Wednesday, 30 July 2014

How to choose the right web design company

In a recent search of Google using the keywords over 800 million results were returned indicating a large number of website design companies who are willing to build your site for you. With so many companies available and more and more companies launching every week you need a system for choosing the right website design company.
Some website design companies will produce visually appealing but low functionality sites, some are best at building blogs while others are best at building sales pages. To identify which Website Design Company is best for you it is highly recommended you use this X step process.
STEP #1: Identify Your Desired Outcomes
Before searching for a website design company you need to first define what you want your website to achieve for your company. Are you just looking to have an online presence, or do you want to drive sales? The more specific you can be about your outcome the more likely it is that you will find a website design company which suits your needs.
STEP #2: Articulate Your Complete Budget
There any many different styles of websites that can be built and many different kinds of website design companies. Ultimately your budget will dictate the website design companies you can work with as many you will not be able to afford.
STEP #3: Receive Quotes and Ideas
This is probably the most important part of your website design selection as you are not just looking for a website, but one that can generate sales and automate lead generation in your business. Often the cheapest quote is not the best website design company to go with, as you want companies that will really dirve your site to success.
STEP #4: Select Provider
Once you have talked with all providers and analysed the quotes, it’s time to choose the provider you want to work with and get your website design project started.
This simple 4 step process will not only ensure you choose the correct company but will also ensure that working with you is easy and quick. Website design companies wish that all clients followed this 4 step process as it really helps to build a final product you can be proud of.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Cross browser compatibility

There are literally hundreds of web browsers in use around the world. All of them implement the W3C document standards a little differently. Web designers must wrestle with these differences to make a web site work. This article discusses the effect those different implementations has on design.
What is Cross Browser Compatibility?
If a web page is completely cross-browser compatible, it will look more or less the same in all of the existing web browsers. The most commonly used browsers are Google Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Netscape Navigator and Opera. The W3 table below shows their usage as of 2013.

Each one of these browser implements HTML, JavaScript and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) a little differently. Some difference only create cosmetic difference others can break the webpage. The situation gets worse because each browser is free to implement “enhancements” to the W3C standard version of each of these formats.
Then to compound matters even more the underlying operating systems also creates difference in how the computer displays graphical elements and text differently. When you add the fact that people are also using multiple versions of each of the browsers, no wonder web designersget headaches.
So what is a web designer to do?
Obviously, 100% compatibility with all potential browsers is impossible. But it is possible to design your web page so it will work in the most popularly used browsers.
To accomplish that, a web developer must write squeaky-clean code that conforms to the W3C standards to get consistent results across all browser platforms. The whole idea behind the standards is that if each browser adheres to the same set of rules, you will get more or less consistent results in all of the existing browsers.
Conforming can be a real challenge. It will limit some of the neater effects available in specific browsers. There are online code validators available. You can validate HTML code at , the validator can also validate your CSS and links. The service is free.
The validator checks your code based on the DOCTYPE you specify on the webpage. The DOCTYPE tells the browser which version of HTML or CSS the web page is using.
HTML Editors
There are some compatibility issues associated with anything other than hand coding for HTML (and for that matter, even with hand coding.)
Best Choice – The best choice for compatibility is Dreamweaver but you cannot use layers. Layers must be converted to tables to be used.
Worst Choice – The worst choice is FrontPage. FrontPage is loaded with problems because it uses Microsoft and therefore internet explored specific code. Items that will not work in other browsers include:
  • Marquees – you can use a JavaScript scroller to create a similar effect that will work in the most common browsers.
  • bgsound tag – this is IE specific.
  • Page Transitions – this is IE specific.
  • Front Page generated Style sheets – this is IE specific and can have unexpected results or crash other browsers.
  • Front Page generated DHTML – it is better to use JavaScript to create the effects you want since it is more likely to be cross browser compatible.
  • Hover Buttons – this is IE specific and has been know to crash browsers including older versions of IE. You can use JavaScript, flash or CSS to get similar effects.
Other HTML Editors – the rest of the HTML editors will fall somewhere between Dreamweaver and FrontPage in cross browser compatibility. You just have to test the code your HTML editor generates.
CSS Style Sheets
Not all of your style sheets will work correctly in all of the browsers. However, style sheets rarely crash a web browser, but sometimes the pages will be downright ugly if not completely unreadable. One of the major CSS problems is absolute positioning since most browsers do not support it and it will cause different block to overlap others and create a jumbled mess.
Flash is great for adding style to a webpage and Macromedia provides flash plug-ins for all of the major web browsers. But don’t build the entire site with flash. Browser for the blind, most handheld devices do not support flash.
A small but significant number of users don’t like it and don’t install the plug-in so they won’t be able to access a flash site. Also, search engines spiders can’t follow the links on a flash site and won’t index it.
Graphic Links
While these are attractive, they have the same problems as flash with browsers for the blind and hand-held devices. Always use the alt tag with graphics.
Bottom Line – even code that is validated may not work correctly in all the major browsers. The best way a website designer can create cross browser compatibility is to test all of their web pages in the most popular browsers to see what happens.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

7 Signs to watch out with new client

Working with clients is one of the most difficult parts of being a website designer.
It’s a challenge which we face each and every day, regardless of whether we work in-house, as freelancers, or as agency owners.
Some clients are great, while others leave us tearing our hair our and wondering why we felt the need to subject ourselves to this line of work.
While some problems with clients can be put down to poor communication by both parties, many times we can identify clients which are going to be difficult before we even start working with them.

1. They Want To Argue on Price

This is probably the most common of all red flags. A client who wants to argue on price is a client who doesn’t respect, understand, or value the work of a website developer. If you hear statements such as “I have a nephew who can do the website for very less cost when compared to what you have quoted″ – run a mile.
Other common issues surrounding price and payment include not wanting to pay a deposit before the commencement of work and trying to get you to agree to payment clauses. For example: “Our new website must receive X amount of traffic by X date in order for the final 25% to become payable.”
This is not acceptable. You are a professional providing professional services, so make sure you are polite but firm with the price which you have quoted. The only way to increase the perceived value of web design as a service is if we hold steady on this issue.
Some clients think that they should be able to pay whatever they feel like for services, because they aren’t products with fixed prices.
2. They Need it Done Yesterday
Probably the next most common red flag encountered: clients who need their project completed yesterday, or at the very least by the end of the week.
Not understanding or caring about the amount of time needed in the web design process is another sure sign of a poor client. Not understanding, in principle, is OK. The not caring part is the real issue. Almost all clients with an immediately pressing deadline aren’t open to suggestion, their mind is made up.
Web design at any level beyond the most basic of sites takes a significant amount of time. The reality of the situation is that in the overwhelming majority of cases it wouldn’t even be possible to meet their deadline if you worked all day and all night.
I once left a client’s office at 8 PM on a Monday and had the client shouting at me on the phone at 9 AM on Tuesday asking why the next design revision hadn’t been completed. Needless to say, for that and other reasons, the project didn’t work out.

3. They Have an Existing Website Which Sucks

My own trademarked indicator of how to spot a nightmare client. It’s easy to think that if a client has an existing website which sucks, that they must have had a bad web designer. What is true much more of the time is that they had a good web designer and they screwed up the site all by themselves.
Here’s the thing, and The Oatmeal summed this up perfectly in their comic above, clients often have an overwhelming knack for screwing up websites. Looking at their current website can often offer a pretty clear indicator of what sort of client they’ll be.
Along the same lines, also depicted in aforementioned comic, if the client has a poor relationship with their last web designer then it could be a pretty good indicator that they’re going to end up having a poor relationship with you. I’ve personally never met a client who complained about their last web designer and then turned out to be loads of fun to work with.
The best clients already have great websites. They researched what they wanted, they worked with a great designer, the website is great, and now they want to work with you to take it to the next level.

4. The Person Managing the Project Built the Current Website

A sure-fire way to doom a project before it ever gets of the ground. If the person who you’re working for is the person who created the website which you’re redesigning, then they’re going to take everything personally.
Not only are they going to take everything personally, but they are going to want to offer their input, advice, and opinions every single step of the way. This is never more true than if the marketing manager is the person who runs the current site. Statements such as “can we make it flash” and “can we make the logo bigger” were born from clients such as this.
The fact of the matter is that the person who is paying you needs to be at least slightly impartial about the website which you’re creating for them. If they have a personal connection or commitment then the chances are that their own personal preferences will get in the way of important decisions.
For designers in particular, this type of client is guaranteed to be a pain from the get-go. If this red flag is present, then nine times out of ten red flag number three will also be there.

5. They Can’t Communicate

One of the more sneaky red flags, this one can creep up on you and knock you down when you’re least expecting it. Poor communicators come in all shapes and sizes. A client who seems like a great communicator socially does not always translate into a client who is a great communicator professionally.
The best way to gauge this particular metric is through multiple channels of communication. Talking on the phone, talking in person, writing via email, writing via project management software. How well are they able to tell you what they want?
Some of the classic statements used by clients who can’t communicate are “I don’t know what I want, but I’ll know it when I see it.” and “I want it to have more [pop/jazz/edge/whoosh/sex/shine/glint]“ – these people just don’t know how to say what they mean and as a result it’s almost impossible to please them.
Communication is the most essential part of the web design process and without it a working relationship cannot go smoothly.

6. They Want Constant Meetings

The needy client is sure of only one thing, they don’t know what they’re doing and they don’t trust you to do it. To make up for their insecurities, they want to see you regularly so that you can hold their hand at every turn. With this client you’ll end up spending more time in meetings with them than you will on design or code.
The needy client will eventually drain you of all your time an energy. In extreme cases they’ll even ask you to work at their offices. They don’t trust you, they want to keep an eye on you and they want you to be right there whenever they have a question.
This red flag will often show itself in combination with the “Can’t Communicate” red flag. Their own inability to communicate leads them to believe that you don’t understand what they want, (this part is actually justified, most of the time you have no idea what they want because they themselves have no idea what they want), so they want to see you often to ask about more ‘pop’ and ‘flare’.

7. They Want an Ongoing Relationship

Finally, the ultimate red flag. A client who talks constantly about how they want an“ongoing relationship” is a client to avoid like the plague.
In a healthy professional relationship both parties know that if the project goes well, and if the opportunity presents itself, then they will work together again. A client who is insecure (number 6) and had a bad relationship with their last designer (number 3) wants to hang on to the next guy like he’s their holy savior.
In extreme cases these clients will talk about how they want to make you “part of the team”or “part of the family”. These are also the clients that are most likely to try to tempt you with offers of revenue or stock in the company in place of some part of your fee. They want to lock you in and own you.
This is the client who is going to call you at eleven at night because they had some great (read: awful) new idea that they just had to run past your urgently, just in case you were relaxing and going to bed instead of working on their site. Remember, you’re part of the family now, they own you.


Many of these issues can come down to uneducated clients, and as many other articles in the past have stressed: educating clients is extremely important. It’s your job to help them make the right decision, not laugh at them for not knowing what it is. Sometimes however, they can’t be helped.
We all have bills and mortgages to pay. Sometimes people say that they don’t have the luxury of choosing their clients in so much detail. Just keep in mind that a bad client will cost you money, not make you money. These are the types of people who will waste your time for two months and then with-hold payment.
This is just a blog post, these aren’t commandments written in stone. There are exceptions to every rule and it’s up to you to use your own judgement and common sense to identify the red flags as they come up. Hopefully, this post will have simply given you a few tips on things to look out for.

Friday, 25 July 2014

What is a Content Management System (CMS)

“Content Management System” is a catchphrase that’s still catching some serious wind out there on the web, but not everybody understands what it is or why someone would want one. This short article will help you wrap your mind around the concept of a content management system.


To Understand “Content Management System”, You Should Understand Content

“Content”, in terms of the internet, consists of information of some sort. This information can be visual, audible, or textual. News articles, photographs, movies, and radio shows are all forms of content.

Where Does the “Management System” Come In?

Content on the web can be “managed” by simply constructing web pages by hand or with a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) web page editor and uploading it them to web sites. When a web page needs to be altered in some way, you just open up the web page file, add the changes, and upload the new file.
But, when you start trying to manage a lot of content that way, mistakes and inconsistencies between pages will start to creep in. Also, it takes a significant amount of open up your web page editor, find the file you’re looking for, change it, save it and upload it. It may not seem like much effort when you’re working with just a few pages, but imagine working with thousands of pages that way.

The Definition of a Content Management System

A content management system is a software tool used to manage content through an interface layer. In practical terms, this means that instead of going through the process above to manage web page content, instead you would visit your web site, click a link to the content you’re looking for, edit the content via a simple form, and click another button to save the changes.
Following are some of the benefits of using a content management system:

Index creation is automated with a content management system

The meaning of an index here is a list of hyperlinks to pages with related content. For instance, you can have an index of news articles or blog entries. Such indexes are usually used to help visitors navigate or browse through a web site.
If you don’t use a content management system, every time you add content, you also have to alter the index. If the index is created as a static page, then you also can’t give visitors the option of searching the index or ordering it in different ways (like by date added or alphabetical order). With a content management system, an index can be created automatically, erasing the potential for mistakes and saving time.

You can use a content management system to populate templates

Sounds boring, but this is a really useful tool. Imagine you have 100 articles – a reasonable number – and each one is a separate web page file. You can use tools like “includes” to manage the layout of all the pages, but what if you need to make structural changes to the page. For instance, you need to add in a new meta tag to all of the articles for indexing purposes?
Without a content management system, you would have to open, edit and save every file, upload them, and hope you didn’t make any mistakes. If you did use a content management system, you would only have to edit a single web page. Have over a 1000 articles? You’d still only have to alter that one page. Sweet, huh?


we discussed just a couple of good uses for content management systems in this article, but there are many, many more. 3kits use them in nearly every web site, simply because they make content management much easier and cleaner. If you have more than a few of the same type of page on your web site (articles, news, jobs, sub menu, gallery, videos etc.) then consider using a content management system in your site site.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

HOW TO: Communicate Needs & Expectations to Web Designers

Know What a Designer Does

Before you even begin talking to a designer about what you want done, it’s important to understand what a designer actually does. Misunderstandings between designers and clients can often be traced back to misconceptions about roles and false expectations.
Designers and clients should both understand the difference between design and production, “Designing a logo and a business card is different than getting them printed. You hire a designer for her opinion and knowledge in a particular area, and you’re asking her to help you navigate waters that you don’t feel confident wading into alone. You hire production and development people to get something done in the best and most efficient way possible.”
This can get confusing since sometimes the design and production sides of the process are handled by the same person or company. Still, it is important to know which parts of what you’re asking a designer to do are design, and which parts are something else. Boundaries should be set to isolate one aspect from the other.

Think About What You Really Want

In order to accurately and clearly convey what you want to a designer, you really need to think about what it is you need and desire out of whatever it is you’re having designed. Think about what sort of functionality you want your users to get out of the design, what information you need to convey, and what sort of feeling you want to evoke.
Examples are the easiest way [for clients] to share what they’re looking for. That doesn’t, however, mean for them to send over a website from a competitor and say ‘I want this. You should think about why you like a particular design and how it relates to what you want. Pay special attention to the functionality of the websites you like and what makes you like them — it might even be helpful to show the sites you admire to friends and colleagues and gauge their reactions. What about those sites do people actually like?
We’re more interested here in why it appeals from a functionality standpoint than [...] about the aesthetic. This will help the designer immensely with understanding what the client is really looking for on their website.
Try that exercise on your own before speaking with your designer. You’ll find yourself armed with a better understanding of what you actually want.

Consider Content

Any forethought and planning of content and navigation previous to meeting the designer can help immensely with the company’s job. Content is an oft-overlooked part of website design, but critical for the majority of sites. The point of a website for most small businesses is to get a message across and facilitate some action: sales, sign ups, attendance, etc. Thought should be paid to what it is you want to say on your website and what your goal is.
That process is very much about setting priorities and establishing hierarchies. “Make priority lists and figure out what’s most important for your visitors to find. The more thought-out the content and structure is before ever contacting the designer, the better it will be for all parties involved.”
That doesn’t mean you have to write out all of your content before you hire a designer, or even before the designer starts designing, but knowing what you want to say, what your goal is, how you want to say it, and where different types of content fit in, will help the process go smoothly. Also, remember that content can include more than just written words — if you want to utilize video, podcasts, photo galleries, or any other type of rich media on your page, you should have a good idea of what you need before you talk to a designer.

Trust Your Designer, Give Up Control

One of the hardest things for a client to do, but one of the most necessary, is to give up control. That doesn’t mean you won’t get what you want or that you can’t offer feedback, but micromanaging the design process is a terrible idea. You’re hiring a designer because you value her expertise and skill, so trust her to take your initial input and create something that works.
Clients should hand over control along with the list of things they want. Designers like to think about  a job like a surgeon, You don’t come in to the office of a surgeon and say, ‘I want this kind of cut, and I want you to do this many stitches.’ You come in bleeding, and let the man fix you.” Part of being a great designer is earning trust and being aggressive with clients about handing over control.
It’s often said that you hire a designer to say, ‘No. While it’s important for designers to be receptive to feedback and suggestions from their clients, it’s also important for clients to realize that “a designer’s role is to have more experience in the field of design, passionately pursue the best path possible, use informed opinions, and approach the project from a user’s perspective.”
In other words: designers know design, so it’s best to get out of the way and give them freedom to create.

Talk Money and Terms Beforehand

Of course, working with a designer isn’t all talking about form and function, there’s a healthy component of business, as well. So that there are no surprises, the business end should be clearly defined and gotten out of the way before any actual design production takes place, and before any money changes hands.
“There’s nothing worse than getting to the middle or end of a project and finally getting around to discussing payment. Here’s the key: talk about money and deadlines up front. No work should be done until payment prices and terms are agreed upon and some sort of contract always be signed, even for small jobs"
It’s also important to realize that design is a difficult endeavor to price. “Due to the nature of exploration and innovation in design, projects sometimes will have unforeseen costs and time.
Getting everything down on paper before you start will help you avoid headaches later.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

What to Do When a Client Relationship Goes South

Client relationships almost always start out really well. You’re both excited to be working together, they’re looking forward to a new site and you’re looking forward to creating something really amazing.
Sometimes it stays this way throughout the process and the working relationship between the website designer and client goes smoothly. Other times… not so much.
One of the most frustrating things about client relationships going south is that you often feel like there was absolutely no way to have anticipated it.
Sometimes this is absolutely true but the majority of the time there are little warning signs which you can pick up on very early and use to your advantage.
Today we’re going to be looking at how to deal with the difficult situations which arise when the project doesn’t go quite as smoothly as everyone anticipated.

Why Client Relationships Go South

Obviously looking out for red flags when taking on a prospective client is the first step. If you ignore red flags from the start then this is a sure sign that the relationship is probably going to end badly.
But, what about when there are no red flags? Sometimes you think you’ve just taken on the perfect client and then for some reason it just doesn’t work. You can get on with someone really well on a social level but then find them incredibly difficult to deal with on a professional level.
The most common cause for these situations is communication. When dealing with clients, communication is the number one most important skill to have. Much more important, even, than any design or development skills which you have. In this particular situation communication will usually start out well, then shift slowly as the project progresses.
At the start of the relationship the client sees you as the professional and they treat you accordingly. As the project progresses and particularly when design mock-ups start coming into play, the client’s mentality shifts from a person consulting a professional, to a person buying a product which appeals to them. This is the point at which the client stops listening to your advice and starts to demand little changes which they think will look better.
Strategies for Resolving the Situation
Now, let’s be clear, you’ve gotten to this point because of poor communication on both parts. It isn’t just the client’s fault, so don’t blame it all on them.
If they are looking at a design from the perspective of whether or not they like it on a personal level, then you haven’t done your job beforehand communicating to them how the design process works and what they should be looking for.
Regardless of who’s fault it is though, you’re fed up with the project in its current state and something needs to be done. You can either try to pull the project back and work out how to communicate more effectively, or your can cut the client loose entirely. You might think that the first option is always better for your bank balance, but this isn’t always the case.
For now, let’s say you do want to resolve the situation and move on. What can you do? Well first you need to have a chat with your client, preferably in person but on the phone will work too. Above all things, do not use email.
Email is great, I love email and would prefer it if everyone only ever communicated with me through email. It gives me time to formulate a well considered, diplomatic response to any situation and it doesn’t intrude on the rest of my day. There’s one problem with it though, it doesn’t have a face, or a voice.
If you’re going to have a difficult conversation with anyone you really need to show that you have good intentions with a friendly tone of voice and smile. Bringing up any point of contention through a written medium will simply come across as confrontational and offensive, no matter how your word it. Unfortunately it’s a tried and tested fact.
Now, when you do actually have the conversation with your client, what you want to do is create a shift in behavior. In order for this to happen you need to explain to them what isn’t working currently. This could be worded something like “Listen Tom, we’ve been working really hard on this design for you. Your feedback so far has been great and its really challenged us to make the final product even better, but I wanted to review the feedback process with you so that we can both get the absolute most out of it.”
This is a friendly and sincere opener, letting the client know that he is extremely important to the process. You then want to move on to talk about how design feedback needs to be considered above all other things from the user’s perspective, rather than the personal tastes of the people who are building the site.

Strategies for Cutting Them Loose

Sometimes, it doesn’t matter what you say. The client relationship is beyond repair. This is particularly true when the client has held the project up way beyond the original schedule so that you’re actually losing money by keeping them on.
If you’ve tried the strategies above and you’re still not getting anywhere then it may be time to simply call it a day. My good friend Brendon Sinclair also shared some very wise words with me on this subject some time ago, he said:
“The best indicator of future performance is past performance. They’ll always be the same.”
You need to consider that your client most probably will continue to be exactly the same for the duration of the project even if you do manage to resolve issues which you’ve been having. If the prospect of this is too daunting for you, or not financially viable, then again you probably need to look at ending the relationship.
The most important thing to note here is that no matter how much you hate the client by this point and want to give them a piece of your mind, don’t do it. You really, really, want an amicable split from even the worst of clients. Why? Well, for need of a better word: Karma. These things have a funny way of coming back to haunt you.
If the project goes down in flames then the client will more than likely boast far and wide about how awful you are at doing your job. They may know someone who knows someone who would have hired you, but not anymore. You really need to think about protecting your brand image so that this one negative moment won’t leave a lasting impression on your business and your career. Yes, this is annoying. Especially on occasions where you’ve done nothing wrong and the client is simply an impossible character, but it is still very important.
Again, go for the face-to-face or phone option here, no email. You want to explain to them that you value them but you don’t think that the working relationship is a good match. Effectively you’re going to say “it’s not you, it’s me”. You could do that by saying something along the lines of “Listen Tom, we hold ourselves to extremely high standards for all our work but for whatever reason, on this project that isn’t showing through. We aren’t getting what we need and neither are you. I think we should probably call it a day here because we think you would be much better off working with _______, who is much more suited to the type of work which you’re after.”
It’s not an easy statement to make, but it does work. Provided that you can outline to the client that you respect them and want the best for them, then they won’t mind too much. Like breaking up any relationship, the other person almost always feels the same way to some extent.
Be confident, firm, polite and friendly.
Situations like this with clients mid-way through a project are never easy and they’re definitely never any fun. Just remember that how the situation eventually ends is entirely up to you.
You have the power to take it in any direction you want with a little diplomacy and respect. A difficult relationship doesn’t have to end with a bang. You just need to communicate as effectively as possible.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Top 5 Web Design Mistakes Small Businesses Make

If you’re a small business owner, your website is the central hub of your company, and it’s a pivotal part of your marketing and branding.
Potential customers visit your site specifically for its content, meaning its appearance and usability are critical to its success and how those users view your company. However, getting your web design wrong can have a negative impact on your business.
Here are 5 common web design mistakes you must avoid to create a great user experience and grow your bottom line.
1. Poor Navigation
Many small businesses fail to make navigation a priority, but without careful attention to how people navigate your site, you could unintentionally be creating a frustrating experience for any potential visitor. People visit your site for specific information, and if they cannot find it they will quickly go elsewhere, leaving with the impression that your business is disorganized in more than just its website.
A good navigation structure should be seamless and will keep visitors on your site longer, which means potentially more readers, subscribers, sales or leads — whichever is your primary objective.
Website navigation affects both usability and accessibility, so it’s important to make it a primary concern. Most websites and blogs use common navigational techniques that are expected by the average visitor. The pages and sections of the site should be easy and logical for visitors to maneuver. Don’t make your visitors think about how to navigate your site; it should be effortless and natural.
There are several principles you can follow to create an effective navigation structure:
  • Use icons to aid navigation. They’re both visually appealing and easy to use and understand.
  • Create logical groups of related links, with the most important links on the top-level navigation bar and functional (dashboard, account, settings, etc.) and legal (copyright, privacy, terms) located elsewhere.
  • Provide location information so users know where they are on any given page and how to proceed to another area of the website. This can be achieved by using Breadcrumb navigation.

 2. No Clear Calls To Action

The fundamental error of many small business websites is the lack of a clear call to action. We’ve all seen bland small-business brochure websites with nothing but endless descriptive paragraphs. If you aren’t leading users to commit to an action (buy a product, contact you or subscribe, for example), then you are losing them.
Driving traffic to your website is important, but that traffic is useless if your primary call to action is a plain “click here” link buried in a sea of text. Call-to-action buttons are a great way to grab the user’s attention, and these buttons can be the key to higher conversions. Investing time and consideration into creating successful calls to action can help guide users and address their needs while achieving your own business goals.
It’s important to keep the following best practices in mind when creating an optimal call to action:
  • The design of a call to action can be broken down into 4 simple elements — size, shape, color, and position. Each plays a vital part in determining how effective the call to action is in directing the user.
  • Don’t make your users work or think, or they’ll leave. It’s not that they aren’t smart, it’s that they want access to information quickly without spending unnecessary time searching for it.
  • Don’t overdo it with multiple, competing calls to action on every page. Decide what your primary target is and then define a clear objective per page. Your content should have answered, “What’s in it for me?” and your call to action should now answer, “What do I do now?”

3. Color & Contrast

Color and contrast aren’t usually high up on the list of priorities for a small business owner when it comes to creating a website. But it should be, because if your website text does not have sufficient contrast compared to its background, people will have difficulty reading your content, especially people with poor vision or color-blindness.
Aside from plain readability, color and contrast are important because they can be used to create visual interest and direct the attention of the user. It can equally be effective in organizing and defining the flow and hierarchy of a page, and it’s therefore an essential principle to pay attention to during the design process. Here are some tips:
  • Using a free a Color Contrast tool (which conforms to accepted standards) you can easily check to see how the contrast on your website measures up.
  • Research how major sites use color and contrast to improve readability and highlight specific sections, and use this knowledge to experiment with color schemes.
  • One of best ways to enhance contrast is by creating size differences between elements, making some things appear larger than others. This works especially well within a minimal color scheme, and it means you don’t have to necessarily rely on color.

4. Content, Content, Content

People visit your website for its content, and how that is structured is a huge factor in its success or failure. Unfortunately, an overwhelming number of small businesses get so caught up in overloading the user with information that they overlook how that information is presented.
Most people do not read unless it’s absolutely necessary, and they prefer to scan through information quickly to get to the points of interest. This is why it’s so important to establish a strong visual content hierarchy so users can quickly scan your site and sifting through relevant information. A logical content hierarchy also acts as a guide through each page and creates a more enjoyable user experience.
So when focusing on your content, it’s best to keep in mind these three tips:
  • White space is possibly the most important factor to consider. It will allow the user to focus on the meaningful content within each section.
  • Break up lengthy pieces of information into digestible blocks of text, utilizing headings, sub-headings, bullets, blockquotes and paragraphs.
  • Readable content is important, so use a good line height that is large enough to make content scannable. Margins and letter spacing also need to be taken into consideration.
When talking about content, spelling and grammar cannot be underestimated.

5. Clutter

We all know at least one small business website that seems to include everything but the proverbial kitchen sink. Many small business owners tend to cram as much as they can onto a single page — the end result is a busy, cluttered and unreadable page.
The more extraneous items there are on a web page, the more unprofessional it looks, and it becomes overwhelming, confusing and distracting for the user. A cluttered website will also affect traffic because visitors won’t return if they can’t understand or follow the content, which leads to low traffic, a high bounce rate and possibly a poor Page Rank.
Clutter also applies to images. Too many can be a huge distraction and just plain annoying. Images should be used to illustrate, capture attention and guide the user where required.
Follow these guidelines for a more streamlined visitor experience:
  • Challenge every item on each page and ask, “Does it really need to be there? Does it serve a specific purpose? Can I live without it?”
  • The key is to aid the visitor in finding the information they’re looking for, so make sure to differentiate between areas of content, advertisements and promotions.
  • Prioritize your content and decide what is the most important to your visitor and potential customer — and sell it well.
Even the greatest content can become lost in a mess of words and graphics, so de-cluttering is essential.
These are just five web design mistakes that many small businesses make. What other mistakes have you noticed on small business websites?