The biggest mistakes made by web design companies 18 August, 2006 — Stuart Brown
Apart from trying to compete in the web design marketplace, of course...
Web design is a massively competitive area on the internet - it seems that every man and his dog is offering 'fresh creative designs' to 'help grow your business online'. But why do so many of these sites run afoul of so many elementary errors?
Ugly, ugly sites
OK. So you're a web designer. Why does your site suck, then? Surely if you're selling your services as a 'designer', the design of your own site is paramount?
If in doubt, keep it simple. While some people might like the purple-on-orange combination, it certainly won't be to everyone's tastes. And, for goodness sake - make sure your site works. I've seen plenty of websites that don't work in my browser of choice (FireFox). If your clients have any misgivings about your site, they'll go elsewhere.
Don't overdesign your website. Whilst it may be tempting to incorporate as much media and as much impact as possible to your site, it certainly is possible to overdo it.
It's amazing how poor the general quality of web design sites is - there are very few standout sites, let alone any worth linking to. Your site is the first impression your clients will get of the quality of your work, so it's vital to get it right.
The royal 'we'
Why do you feel to lie to your clients? Why do you insist on referring to yourself in the plural? We know you're just one guy working from home - but that's OK, we can cope with that - there are a lot of talented individuals out there when it comes to the web.
So why then, do you insist on referring to yourself as 'we'?. You know the sort of thing - weaselly marketing-speak such as 'We take the utmost pride in our work', and 'we endeavour to ensure your happiness'. Nearly every web design 'company' makes this mistake - and it reeks of bullshit.
Be honest with your clients. If you're a sole web developer, don't tell them otherwise - just be honest and get clients looking for the personal and enthusiastic service people like you can offer.
Stock imagery clichés
'Web design' is a tricky thing to illustrate - there are no recognisable images directly associable with it, and so we see cliché after cliché adorning web design sites.
Stock photography is the first stop for the uninspired webmaster, and the mind boggling-array of clouds, sapling metaphors and fish, damn fish. If you're after some 'zing', why not just colour the site green and plaster citrus images liberally?
The portfolio should be the mainstay of the web designer's site. If you can't provide examples of what you've done, then it's unlikely anyone will trust you to do their site, no matter how flash looking your site is.
Worst of all are external sites that have expired domains or that simply don't work - this sort of thing will put potential clients off like nothing else. A good portfolio needs to consist of as many decent, working, live sites as possible. If you've worked with a good quality, established site that is online and successful - brag about it! If you haven't, it may be the case that you want to set your sights a little lower, and adjust your target audience to suit.
Quantity is also important in a good portfolio - one or two sites given implies a lack of experience. Any more than 10 examples are probably wasted, but a good number of quality sites will help to increase your visibility. Don't feel tempted to include lower quality sites in your portfolio just to bulk out the numbers, though - one bad site can cheapen the rest.
OK, great. Now what?
So you've got the client to your site. They're impressed with the look and feel of your site, they've checked out your portfolio and liked what they've seen. What do they do next?
If the answer is 'hunt through the site until they find an email address, telephone number or contact form', then too bad. There's a good chance you've lost that client. You need to make the actuation process as simple as possible. Any obstacles, such as requiring user registration, asking too many questions, or hiding the contact form out of plain view, will result in a lot of lost leads.
Your main priority is to get the contact information from your clients as efficiently as possible. If they want a callback, take their phone number - then make sure you call them. Allow them to request more information via email or their postal address - perhaps offer a comprehensive information pack to mail out to them - expensive to print, perhaps, but not as expensive as losing leads in the long term.
Whatever you do, make sure you make it as easy as possible for your client to register their interest. Too many obstacles and you'll lose sales - as simple as that.
Other big mistakes
- Google adwords et al. (If you're selling a service, don't advertise your competitors!)
- Over-use of technical terms (Most clients won't be technical. What the hell is CSS, anyway?)
- Sites that simply don't work (404s, expired domains, unresponsive servers)
- Flash intros
- Background music (Don't even get me started…)