The Five Biggest Web Site Mistakes

Got a new Web site on the drawing board?

Companies often plan how they want their Web site to look before they figure out exactly what they want it to achieve. A good site design starts with strategy: Do you want to increase online sales? Establish your brand? Drive more traffic to your physical location? Study your old Web logs to see how visitors have used your site in the past and design Web pages that call them to the action you want them to take. That way you capitalize on your customer-browsing trends. Starting with the artwork is putting the cart before the horse. Don’t organize your site based on what’s familiar or convenient for your organization or its departments. You want a site that’s convenient for its end users—they come first. Put yourself in their shoes. Use language that makes sense to your intended audience; translate terminology (and any other jargon) into plain English. Don’t assume that everyone will approach your site the same way. Various audiences use the Web and search sites differently, so provide a variety of ways for people to get at information—by category, interest, or location—but don’t overwhelm them. It’s tempting to use all the latest Web technology in your site, but we advise our clients not to get carried away. Balance your desire to be hip with practicality. Some design elements, such as Flash graphics or oddly shaped photos, may look great, but could cause an endless array of problems. You know what it’s like to land on someone’s home page and wait for 30 seconds for the animation to load—it makes a bad impression. Sometimes, keeping it simple is still the best advice. Don’t lowball your own project. Companies often misjudge the time it takes to prepare content, provide links, gather images, and thoroughly test a Web site. Developing a Web site is a major effort, so make sure you budget enough time and resources for it. Whatever you do, don’t launch a new Web site on a Friday. Invariably, something will go wrong over the weekend when no one’s around to handle it. Unveil your new site on a Monday or Tuesday, and prepare your staff to deal with unexpected developments.

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