It’s estimated that almost one in every three small businesses maintain their own website, and with that comes a whole host of potential challenges to overcome.
Alongside the usual cost of building a new website, getting the right designer and managing your hosting prices, there are other factors which many small business owners do not consider when managing or monitoring their website.
In fact, there are a number of common mistakes which SMEs often make, but which are easy enough to overcome.
Here are the seven errors we most often see with websites designed for startups and small businesses.
1. You’ve got an antiquated design
It might have looked good five years ago, but trends and styles change quickly in the digital world. What you thought was amazing in 2011 is now probably seen as being terrible, by both designers and your customers.
Remember that your website is often the first impression clients will get of your business. When you’re starting out, it’s easy to take the cheaper option and get a friend to design your site, but you’ll pay for it later on.
Take a look at your website now. If it’s too busy with lots of unnecessary “clutter”, or if you’ve got a wide array of different colours, fonts and styles all over the place, then you know it’s definitely time for a change.
2. It’s hard to navigate
With a poor website design, navigating around can be difficult too.
When a new user lands on your site, it should be easy for them to see exactly what they’re looking for. It shouldn’t take more than a click for them to find out about you, search for a product they want to buy, or read an interesting blog post.
Don’t distract potential customers with unnecessary adverts or links which could take them away from your site. At the same time, make sure you take advantage of any internal linking opportunities to guide users smoothly from page to page.
3. There are no calls to action
More importantly still, many small business owners forget to include calls to action on their site; a vital feature in encouraging prospective clients or customers to get in touch, request more information, sign up, or buy something.
You shouldn’t make any visitor have to work on your site to contact you, and you should always make sure you take every opportunity to persuade them to do what you want.
Include large obvious buttons to click, make sure every page finishes with persuasion to take action, and don’t play hide and seek with phone numbers or email addresses.
Make them obvious, and prospective customers will get in touch.
4. You don’t track anything
Forgetting to install Google Analytics, or any other kind of tracking metrics, is another common mistake made all too often by SMEs.
Without the ability to track links clicked and conversions made, how else will you know if those calls to action are working, or whether or not that new article you posted had any impact?
Without analytics, you won’t be able to measure performance, and as a small business, you should know just how important it is to analyse results and make improvements.
5. Your website isn’t optimised for mobile
According to a recent survey commissioned by hibü, almost 90% of UK SMEs do not have a mobile optimised website, or even know if their site is mobile capable. And yet in 2014, it’s estimated that 41% of online transactions were made via a mobile device.
As the proliferation of smart phones and tablets continues, the figures of those using them to look at business websites like yours will only grow.
If you have content like Flash on your site, it either won’t load on mobile devices or it’ll take forever, draining batteries and data usage and leaving potential customers frustrated.
Even mobile versions of sites are outdated now. What you really need is a fully responsive website, which will shrink to fit any screen size and be accessible on all platforms.
6. You wrote your website yourself
Whilst no-one knows your business like you do, when you write the main content of your website yourself, you often miss things. It’s hard to take a step back from your own work, and spell check is not perfect by any means.
Those spelling and grammatical errors can make you look amateurish, and you’ve probably not written the content from an online marketing point of view, designed to attract and convert traffic.
Hire someone who knows what they’re doing when it comes to selling your business and ensuring your content is optimised for the digital sphere. At the very least, get an editor to check over what you have written.
7. You’re not using an open source CMS system
A number of SMEs will likely find themselves using a proprietary content management system, one that’s designed and built by a large company, which comes straight off the shelf and isn’t accessible for other developers to tweak.
What that means is that your website if fairly fixed, and you have the inability to make the changes you want due to rigid coding.
But the web is constantly changing, and online customer behaviour is always evolving. You need a website which is flexible enough to meet new challenges and new marketing needs whenever you want.
Open source software, such as Magento, WordPress, Drupal or Joomla, gives you great flexibility and high quality, at low costs. Because so many developers have access to it, you’ll likely find that what you need has already been created, and any potential bugs or security problems are fixed straight away.
Making changes to your website
So the next time you look at your website, think about whether you’ve made any of these mistakes, and take the steps needed to correct them. You’ll soon see the difference it can have on your business.
About the author
This article was written by ByteStart’s regular website and e-commerce contributor, Nick Pinson. He is a Director at iWeb Solutions, an e-commerce website design agency based in Staffordshire. Twitter: @iwebtweets
More on websites
For more tips and advice on being successful online, read these other ByteStart guides by Nick Pinson;
- How to communicate effectively with your website designer
- Taking your business online – A Digital marketing guide for small business owners
- 5 e-Commerce trend predictions for 2015
- A Survival guide to mobile commerce
- Should you prepare your small business to take payments through Apple Pay?
- Securing your e-commerce website in 2015