Monday, July 27, 2009

3 Common Website Design and Web Development Mistakes That Can Cost You Business and Profits

If your website could produce thousands of dollars in sales for you every month, what would it be worth to you? We all know about the explosive growth of the Internet, how it is responsible for billions of dollars in revenue and how it has changed the way that people do business. Even senior citizens are getting online to search for information as well as products and services. But most businesses are not getting on board in an effective way.

I've been in the web development and marketing business for about ten years and in that time, I've witnessed enormous changes - things like pay-per-click advertising, relevant search marketing, online banking, elearning systems, directories, eCommerce and multimedia, to name a few. It is now possible to do business all over the world right from your home because of the Internet. There are days when I sit in my nightgown and have an online meeting with someone in India or Russia. Each of us shares relevant files in our computer that allow us to do business together. I believe we have just begun to experience the Internet's powerful growth.

What I have noticed is that most people don't know how to make money with their websites. Even business people who can benefit the most from their website, may trust a high school or college kid with no knowledge of web design or Internet marketing, to build their most important and powerful marketing tool. Even if they choose a web development company and pay big bucks, it is no guarantee that their site will get results. The only way to assure that a website produces a significant return on investment is to treat it as the core marketing product - the central part of a marketing system that can automate and leverage sales.

I would like to share with you 3 of the biggest mistakes that businesses make with their websites and other marketing products: 1. Mistake #1: Ineffective copy

A website should have a clear message that gets and keeps the visitors attention. It has to readily answer the question, "What's in it for me?" A common mistake is to put massive amounts of copy on a page without any headlines, sub-headlines or clear organization in the message. The copy goes on and on, making it hard to figure out what the site is about, let alone what the visitor should do with the information. How long do you think that visitor will stick around? Not long I can assure you. They're gone pronto, never to return again. The copy should compel the visitor to want to learn more. The visitor should instantly feel that the subject relates to them, clearly defines their problem and offers the best solution. The copy should share something about the company. People want to know and trust who they are doing business with. They don't care what you say until they know who you are. The copy should include an emotional component - people make decisions because of their emotions. The copy should include stories or examples as well as facts. What will be remembered are the stories with an emotional charge. Testimonials are one of the most effective methods of sharing a story with an emotional component. John Smith testimonial for instance, might talk about how his life was in the toilet before he discovered product X. He started using this amazing product and within 3 months, he was on top of the world - it was the answer to all of his prayers and so on. That's what will get people hooked on your copy. Your copy should set you apart from your competition. You don't want to blast the reputation of others but use this opportunity to visually show how you are different. One of the best ways to do this is to display a chart with 3 columns. On the left is a list of all your services. Across the top is a column for 'other companies' [your competition], and next to that column is your company. You would show a check mark in your column for each item listed on the left that you offer. (All the items should be checked or you shouldn't include them in the list). Your competitor's column would show some checks but also some areas unchecked and some with question marks. This visually allows the visitor to see that you are their best choice.

Use keywords in your copy that will allow your target market to find you through search engines, blogs, article submissions and e-zine publications. Use software that will help you to choose keywords that are being searched in significant numbers. Google and Yahoo also have free tools for keyword selection.

2. Mistake #2: Failure to Include an Opt-In Email Subscription Form. If you're not using your website for lead generation via an opt-in email form, you're losing a huge opportunity. These are some important points that relate to building your mailing list:

* Building a list of people who have come to you site allows you to stay in touch with those people, build a relationship, establish yourself as an expert and solve their problems. This is critical to the success of your business - something that most people miss.
* Put your form as close to the top right as possible. This has been shown through research to be the best location.
* Never use a weak message like 'join my newsletter'. Why would I do that? Give me a reason to subscribe and give me a bonus for doing it - a free gift that I can get instantly as soon as I join. The bonus could be a free report, audio of your teleclass or a coupon discount for a product you wish to sell.

3. Mistake #3: Unprofessional Website Design Does your website look like it was created by a professional or does it look like you did it yourself. An unprofessional design can give a message to your audience that says, "your website isn't professional and that probably is a sign that your services aren't professional either." Here are some tips that will help you to have an effective website design:

* The content should be formatted so that it is easy to read and organized into important sections. Remember those headlines and sub-headlines.
* The navigation should clearly specify the content areas and should be consistent on every page. You should not have to hit the back button to find a page or move around. There is nothing more frustrating than getting lost on a website because of the navigation.
* Make sure the links all work.
* Make a template from your design that is applied to all the pages. Use your template and include files to make changes to one file that automatically modifies all the appropriate pages.
* Use colors that appeal to your target market. This is a subject for another article. I will just mention here that some colors are offensive to certain cultures. Colors like blue have universal appeal, especially for sites directed to a corporate market.
* Use font sizes and styles that are easy to read and pleasing to the eye. Avoid scripted fonts except in graphics where they are used minimally. Use universal fonts that everyone has loaded on their computer. If you don't, the font you choose will be substituted on a computer that doesn't have that font. I personally like Verdana and Arial the best for the web because they are clean and easy to read.
* Use plenty of cell padding around text and images. Avoid cramming things together and putting them close to the margins.
* Make sure that the design takes your eye to important areas of the website. Can you easily identify important content or is your eye going all over the place?
* Whether your web site design is a fixed size or a percentage of the screen, be aware that more people now have bigger monitors with higher screen resolutions. The design that looks great on your monitor make look like an eyesore on other monitors. Designs should be tested across browsers and in different screen resolutions.
* Test everything on your website. Check every page and every link. Look for any design issues. Correct all spelling and grammatical errors. Complete contact and email subscription forms to make sure they work. Don't assume your webmaster has done this. It is also a good idea to check that forms work periodically as problems can mysteriously arise, particularly if there are changes on the server. If you are getting a steady stream of inquiries and sign-ups, you will know that things are working just great.

These important tips will help you to design a more effective website - one that is the core piece of your marketing system. I want to caution you that the old expression, "You get what you pay for," is not always true when it comes to website development. You may pay a high price only to find yourself with a weak and ineffective website that has to be redesigned. Make sure the professionals you choose have an in depth knowledge of Internet marketing and exceptional copy writing, website design and development skills. Make certain that they know how to use the web effectively for creating a marketing system. This system is what will give you the opportunity to profit enormously. It will change your business and most likely change your life.

Online design and marketing specialist, Ruth Kuttler, "the Web PuzzleMaster," is the creator of "Winning Marketing Secrets" E-zine. Get my FREE SPECIAL REPORT, "10 Simple Secrets for Making your Website into a Selling Machine!" at http://www.WebPuzzleMaster.com/newsletter.htm

You are welcome to 'reprint' this article, provided it remains complete (including the contact information at the end). Thanks!

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5 comments:

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