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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 May 14, 2019

8 Replacements for Google Notebook

8 Replacements for Google Notebook

Exploring alternatives to Google Notebook? There are more than a few ‘notebooks’ available online these days, although choosing the right one will likely depend on just what you use Google Notebook for.

  1. Zoho Notebook
    If you want to stick with something as close to Google Notebook as possible, Zoho Notebook may just be your best bet. The user interface has some significant changes, but in general, Zoho Notebook has pretty similar features. There is even a Firefox plugin that allows you to highlight content and drop it into your Notebook. You can go a bit further, though, dropping in any spreadsheets or documents you have in Zoho, as well as some applications and all websites — to the point that you can control a desktop remotely if you pare it with something like Zoho Meeting.
  2. Evernote
    The features that Evernote brings to the table are pretty great. In addition to allowing you to capture parts of a website, Evernote has a desktop search tool mobil versions (iPhone and Windows Mobile). It even has an API, if you’ve got any features in mind not currently available. Evernote offers 40 MB for free accounts — if you’ll need more, the premium version is priced at $5 per month or $45 per year. Encryption, size and whether you’ll see ads seem to be the main differences between the free and premium versions.
  3. Net Notes
    If the major allure for Google Notebooks lays in the Firefox extension, Net Notes might be a good alternative. It’s a Firefox extension that allows you to save notes on websites in your bookmarks. You can toggle the Net Notes sidebar and access your notes as you browse. You can also tag websites. Net Notes works with Mozilla Weave if you need to access your notes from multiple computers.
  4. i-Lighter
    You can highlight and save information from any website while you’re browsing with i-Lighter. You can also add notes to your i-Lighted information, as well as email it or send the information to be posted to your blog or Twitter account. Your notes are saved in a notebook on your computer — but they’re also synchronized to the iLighter website. You can log in to the site from any computer.
  5. Clipmarks
    For those browsers interested in sharing what they find with others, Clipmarks provides a tool to select clips of text, images and video and share them with friends. You can easily syndicate your finds to a whole list of sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Digg. You can also easily review your past clips and use them as references through Clipmarks’ website.
  6. UberNote
    If you can think of a way to send notes to UberNote, it can handle it. You can clip material while browsing, email, IM, text message or even visit the UberNote sites to add notes to the information you have saved. You can organize your notes, tag them and even add checkboxes if you want to turn a note into some sort of task list. You can drag and drop information between notes in order to manage them.
  7. iLeonardo
    iLeonardo treats research as a social concern. You can create a notebook on iLeonardo on a particular topic, collecting information online. You can also access other people’s notebooks. It may not necessarily take the place of Google Notebook — I’m pretty sure my notes on some subjects are cryptic — but it’s a pretty cool tool. You can keep notebooks private if you like the interface but don’t want to share a particular project. iLeonardo does allow you to follow fellow notetakers and receive the information they find on a particular topic.
  8. Zotero
    Another Firefox extension, Zotero started life as a citation management tool targeted towards academic researchers. However, it offers notetaking tools, as well as a way to save files to your notebook. If you do a lot of writing in Microsoft Word or Open Office, Zotero might be the tool for you — it’s integrated with both word processing software to allow you to easily move your notes over, as well as several blogging options. Zotero’s interface is also available in more than 30 languages.

I’ve been relying on Google Notebook as a catch-all for blog post ideas — being able to just highlight information and save it is a great tool for a blogger.

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In replacing it, though, I’m starting to lean towards Evernote. I’ve found it handles pretty much everything I want, especially with the voice recording feature. I’m planning to keep trying things out for a while yet — I’m sticking with Google Notebook until the Firefox extension quits working — and if you have any recommendations that I missed when I put together this list, I’d love to hear them — just leave a comment!

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