8 common mistakes people make when they build their websites themselves
You can't always afford to pay a professional to build a website when you're starting out.
And let's face facts, with all the build-your-own website tools out there these days, it can seem like the most sensible option to design your website yourself.
There are a few mistakes that I see DIYers make frequently. When when you haven't built a website before, there are certain things that you don't even realise you should be doing.
Some of these things might be head-slappingly apparent when you read them, others might be less obvious, but can still have a significant impact on whether your website is working as hard as it can be for you.
And if you're going to go to the bother of creating a website you might as well have the best one you possibly can, right?
So, let's dive in, and start with a biggie.
MISTAKE #1 // YOU HAVEN'T THOUGHT ABOUT THE PURPOSE OF YOUR WEBSITE
What's the main purpose of your website?
What do you want your site visitors to do?
Buy a product?
Sign up to your database?
Read your blog?
Book you for a job?
Make sure you know what your ultimate goal is for your website, then ensure your site is structured accordingly and built to achieve that ultimate goal.
My own home page looks like this at the moment. My ultimate goal for my website is to attract clients who want to get results for their business through working with me on their marketing and/or websites, and the orange button you see is intended to start people on the journey to see how I can help them.
It's a work in progress - websites always are - but I'm very clear about what it is that I want from my site.
Stop reading this now, and go and look at the home pages of the last few websites you visited. Can you figure out what their main purpose is? Then go to your own and see if it's been built with a clear purpose in mind.
MISTAKE #2 // YOU DON'T HAVE AN OBVIOUS CALL TO ACTION
That orange button I mentioned just now is the first call to action on my own site. A call to action (CTA) is what guides your site visitor to do what you want them to do.
One of the mistakes that can negatively impact the success of a website is not having a clear call to action (CTA).
If you want people to buy, you need to have a BUY NOW button that's very obvious and enticing to click. (See how your eye was drawn to the words buy now above, because they are capitals and bold? You want to do the same thing with your calls to action - make them stand out.)
If you want your visitors to make an appointment, then explicitly tell them exactly how to do that. Make it easy to do and feature it prominently, don't bury the information at the bottom of your contact page.
If you want them to call you, say so, and make your phone number highly visible and clickable.
Make it obvious!
If you don't have a strong and obvious call to action then it's a simple thing fix and can have a real impact on achieving what you want from your website.
Bonus tip: make your call to action really stand out by making it a colour that stands out from the rest of your website.
Read about how to choose a colour for your call to action button >
MISTAKE #3 // YOU ARE M.I.A.
I am a one-woman band.
You wouldn't have known that though when I first started out, because my website referred to Kathryn this and Kathryn that and said things like 'how WE can help'.
It's hard to craft an about page when you are just starting out and you're the only one working in your business. I felt uncomfortable about writing about myself and as myself. I wrote in a way that I thought made me sound professional and experienced, but in actual fact stripped me of personality, authenticity and any point of difference.
Now I have learned to talk online in my own voice (it doesn't sound hard when you put it like that, does it?!) and feel much happier that what you see and read online reflects the me you'll meet in the flesh.
So be you. Write like you're you. Give people a sense of who you really are. Don't hide behind a royal 'we' if there's only you.
Because, you know, #youareenough
MISTAKE #4 // YOUR IMAGES LET YOU DOWN
Here's a fact: images are important. You know that from the way that you consume media.
So here's some quick dos and don'ts for your website:
Have at least one photo with your own face on it so people know there's a real person behind the business.
Use images shot by a professional photographer where you can (high quality images otherwise). There are plenty of websites where you can freely download fantastic images, like Unsplash and StockSnap.io.
Use images that look like they belong together (same tones and style).
Use small file sizes (otherwise your site will take an age to load) but ensure the image is still crisp.
Name your image files descriptively (so 'woman-laughing-while-eating-sausage-roll.jpg' rather than IMG_902221) because Google likes that so much better.
Use images that don't belong to you or those you aren't absolutely certain you have the legal right to use.
Make images look like they are clickable if they are not!
Use cheesy stock photos that are clearly fake. If you don't know what I'm talking about, do a Google image search for "woman eating salad alone laughing". You can thank me for it later.
MISTAKE #5 // YOU HAVEN'T CHECKED WHAT YOUR WEBSITE LOOKS LIKE ON MOBILE
When you spend as much time as I do looking at websites on your phone, it becomes pretty obvious how frequently checking every page on a mobile is overlooked.
There are often headlines that don't format well on mobile, images that have text overlaid which becomes unreadable on a small screen, calls to action that get entirely lost, or my own favourite, random body parts where a whole person should be.
Examples like these:
Confession: I just checked my own site and (puts hand up) I am as guilty as anyone at forgetting to check how my site looks on mobile when I make a tweak. Oops.
MISTAKE #6 // YOU HAVEN'T THOUGHT ABOUT MOVING YOUR VISITORS THROUGH YOUR SITE
Do you scroll endlessly on Facebook or Instagram? Do you end up watching more episodes of shows on Netflix than you anticipated? Do you find yourself spending time reading post after blog post on the same blog?
This is because Facebook, Instagram, Netflix and smartly structured blogs have all been designed to elicit those specific behaviours from you.
Social media feeds never end.
You finish one episode of a Netflix show and it automatically starts playing the next one.
At the bottom of a great blog post will be a link to other blog posts you might like.
You are being guided down a specific path and it requires no thought to follow the path.
Your website should be the same.
Please please please - I really mean it! - ensure that at the bottom of every page there is link to something else relevant on your site.
At the bottom of your services page, invite people to find out more about you or view testimonials from happy clients.
If you have a blog, have links to other, similar blog posts (use your blog categories or tags to find the most appropriate posts to feature).
At the bottom of your about page, lead people to your blog, your services page, your shop - whichever makes most sense and helps you to achieve that overall site goal that we talked about at the start of this post.
Links elsewhere on the page are also top stuff, but do not let site visitors get to the bottom of the page and not have something to click through to, because they might decide to click the X to exit your site.
MISTAKE #7 // "DO YOU WANT TO SIGN UP FOR MY NEWSLETTER?"
What's your answer when you see that on a website?
Call me a cynical old marketer, but my answer is always an immediate yawn, followed by an emphatic NO.
Do not ask people to sign up to your database or for your newsletter. Your parents, nana and a few friends might be interested in hearing all your news, but I hate to break it to you, they are the only ones.
If you really want to build a list of people who want to hear from you, then you have to offer an enticement of what they'll gain from being on your list.
If I am on a electrician's website, for example, I'm not going to sign up for a "newsletter", but I might be more inclined to sign up to be sent monthly tips on how to painlessly reduce electricity consumption.
I'm personally unlikely to sign up for a beauty clinic's mailing list to hear about the latest make up specials, but I might be more inclined to hand over my details if I was enticed with learning how to care for ageing skin through the seasons. (Because, it might be hard to believe, but I have ageing skin and live in a place with seasons).
Disclaimer: It's quite possible I don't know what I am talking about. At the time of writing I have a whopping 16 subscribers to my email list and I only sent them my first monthly email three weeks ago. Want to see what 30% of recipients emailed me to say they'd enjoyed? Read it here (just insert your own name where it says <first name> if you want full personalisation). And if you want to sign up for Marketing Matters - marketing and website tips that are practical and focussed on action - then get yourself on the list here :)
MISTAKE #8 // (SQUARESPACE SITES ONLY) NO BRANDED FAVICON
If you've built your site on Squarespace, just quickly check (if you don't know already) that you've uploaded a favicon to your site.
A favicon is the little branded icon at the top left of a browser window.
(And yes, if you've got keen eyes you may have spotted that I was listening to the Nolans singing 'I'm in the mood for dancing' when I grabbed that favicon screenshot. I refuse to feel shame about it, because the world would be a kinder place if more people were in the mood for dancing more often).
All Squarespace sites come with this default icon (the box next to Demo) and it's really easy to change it to something that better reflects you or your business.
I wrote a blog post earlier to shows you how to change it fewer than three minutes, so if you haven't done it already go and do it now!
I hope you've found one or two things in this post that you might be able to fix on your own site and get it working a little bit harder for you. I'm off to check my website on my mobile!
P.S. If you want some personalised feedback on your website and how you can improve it then get in touch, or if you have a Squarespace website, book a Squarespace Website Health Check to get clear on how you can improve your website and get it working harder for you.