3 Common Web Design Mistakes that Zap Your Site (and Waste Your Money)
Web Design Mistakes
Zaps are cool in cartoons.
Zaps electrify when they involve bugs and a ‘zapper’. (For those old enough to remember watching mosquitoes meet their doom at the hands of the back porch bug zapper).
But what happens when zaps show up in your web design? I’ll tell ya. Zaps…
- cost you time,
- waste money,
- hamper growth,
- and leave you disappointed.
Designing or redesigning your website is a necessary chore. I pass along this advice from Jason Zook to my clients all the time.
“Websites are like bedsheets—you need to change them more often than you think.”
When you come to terms with the need for a new website, we all have the same experience. (I’m sure you’re with me on this.) A mixture of excitement, anticipation and fear sets in. The excitement comes from the opportunities that lie ahead. You start off thinking…
- We can finally feature our new product or service.
- We finally won’t look so outdated.
- We can use our new slogan.
- We can announce our new church service.
- We’ll show off our new photos from the mission.
- We’ll finally be able to manage our own website.
oh boy, Oh Boy, OH BOY! It’s like Christmas morning! (At least for the optimists in the room.) But that’s not all you feel.
There’s apprehension below the surface. (Quick shout out to the realists in the room).
Guess when the wave of apprehension crests? When you write the check to pay for it. (Gulp.) Now your mind starts racing with thoughts like…
- Will it work?
- Will business pick up?
- Will more supporters back our mission?
- Will more people show up to our church?
So what’s the solution?
Simple. Steer clear of these 3 common web design mistakes. Avoid these zaps and build a winning website!
Now, this is important.
Each zap represents a common approach between you (the client) and the designer/developer you work with to design your website.
And here’s the bad news. Web designers are often to blame. We end up leading clients like you right into these zaps. I know I have in the past.
Here’s one last note before we jump in.
All 3 of these common web design mistakes hold true whether your designer is internal to your organization or you hire it out.
Web Design Mistake #1: Tell us what you want and we’ll build it.
Zap. This web design mistake is everywhere. It’s disappointing. Like thirsty cattle following a trail to a bone dry pond. I see it happen over and over. But it doesn’t work and you’ll get zapped. Here’s how this web design mistake starts.
- You need a new website. (And you feel behind the 8-ball.)
- You start shopping for a web designer or design firm.
- You land on one who meets your price-point.
- The project starts and the web designer says, “Tell me what you want and we can build it.”
How This Web Design Mistake Zaps You
The zap happens because of the built-in assumptions of this approach. Think about it.
It Assumes Your Expertise
This approach assumes a LOT on your part. It assumes you are an expert. The web designer or design firm is assuming…
- You know what you want.
- What you want is actually what you need.
- The new website should appeal to you and make you happy.
- You’re a Jedi trained in the secret arts of writing for the web.
- You’ve got a feel for how content influences design.
- You’re up to speed on web usability, site structure.
- And you’ve got a good grasp on the ever-changing landscape of responsive web design.
Guess what? That is a dangerous assumption. It all boils down to this:
The critical question your web design approach must answer is ‘What does my AUDIENCE want?’!
Let me explain.
You are the initiator of the ‘new website’ project, but you are not the recipient. Your new website is for your audience. It should be sitting under the Christmas tree of your audience with a tag that reads, “From Me, To You”.
Ask These Questions BEFORE You Start Your Next Web Design Project
When starting your next website redesign project, ask yourself…
- What does my audience want or need from this new website?
- How can we organize it in a way that makes sense to them?
- What design choices represent us and also appeal to our audience?
- What would represent a ‘win’ in the eyes of potential customers, supporters, or members?
These questions will ensure you don’t get zapped on your next website.
Of course, you know the better option, right?
Work with someone who can help you ask and answer those questions. After all, this is your website project. Your business. Your non-profit. Or your church. So why work with a provider who wouldn’t think to ask those questions to begin with?
Web Design Mistake #2: Send Us Your Content and We’ll Build It
Redesigning a website is a lot of work. You spend significant time and money to make it happen. The last thing you want is disappointing results.
Want to know the next sure-fire way to mess up your web design project? (Warning: This approach is everywhere!)
Here’s how this web design mistake starts.
- You need a new website. (And you feel behind the 8-ball.)
- You choose a web designer.
- The project starts and the web designer says, “Great, send us your content and we’ll build your website.”
I took this approach for years as a web designer. Here’s what it looked like for me.
- My clients would sign a contract.
- I’d kickstart the web design project off by asking my client for all the content.
- I’d take the client’s content and design a website for them.
What’s wrong with that, right? You hire a designer to do the stuff you can’t do—the nerdy code and fancy design. But that’s NOT true.
And it finally dawned on me:
This Approach Assumes You Know How To Write Web Content that Converts
Let’s be honest with each other. Who enjoys writing? Writers. You hated writing in school. You slept through English Composition, yet somehow managed to pass. Even if you enjoy writing, chances are, you have ZERO training outside of 2 semesters in college.
Few leaders like yourself have the writing chops to craft words that sell or convert. And that’s not your fault. You’re busy running your business or organization.
Even so, I know what you’re thinking.
Hold up now. True, I’m not a professional writer. But I know my business. I’m the most qualified person to talk about it.
What You Must Know About Great Websites
Here’s what’s missing from the thoughts above…and it’s ESSENTIAL to your success.
The words you use on your website are THE biggest determiner of success or failure.
There’s no way around this reality. Writing effective content for the web is hard. It takes experience, training and skills it takes to write winning website copy. And the words you use—and don’t use—on your website are so important! You need them to be spot on.
In fact, I’ll go a step farther.
You’re crazy if you don’t value the message of your website as much as the design.”
So, what’s the solution?
How to Avoid Web Design Mistake #2
Choose a designer with a commitment to, and competence for your message. Here’s how:
When you’re shopping for a web designer or design firm, ask direct questions. Ask questions like:
- What is your plan for crafting the right message?
- What is your process for getting there?
- How do you know if the content is great or not?
The Bottom Line of Web Design Mistake #2
A winning website is equal parts design and message. They should play off each other. So don’t get zapped on your next website. Your growth is at stake. If ‘cluttered’, ‘off-point’, or ‘too wordy’ describe your message, it will cost you.
Zap to increased revenue. Pow to adding supporters. Bang to reaching more people.
Web Design Mistake #3: Use one of our nifty templates and build an amazing website for yourself.
Here’s what many do when creating a new website for their business or organization:
- Grab a template (WordPress, SquareSpace, etc.).
- Build a website.
- Hope new = better.
Guess what happens when you try this approach? You’re met with some major challenges. 4 & 1/2 to be exact. Keep reading and see what I mean.
4 & 1/2 Challenges to the ‘Pick a Template’ Approach
1. There are too many options.
There are more templates for your website than inappropriate tweets from Trump. They are everywhere. Do a Google search for Wordpress templates and watch your computer melt. How are you ever supposed to pick the right one?
Hint: There’s a reason God didn’t give Adam 10,000 women to choose from. He made One!
2. Your Template Comes with a Side of ‘Web Platform’
Don’t forget this…When you choose a template, you are choosing a web platform too. WordPress templates work on…WordPress. SquareSpace…same. You get the idea.
That’s a big decision bundled together. Kinda like choosing a house and an interior design style. When you choose a craftsman-style house, you’re saying no to an industrial loft interior.
There should be a Surgeon General for the web…
Warning, this template comes with a Platform and certain side effects. Ensure you want the platform BEFORE consuming this template.
If you’re not careful, the allure of the template can make you forget you’re also making a platform choice too.
3. Pretty can still be ugly.
A pretty template can still produce ugly results. Reminds me of a classic Wayne’s World skit from SNL.
Garth & Wayne were covering the Gulf War and talking military hardware. Wayne says of the Scud missile, “The first time I heard the name Scud…I thought it was like when you see a good looking person walking down the street at a distance…and then when they get close, you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh he is a Scud!’”
The beautiful template prioritizes design over content. We already said this is a BIG mistake. Design over content makes for ugly business results.
4. You get a False Sense of Security.
Done any hunting for a Wordpress template? You think the hard part is over once you finally make a choice. Wrong! Most of them have an entire website for support packed with how-to info. While that may seem great, don’t forget that means you likely need the how-to info to use the simple DIY template.
Having used many myself, it’s easy to feel overcome by ‘template remorse.’ What’s worse is, like an addict, you find yourself back online looking for another template.
“There’s got to be an easier template out there. I just need one more…and then I’ll quit, I promise.”
6 months later you’re walking into a Template Addiction treatment facility wondering where it all went wrong.
4.5 It’s an Empty Promise.
I rarely (as in, never) see a finished product matching the quality of the original template. I’m sure they exist. But the odds are not in your favor. It’s unlikely you’ll be the Tom Brady of web templates.
The Fundamental Problem Behind the Template Web Design Mistake
It’s Chip & Joanna’s fault.
Don’t freak out. Like you, I love their hit home improvement show. But they’ve done you a diservice. Chip & Joanna have an incredible eye for spotting old homes and seeing massive potential. Their knack for seeing the bones of an old, run-down house and envisioning a glorious makeover is legendary.
But you and I are mere mortals. We lack the skills to look at an old house, picture the end result, and make it happen. The same is true when it comes to the template-approach for your website design. I’ve seen it zap many a website project.
Here’s the rub.
To make this work, you’d have to:
- Flip through a bunch of templates.
- Then picture how your specific content will fit the template.
- See how the combo of those two will convert and create the results you want.
- And then go pull it off for a winning website.
Highly unlikely, wouldn’t you agree? Not because something’s wrong with you. You’re not the Chip & Joanna Gaines of website design.
A winning website, like a house flip, is more than pretty design. You need a great foundation, like a clear message. You need great flow, like your website organization and navigation. You need curb appeal, like an appealing brand. And you need an obvious entrance to welcome guests, like an onboarding plan for those considering doing business with you.
There’s nothing wrong with using a great template in your website project.
But this is where the letdown happens.
If you equate a great template with a great website, you’ll get:
- missed opportunities,
- and frustrated customers.
Here’s A Better Plan for Your Website Design
Get a great message. Your content is just as important as your design.
Showcase an appealing brand. Your brand sets the expectations for your audience. Your brand and message should dance together on your website.
Finally, tie a bow on it with the right plan to help you convert visitors into customers so you can grow your impact.
(Illustrations from the beautiful unDraw project by Katerina Limpitsouni)