Small Business Web Design: Five Common Mistakes to Avoid
If getting customers to visit your website is your first challenge, getting the customer to look around is your second. The basic layout, design, and content of your site can make the difference between a sale and losing a customer to the back button. Whether you’re looking to build a website from scratch or thinking of updating an existing site, here is a list of five forbidden designs that are sure to alienate most of your customers.
1) Flash Introductions
In addition to being terrible for search engine optimization, modern web surfers loathe the introduction of Flash. Intro animations are mostly (and therefore expected to be) a barrier between a customer and the information they are looking for. Even if your introduction contains relevant information or offers a jump button, remove Flash!
However, flash animations can be a useful tool if your product or service is best described with an audiovisual medium. If you know that your animation helps educate your customer about your product or service, plug it into your home page, but avoid asking the customer to watch or listen before moving to a different page.
2) Automatic sound or videos
If you must have music or a video on your home page, make sure the customer has the option to watch or listen to it. NEVER make the sound or video play automatically, even if you have a “power off” button in sight. In my opinion, these are the two most common violations of network etiquette (that’s etiquette for the Internet) and they will make your clients look for the Back button, not the Shutdown button!
3) Stock photography
We’ve all seen the photo of the smiling operator waiting to take our call, but she sticks out like a sore thumb on a small business website. Bottom line: Stock photography is cold and impersonal, not the image you want to show your clients.
So what is the solution to fill all that empty space on your website? A digital camera! Take pictures of your office, team members, storefront, showroom, warehouse, etc. These images 1) show that you are a real company, not just a website and 2) give your customers the feeling that they are dealing with really hard-working people like them.
If you are concerned about the quality of photos you can take with your own equipment, hiring a photography student from a local university can be an inexpensive way to make the photos on your website look more professional. If money is less of an issue, a professional photographer could finish the job in an afternoon.
4) Text images, instead of text
You shouldn’t encounter this problem if you’re starting from scratch (if you do, switch designers!), But I still come across dozens of small business websites every month that have text images instead of text. This is the biggest search engine optimization (SEO) mistake that can be made. Period. If you have a website that has nothing but images, you are overdue for an update!
Besides being an SEO problem, text images prevent customers from copying and pasting phone numbers or addresses and other useful information, but mostly it just looks dated and unprofessional.
5) Cleanliness is king
Simple and clean designs are the new dominant design force on the web. Many of the most visited websites on the web have primarily backgrounds, text, and a header and footer. Take a closer look at some of your favorite websites, you will notice that they are deceptively simple!
How do you apply this simple design principle? Avoid black backgrounds, rich color palettes, or graphic-heavy designs. This way, your content becomes king, not your design.
Bonus tip: Do your customers visit a physical store or office? If so, adding a picture of the exterior of your building to the “Contact Us” page can help your clients quickly identify your building and avoid losing or losing business altogether.