There are currently over one billion websites online right now, with multiple sites being created every second. Creating a website that will stand out from the pack, especially a pack of that size, is no mean feat.
Although design and development trends like carousels (*shudder*), flat design and longform homepages have all had their moments in the sun, there’s still no silver bullet when it comes to creating the perfect website. But there are definitely some things that you might want to think twice about if you’re creating a site to showcase your talents as a freelancer or for your own business!
That big homepage image
You know the one I’m talking about. A shiny MacBook on a vintage wooden desk, surrounded by ‘creative’ stuff like an Instamatic camera or a leather-bound notebook. Probably has a cup of coffee with a fancy pattern in the foam too. It’s ok; I used to have this very image on the homepage of my site—it came with my theme and I just left it there. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how little sense that made.
If you’re a photographer and you’re showcasing one of your own photos? That’s a different story. But I’m a writer—I should be showcasing my writing, not some stock photo. Instead of the first thing visitors see on your site being a giant photo and your company name, which they already know since they managed to find their way to your site, hit them with a big ol’ title telling people exactly what you do.
MailChimp is a great example of this—land on their homepage and the first thing you see is Send Better Email in big, bold lettering.
Trying to sound bigger than you are
I totally understand why freelancers and small businesses do this, but I’m including it on this list of common website mistakes anyway. Yes, writing in the third person and implying that you’re a huge agency arguably makes it easier for you to charge a little more. However, you also risk being asked to do things much more quickly than you have the bandwidth to do.
And what if a client wants a Skype call? Unless you go to extraordinary lengths (and I’m talking slapstick comedy movie lengths) to keep up the charade, your client will end up feeling like you’ve deceived them when they see it’s just you in your home office.
Using first person makes it easier to infuse your writing with your personality. It also reassures potential clients that they’ll be dealing with a qualified expert in the field (that’s you, bud), not some entry-level intern who only joined two weeks ago.
Here at Compu-Global-Hyper-Mega-Net, we’re all about using brand engagement to move the needle and streamline your core competency.
Ok, that’s fine. But it doesn’t really get me any closer to understanding what you actually do. Using corporate buzzwords and jargon doesn’t help you sound big and impressive. It just confuses the hell out of people who actually might want to work with you.
I wrote above about the importance of making what you do clear to new visitors using your homepage headline. Same goes for the rest of your content – be direct, and focus on the benefits your product/service can offer. And use plain English! After a day of reading puffed out jargon, this will be a very welcome change for visitors to your site.
When it comes to SEO, it’s very easy to get greedy. You see your site rising through the ranks for a certain term, maybe even cracking the first page of Google, and think ‘wow, this is awesome!’ Then you start thinking about trying to rank for other terms. While you shouldn’t be afraid to get creative with this, there is a line it’s not wise to cross.
There’s definitely mileage in targeting terms like ‘alternatives to X,’ but there’s absolutely no point in targeting ‘X with Y’ if you don’t actually offer Y. Any visitors you bring in will very quickly realize that you can’t do what they need you to. As well as being frustrating for them, creating a bad impression of your company, they’ll also hit the Back button to return to Google. Although Google stays very quiet about how they determine site rankings, it’s very likely that too much of this will result in them penalizing your site for trying to trick people.
I’m not (just) talking about popup ads here. I’m also talking about popups designed to get people to take an action such as:
Join your mailing list
Share a post
Follow you on social media.
Using one of the above? Absolutely fine. But having popups trying to get someone to do all three things, or potentially even more, on a single page will drive people up the wall! Think about the most important action people can take on a given page and focus on getting them to do that, rather than doing a bit of everything.
It’s worth saying that all of the items on this list are subjective. As I’ve highlighted in a couple of places, there are times when things will be appropriate for use on one site but not another—some industries and spaces have best practices that are very different to those of others. When in doubt, ask existing customers (and potential customers) what they want from a site and try to keep that in mind throughout its creation. If you do that, and do it well, you can’t go too far wrong!