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 Avoiding Basic Mistakes

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Achieve a better website by avoiding these 10 basic mistakes
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Achieve a better website by avoiding these 10 basic mistakes


Ever since I started doing free website reviews, there have been some common elements where many of the websites miss the mark. Usually this is because webmasters forget to recognise that websites are a multi-faceted thing - a bit like an onion — with layer on layer of interdependent elements. If you miss an element, then the integrity of the site is put at risk.

The outcome of this can mean:
§ Not being found by search engines
§ Pages not being indexed because no other page links to them
§ Not ranking as highly as you should,
§ Confused site visitors who leave,
§ The site is just'Too hard'
§ Potential customers do not develop trust with your site; so will not buy from you
§ Complete site rework required as a result of poor planning

Here are a couple of errors and suggested methods for improving them:

1. Not having a business model or plan in place.
Many sites develop out of an idea; most have no business model in place. Often website owners are just letting their websites grow without thought as to how or even if there should be a way to generate income, and if income is to be generated how this can best be achieved. But the business model need not be an income-generating model. You can also think of it as a ‘purpose and outcome'. If you are developing a site as a hobby, it still requires preplanning and thought.

2. Working within the limitations of what your host provides.
Sometimes, especially when it is your first site, you may look at what your web host provides and build your site around the services provided by your web host. If the services on offer are limited, this may limit the scope of what you are trying to achieve. Better to plan your website and gather the online tools to let you achieve what you want to do to build a site that meets you goals.

3. Not being clear on page on what the site is about.
All too often pages are very ambiguous about what the page is actually about. The worst situation is when the home page does not provide a clear statement of purpose. I do not mean a Mission Statement, or other formal statement, but at least a paragraph that clearly explains the reason or content of the page. This does not need to be several paragraphs, one paragraph or even a long sentence. It can just be a solid tagline. It can take some skill and time to do this properly, but the results are worth it as your visitors will be quickly reassured that they are in the right place and will be prepared to spend time delving deeper. An additional benefit is written with a good keyword density, this text provides an excellent chunk of data for search engines.

4. Poorly written pages.
Not only does the visual aspect of your website influence how people perceive your business, so does the text. Poorly written sentences, spelling mistakes or typos all contrive to say, “The business behind this site has not been careful with this, it won't be careful with your business either”. Impressions are important and this extends right down to every single word on every page. Spend time on writing and rewriting text. If you feel you cannot get it right, get help.

5. Not using formatting to make pages easier to read.
An important aspect of the web that many people do not realise is the we read computer screens differently than we read text on paper. On screen people scan more than read. This means that your text needs to be formatted in such a way that a visitor can scan your page and gain a reasonably clear understanding of what you want to say. It allows people to move quickly to the section of text that has the information they want to read every word of. So be sure to use headings, sub-headings, bold and italic text and bullet points. As a rule of thumb, make the text on a web page 40% shorter than paper-based equivalents.

6. Talking to the masses, not the individual.
While your website may be seen by hundreds or thousands of people every day, an important, yet commonly overlooked factor, is that your website is seen by that many individuals. They are not there as a mass, but are singular entities (even if simultaneously) who need to be regarded as an individual.

7. Being self centred.
Website visitors are interested in what is in it for them, not what you can do. Saying “We have the largest team of technicians in the city” does no-one any favours. But saying “You will receive fast, professional service from our team of qualified technicians” is better. As a consumer I don't care how big your team is, I just want my equipment fixed quickly by someone who knows what they're doing.

8. Inconsistencies.
I shudder when visiting a site and when I go to the second page of the site everything about the page is different — colour, text style. It's even worse when I get to a third page and it is different again… It makes the task of building a website much easier if you settle on a template and add content to the template. This shows a higher degree of professionalism (or less amateurishness). Also on any page, use no more than 2 font styles.

9. Tenses.
”We believe that we can best meet your needs”…..”I have three years experience”
The switch from I to we is very common. Also beware of could, can, should.

10. Pages too wide for the screen.
Test it — 30% of people still use 800x600 screen resolutions. Use design tricks to enable pages to adjust to variable screen widths. Even worse is when pages don't fit any resolution properly, and require just a small sideways scroll, but often enough to be required to read the text of the page.

These are all common mistakes that are easily fixed and ones that will help in building credibility and greater visitor satisfaction.

For a free website review visit our site at http://www.plusone.com.au/appraisal.php

Copyright 2005. — reprint permission is granted if article fully reproduced including author bio.
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Matt Eliason is CEO of PlusOne -> Marketing Media Communications — http://www.plusone.com.au . He has over six years internet marketing experience and also runs several successful e-commerce web sites. Take advantage of PlusOne's free website appraisal offer at http://www.plusone.com.au

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Submitted August 22nd, 2008