A content and social media marketing specialist, Ben Jacobson joined the Lean Labs team in the summer of 2014. Ben has been active as a digital branding professional since the early days of social media, having overseen projects for brands including MTV, National Geographic, Zagat and Wix. His writing has appeared in Social Media Explorer, Search Engine Journal, Techwyse and the Mad Mimi Blog. Ben resides just south of the Carmel Mountain ridge in Israel with his dashing wife and two sprightly descendants.
Designing a new website is a huge undertaking. It's also one of the most important marketing initiatives a company can perform. Whether you already have a website and need to spruce it up, or you're looking to design a new website, the manner in which you tackle such an undertaking can't be taken seriously enough.
Your website is the core of your brand's online presence. Every potential customer who comes into contact with your company will eventually arrive at your website. It doesn't matter if someone heard about your brand from a friend, met a representative in person, or found your business on social media – they will check out your site to find out more about you. And they're going to make snap judgments about their potential interest in doing business with you within seconds of arriving at your website.
The Biggest Website Design Mistakes
Unfortunately, companies sometimes design their websites without much forethought, leading them to make some critical mistakes that leave them with unnecessary "technical debt." Here's our list of the seven most common mistakes to avoid when designing, or redesigning, your website.
1. Allowing Image to Trump Usability
All too often, we see companies publishing websites that are clearly designed to emphasize look and feel while ignoring the need for a useful, intuitive, immersive site structure, optimized to convey the company's unique value proposition.
Your website should look good and conceptually convey what your brand image is all about. But it also needs to be accessible.
If visitors can’t find what they are looking for easily, and very quickly, they won’t stick around. They'll bounce!
Think about content hierarchies, navigation flow, menu interfaces and the sidebar widgets you'll need to create a website that is inviting and encourages visitors to click around on a journey of transparent discovery.
2. Neglecting Your Brain Trust
You're too close to your own project to be objective. From the flowcharts to the wireframes, to the flat mockups, to the clickable demos, through the beta tests; at every stage of the process, make sure to ask for outside perspectives.
Even if you have an in-house team responsible for building your website, it’s important to get views from experts in design and marketing who are not attached to the project. They will be less likely to fall prey to the follies of self-perpetuating reasoning.
You should consult with "civilians" as well – people who know nothing about user experience theory and can therefore relay with less baggage what it was like for them to interface with your designs. The best judges for your website user experience are your customers. Don't be afraid to ask them their opinion.
3. Putting Design Before Content and Structure
The temptation to just dive in and start seeing exciting new visuals makes a lot of sense, but it doesn't serve you well. Don't rush into design too early on in this process.
Before you actually start designing the website, make sure you have all your ducks in a row. Start by auditing your existing website and checking out your competition’s online activities to pinpoint their goals, strategies, UX emphases and more. Make sure to craft, test and perfect your value proposition, since this concept should drive every decision you make on the new design. Start preparing all of your website content and gather images and video. Then sketch out an outline for an inbound marketing plan and build your website in accordance with that plan.
No matter how much you invest into the graphical design and layout of your site, if your content is flawed, your design is flawed. Your user experience will suffer and you'll lose leads and customers. Putting design before content is one of the 10 reasons your website redesign will not help you.
4. Holding Back on Creative
It's also important to make sure your business strategy doesn't gain a monopoly on the design project. Make sure your creative team has the freedom to create a product that inspires. After all, it's your site visitors' emotional reactions that will make them most likely to convert into customers.
Executives should be involved in specifying the site's structure, messaging, goals and requirements. When it comes to the actual design, they should leave it in the hands of visual creative experts.
It can be tempting to “help” the designers out by “fixing” their work. But all too often, this results in a website that lacks professional polish. If you don’t like the design work, go ahead and hire new designers – just don’t meddle in the design process itself.
5. Ignoring Your Customers
Unfortunately, the customers' opinion is the most overlooked asset in a website redesign.
You want your new site to resonate with your ideal customers. The people who are most capable of evaluating your new design's chances of success are the customers who use it. These people are huge benefit to you in this regard, and you might want to get them involved from the get-go.
In order to make sure a redesign will improve your existing website's visitor experience, ask some of the customers with whom you have strong relationships, what they like and don’t like about your current website. Ask them to send you some suggestions for improving the site – what would make them come more often and stay for longer?
6. Striving for Luke Warm
How many websites do you visit over the course of a day that leave you with a weak impression?
Don't be one of them!
There's too much noise out there already. To get people interested in what you have to offer, a visit to your site needs to be a remarkable experience.
You only have a few seconds to wow people and spark their curiosity about your brand's values and value proposition. Make sure visiting your site is an experience worth remembering and remarking about. If you succeed, your company does not get ignored.
7. Getting Started Too Late
Don't assume the process of planning, designing, and building your new site will be as efficient as possible. When you add up the manpower hours necessary, it may seem like you can have it all done within a couple of weeks. But these types of projects rarely play out with continuous rapid activity.
Set the process into motion as soon as you can.
Even a simple website with just a handful of static content pages can take months to develop. Complex websites can take significantly longer.
You may need a longer research and strategy phase than you anticipate. If you have a deadline such as the holiday season or an upcoming marketing campaign, make sure you leave plenty of time to create your website from concept to launch.
Take Your Game to a New Level
A new website is much more than just another piece of marketing collateral. If it's done right, it can breathe new life into a company, increase brand awareness, and close more sales. In order for that to happen, your website must be both properly planned and executed.
It's not just about designing a great website. It's about building the right website, the right way.
Designing a website by the seat of your pants may seem like a good idea, but it will likely lead to squandered funds, wasted effort, and a feeling your website and online marketing just doesn't work for your company.
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