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5 Common Website Mistakes to Avoid

5 Common Website Mistakes to Avoid

There are currently over one billion websites online right now, with multiple sites being created every second. Creating a website that will stand out from the pack, especially a pack of that size, is no mean feat.

Although design and development trends like carousels (*shudder*), flat design and longform homepages have all had their moments in the sun, there’s still no silver bullet when it comes to creating the perfect website. But there are definitely some things that you might want to think twice about if you’re creating a site to showcase your talents as a freelancer or for your own business!

1. That big homepage image

You know the one I’m talking about. A shiny MacBook on a vintage wooden desk, surrounded by ‘creative’ stuff like an Instamatic camera or a leather-bound notebook. Probably has a cup of coffee with a fancy pattern in the foam too. It’s ok; I used to have this very image on the homepage of my site—it came with my theme and I just left it there. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how little sense that made.

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If you’re a photographer and you’re showcasing one of your own photos? That’s a different story. But I’m a writer—I should be showcasing my writing, not some stock photo. Instead of the first thing visitors see on your site being a giant photo and your company name, which they already know since they managed to find their way to your site, hit them with a big ol’ title telling people exactly what you do.

MailChimp is a great example of this—land on their homepage and the first thing you see is Send Better Email in big, bold lettering.

2. Trying to sound bigger than you are

I totally understand why freelancers and small businesses do this, but I’m including it on this list of common website mistakes anyway. Yes, writing in the third person and implying that you’re a huge agency arguably makes it easier for you to charge a little more. However, you also risk being asked to do things much more quickly than you have the bandwidth to do.

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And what if a client wants a Skype call? Unless you go to extraordinary lengths (and I’m talking slapstick comedy movie lengths) to keep up the charade, your client will end up feeling like you’ve deceived them when they see it’s just you in your home office.

Using first person makes it easier to infuse your writing with your personality. It also reassures potential clients that they’ll be dealing with a qualified expert in the field (that’s you, bud), not some entry-level intern who only joined two weeks ago.

3. Jargon

Here at Compu-Global-Hyper-Mega-Net, we’re all about using brand engagement to move the needle and streamline your core competency.

Ok, that’s fine. But it doesn’t really get me any closer to understanding what you actually do. Using corporate buzzwords and jargon doesn’t help you sound big and impressive. It just confuses the hell out of people who actually might want to work with you.

I wrote above about the importance of making what you do clear to new visitors using your homepage headline. Same goes for the rest of your content – be direct, and focus on the benefits your product/service can offer. And use plain English! After a day of reading puffed out jargon, this will be a very welcome change for visitors to your site.

4. SEO lies!

When it comes to SEO, it’s very easy to get greedy. You see your site rising through the ranks for a certain term, maybe even cracking the first page of Google, and think ‘wow, this is awesome!’ Then you start thinking about trying to rank for other terms. While you shouldn’t be afraid to get creative with this, there is a line it’s not wise to cross.

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There’s definitely mileage in targeting terms like ‘alternatives to X,’ but there’s absolutely no point in targeting ‘X with Y’ if you don’t actually offer Y. Any visitors you bring in will very quickly realize that you can’t do what they need you to. As well as being frustrating for them, creating a bad impression of your company, they’ll also hit the Back button to return to Google. Although Google stays very quiet about how they determine site rankings, it’s very likely that too much of this will result in them penalizing your site for trying to trick people.

5. Popups

I’m not (just) talking about popup ads here. I’m also talking about popups designed to get people to take an action such as:

  • Join your mailing list
  • Share a post
  • Follow you on social media.

Using one of the above? Absolutely fine. But having popups trying to get someone to do all three things, or potentially even more, on a single page will drive people up the wall! Think about the most important action people can take on a given page and focus on getting them to do that, rather than doing a bit of everything.

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It’s worth saying that all of the items on this list are subjective. As I’ve highlighted in a couple of places, there are times when things will be appropriate for use on one site but not another—some industries and spaces have best practices that are very different to those of others. When in doubt, ask existing customers (and potential customers) what they want from a site and try to keep that in mind throughout its creation. If you do that, and do it well, you can’t go too far wrong!

Featured photo credit: VIKTOR HANACEK via picjumbo.com

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Last Updated on October 15, 2019

To Automate or not to Automate Your Personal Productivity System

To Automate or not to Automate Your Personal Productivity System

We are all about doing things faster and better around here at Lifehack. And part of doing things faster and better is having a solid personal productivity system that you use on a daily basis.

This system can be just about anything that helps you get through your mountain of projects or tasks, and helps you get closer to your goals in life. Whether it’s paper or pixels, it doesn’t really matter. But, since you are reading Lifehack I have to assume that pixels and technological devices are an important part of your workflow.

“Personal Productivity System” defined

A personal productivity system (at least the definition that this article will use) is a set of workflows and tools that allow an individual to optimally get their work done.

Workflows can be how you import and handle your photos from your camera, how you write and create blog posts, how you deploy compiled code to a server, etc.

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Tools are the things like planners, todo managers, calendars, development environments, applications, etc.

When automation is bad

You may be thinking that the more that we automate our systems, the more we will get done. This is mostly the case, but there is one very big “gotcha” when it comes to automation of anything.

Automation is a bad thing for your personal productivity system when you don’t inherently understand the process of something.

Let’s take paying your bills for example. This may seem very obvious, but if you can’t stick to a monthly budget and have trouble finding the money to make payments on time, then automating your bill payment every month is completely useless and can be dangerous for your personal finances.

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Another example is using a productivity tool to “tell you” what tasks are important and what to do next. If you haven’t taken a step back and figured out just how your productivity systems should work together, this type of automation will likely keep you from getting things done.

You can only automate something in your personal productivity system that have managed for a while. If you try to automate things that aren’t managed well already, you will probably feel a bit out of control and have a greater sense of overwhelm.

Another thing to remember is that some things should always be done by yourself, like responding to important emails and communicating with others. Automating these things can show your coworkers and colleagues that you don’t care enough to communicate yourself.

When automation is good

On the other hand, automation is a great thing for your personal productivity system when you understand the process of something and can then automatically get the steps done. When you know how to manage something effectively and understand the step-by-step process of a portion of your system, it’s probably a great time to automate it.

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I have several workflows that I have introduced in the last year that takes some of the “mindless” work from me so I can be more creative and not have to worry about the details of something.

On my Mac I use a combination of Automator workflows, TextExpander snippets, and now Keyboard Maestro shortcuts to do things like automatically touch-up photos imported from my iPhone 4S or open all the apps and websites needed for a weekly meeting to the forefront of my desktop by typing a few keys. Once you open yourself up to automating a few of your processes, you start to see other pieces of your system that can benefit from automation.

Once again; none of this works unless you understand your processes and know what tools you can use to get them done automatically.

The three steps to determine if something is “ripe” for automation

If your workflow passes these three steps, then automate away, baby:

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  1. You can do this process in your sleep and it doesn’t require your full, if any form of attention. It can (and has been) managed in some form prior to automating it.
  2. The process is time consuming.
  3. The process doesn’t require “human finesse” (ie. communicating and responding to something personally)

Automating your personal productivity systems can be a great for you in the long run if you are careful and mindful of what you are doing. You first need to understand the processes that you are trying to automate before automating them though. Don’t get stuck in thinking that anything and everything should be automated in your life, because it probably shouldn’t.

Pick and choose these processes wisely and you’ll find the ones that take up most of your time to be the best ones to automate. What have you automated in your personal productivity system?

Featured photo credit: Bram Naus via unsplash.com

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