Mistake #3: Starting with Design

I’ll focus on WordPress sites and themes here, but this advice applies to any website built using an existing theme as a framework or just for inspiration.

I’m a big fan of using existing premium themes for WordPress sites. There are so many quality themes available now that you should be able to find something that fulfills 80% of the design and layout needs for your site. Tweak the colors and layout a bit, and only web designers will be able to tell that you didn’t design your website from scratch. (And only web designers will care.)

However, there is a mistake that nearly every client we use a premium theme for makes. They fall in love with the demo site and THEN think of things to put in each little widget area of the site.

That is, they start with design, then they supply the copy for the site.

It really should be the other way around: Write your Copy → Find a design for your copy.

Doing something like “mobile first website design” helps with this. Maybe we need “email first website design” where instead of a website, you write an email to explain your company (keep in mind your goal).

Start with words. Then build a website around those words.

The thing is all of those widgets may look nice, but they’ll detract from your #1 goal.

The best example of filling a design rather than using a design is with sliders. Sliders are cool. They work for a lot of site. But for most sites, they are just an excuse to put off figuring out your #1 goal and enter EVERY thing you want to say.

If slide 1 is more important than slide 2… then you shouldn’t have a slider. Just show slide 1 and keep it there.

Mistake #2: Playing Designer

Unless your business is website design or something else in the arts, you don’t need a beautiful website. A nice looking website is a bonus, but make sure you’re working towards a functioning website instead of something that will look great printed out and framed on your wall.

Oftentimes when going over design mockups or newly updated websites, you’ll find yourself leaning back in your chair and staring at your homepage for a minute or two taking it all in.

Stop it! No one browses the web this way.

If you think of your website as a work of art, you surely will find little things here and there that might be smaller or larger or a little bit to the right. Resist the urge to do this.

If you know the primary goal of your website (see post #1), make sure the design focuses on that goal. Focus your design feedback on how well the design enables sales, mailing list sign ups, contact requests, etc.

As for website design, hire an experienced web designer at a decent rate and trust their instincts for what looks good.

If you hassle your designer with a lot of feedback on what “looks good”, they are going to shut down and move into “code monkey” mode where they just code up whatever requests you have. Unless you are paying bottom dollar (in which case you get what you pay for) you are wasting money by paying designer rates for code monkey work.

More importantly, micro managing a code monkey will not get you as good of a website as one where you control the vision via a strong primary goal, and an experienced designer controls the particulars of the site’s look and feel.

View all posts in this series here.

Mistake #1: Lack of Goals

One of the biggest mistakes made by website owners is to have a website that is totally detached from any business activity.

Maybe your website is beautiful. Maybe it has tons of information about your business. But what is the goal of your website?

What do you want people who visit your website to do?

If you haven’t thought about this question yet, do it. Some good answers are:

  • Buy my product.
  • Sign up for my mailing list.
  • Call me for an appointment.
  • Follow me on social media.
  • Fill out a contact form.

Mistake #1 has a corollary: Too Many Goals.

When asked what the goal of your website is, you might have answered 2-5 things. Great! Throw away items 2 through 5. What was your first answer? Do that. On your homepage.

View all posts in this series here.