a final product that fails to deliver results.

Ultra-cheap designers often end-up being exactly the opposite.

It's not uncommon for clients to end up with a website that costs more to repair than it did to design in the first place.

It's even more common for businesses to end up with a website that delivers a poor user experience and even worse... lower conversions.

If your business operates extensively online, it's essential that opportunity cost is factored into any strategic decisions or long-term purchases.

An inexpensive website might get you online and visible, but it's unlikely to help you gain extra customers, clients, and enquiries.

Cheap labor tends to provide predictably cheap results, leaving your business out of options and out of pocket when the project's over.

You get what you pay for. Don't waste your money on a halfway decent site, save up for a great one. 

Shane Jeffers, Three Styles

Aiming to Please Everyone

Advertisers initially had a hard time adjusting to the internet.

The medium's dynamics weren't like those they'd seen on TV and radio – rather than flocking together to the same channels, audiences moved apart and found exactly what it was that they liked.

The advertising era before the internet was dominated by mass marketing efforts and one-size-fits-all messages.

There was no individuality, and little customisation involved.

For all the remarks that advertising “homogenizes” people, the internet has served to prove the exact opposite.

Businesses adapting to e-commerce often run into the same problems.

Shaped by decades of appealing to a mass audience through TV and print advertising, they create their website to catch everyone's attention and in the same effort end up hooking no one.

The same tools that were once so effective for marketing to everybody have become the exact opposite – blunt instruments that capture a great deal of attention, but end up generating little interest (and sales).

An effective website or store allows your business to market to your target customers with razor-like precision.

Instead of adapting the old big business strategy of marketing to everyone, online businesses should give their design team a clear goal – cater to the audience that's most valuable to them, and leave others to find solutions elsewhere.

No matter the industry, no matter the goals, you cannot please everyone. That's just how it works.

Jon Phillips, Spyre Studios

Ignoring the Balance of Content

The biggest mistake is to create a site with poor content. People visit your site looking for information, if they cannot find it, it's very frustrating. A good design will help the visitors to find the information, so just a good design won't work unless there's quality content.

Fabio Sasso, Abduzeedo

There's no one law for creating an effective website.

The two search giants of the web – Google and Yahoo – make this clear in their own websites.

Google takes a minimalist approach to their website, giving visitors access only to the information that's essential.

Yahoo took the other option, giving visitors access to almost everything, with different portions of their website allocated to news, weather, and other services.

There's no definitive rule for what information should go on your website.

The only  definitive rule in web design is for how much information should appear on your website.

It's ultimately a business choice, and like other business decisions it deserves, and occasionally demands, some form of relative testing.

The ten-page sales letter is, quite thankfully, a rarity in web design.

Businesses have by and large realised that the internet isn't the place for direct mail efforts, and have given their websites the most important element for results: balance.

Treat your website similarly and you'll gain more than just the occasional prospect, but a steady flow of customers that know what you're offering.

Businesses often try to cram as much information into the upper portion of the homepage. Because this is the area that receives the most exposure, there's a battle for the space that can usually end up resulting in overpopulation of information. The user is then left with choice paralysis as nothing really stands out.

Chris Spooner, SpoonGraphics

Lacking Involvement and Interest

I work with small and medium sized businesses and many clients want to just hire someone and not be very involved. Most are responsive when I explain to them the need for planning, but I think a lot of businesses could get better results with their sites if they are more proactive and thorough in the early stages.

Steven Snell, Vandelay Design and DesignM.ag

It's tempting to write the internet off as something that 'those designers' can handle on their own.

It's even more tempting if your business isn't actively involved in any online commerce efforts – your website serves only as a platform for generating leads, or as a one-off resource for having prospective customers find your phone number.

Unfortunately, the businesses that do write off the internet tend to reinforce their own impressions through poor results.

Without two-way communication and clear planning, it's unlikely that your website will generate anything more than the occasional phone call.

Designers aren't always in tune with your business, and almost always appreciate extra information and direction.

Just like the best advertisements are a blend of business and creativity, the best websites are a collaborative effort between designers and business owners.

Andrew Cox, The Hope Factory

While it's tempting to look at your website as a one-off task and slight annoyance, it's better to look at it through a different lens.

Think of the opportunity that a business website provides, and allow enough input to capitalise on it and you'll be sure to the common web design mistakes.

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Andrew Cox
Andrew Cox

Andrew Cox is the founder of The Hope Factory. He loves helping entrepreneurs grow their e-commerce businesses online via great design, strategic marketing and conversion optimisation. In his spare time, Andrew enjoys running (slowly) with his best friend Nelson.

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