3 Common Website Mistakes that will Zap Your Website Design & Your Website Conversions
Zaps are cool in cartoons. They can be maniacally electrifying 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 you don’t want zaps to show up when you’re redoing your website. Zaps cost you time, waste money, hamper growth, and leave you disappointed.
Designing or redesigning your website is often a necessary chore. I often tell clients, “Websites are like bedsheets—you need to change them more often than you think.”
A mixture of excitement, anticipation and fear sets in once you come to terms with needing a new website. 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- We finally won’t look so outdated.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.
It’s like Christmas morning! (For the optimists in the room.)
But there’s some apprehension below the surface (for the realists in the room)…particularly when you write the check to pay for it. (Gulp.)
- Will it work?
- Will business pick up?
- Will more supporters back our mission?
- Will more people show up to our church?
But I’ve got good news. You can avoid common zaps on your next website redesign. This series will alert you to three frequent mistakes so you can steer clear and build a winning website!
Here’s an important reminder as we kick the series off. Each zap represents a common approach between you the client and the designer/developer you work with to design your new site._These hold true whether the designer is internal to your organization or you hire it out.
Zap 1: Tell us what you want and we’ll build it.
Zap. This approach 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.
The designer says, “Tell me what you want and we can build it.” The zap happens because of the built-in assumptions of this approach.
This approach assumes…
- 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, design, usability, site structure, and the ever-changing landscape of responsive web design.
Here’s the danger of the assumptions and why you’ll get zapped by this approach.
The most critical question for your next website redesign is ‘What does my AUDIENCE want?’!
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”.
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?
Ask yourself these questions and don’t get zapped on your next relaunch. Or better yet, work with someone who can help you ask and answer those questions. After all, this is your website project. So why work with a provider who wouldn’t think to ask those questions to begin with?
Zap 2 Is Like You Playing a Doctor on TV…But You’ve Never Been to Medical School
Zap. Pow. Bang. Boom. Those were regular appearances on the old Batman and Robin show from the late 1960’s.
The show would feature real actors, like Adam West as Batman. But once a fight scene showed up, they’d cut to cartoon animation like the gif above. (Hey, it was daytime TV in the 60’s.)
When it’s time to redesign your website, you don’t want any zaps. They were bad for TV in the 60’s, and they’re bad for websites today.
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.
As we turn to the next zap, remember this. Each zap represents a common approach between you the client and the provider you work with to build the new site.
Now onto the second common Zap.
Zap 2: Send us your content and we’ll build it.
Ever heard that one? I did this for years. I would include it in proposals, get clients to sign off, and then kickstart the website project off by asking my client for all the content. The process from there was obvious. Step 1, take the client’s content and, step 2, design a website for them. What’s wrong with that, right? That’s why you hire a designer—to do the part you can’t easily do.
Here’s why you get zapped.
The words you use on your website are THE biggest determiner of success or failure.
The reality is, writing effective content for the web is hard. Most clients have zippo copywriting training. They don’t know where to start. They don’t know when to stop. But it’s not their fault. They just lack the experience, training and skills it takes to write winning website copy.
But those words are so important! You need them to be spot on. In fact, I’ll go so far as saying, “You’re crazy if you don’t value the message of your website with the same (or more) weight than the design.”
When starting your next website project choose a designer with a commitment to, and competence for your message. You can even ask, “What is our plan for crafting the right message? And what is your process for getting us there?”
A winning website is equal parts design and message. They should play off each other. So don’t get zapped on your next website. 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. Instead, leave the zaps, pows, and bangs to Adam West and his 1960’s-era Batman.
Zap 3 Happens When You Pick a small Suitcase…and THEN Pick a Short Vacation Because Your Bag is Small
What most people do when creating a new website for their business or organization is 1.) grab a template and 2.) build a website. Look out for Zap number 3: Use one of our nifty templates and build an amazing website for yourself.
4 & 1/2 Challenges to the ‘Pick a Template’ Approach
1. There are too many.
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. A ‘Platform Included’ Sticker Should Be Required.
There should be a Surgeon General for the web. If there was, he or she would require a warning be clearly displayed, reading: Warning, this template comes with a Platform and certain side effects. Ensure you want the platform BEFORE consuming this template. A few years back, some DIY web platforms tried separating themselves from the pack by offering ‘award-winning templates’. SquareSpace was one example templates. Now other platforms like Wix have caught on. 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 wrongly prioritizes design over content. But once you’re staring at the finished product, the choice makes for some ugly business results.
4. You get a False Sense of Security.
Done any hunting for a Wordpress template? Then you know 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 Zap: Chip & Joanna Gaines
It’s Chip & Joanna’s fault. While I love their hit home improvement show, they’ve done you a diservice. All it takes is one episode to see 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. (Remember, a ‘zap’ represents a common approach between you the client and the designer you work with when creating your website.)
Here’s the rub. You don’t have the skills to look through a bunch of templates, envision how your content will fit, and then unveil a winning website. That’s not because something’s wrong with you. You’re just 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. Disappointment, missed opportunities, and frustrated customers await, however, if you equate a great template with a great website.
Don’t get zapped by the template. Get a great message, appealing brand, and the right plan to help you convert visitors into customers so you can grow your impact.