10 pitfalls to avoid when building your own website

Building your own website can be an invigorating experience, or an test of your patience. These tips can help guide you in your first site build.

Before you build your website, avoid these pitfalls

  1. Building your site for the wrong reasons. Why are you building this website? If it feels like the answer is somehow tied to other people’s expectations of what your business should be, then you’re probably building for the wrong reasons. One of the many pitfalls to avoid when building your own website is doing it because of the expectations of others. Earlier this week, I helped a small business owner who was struggling with whether her website needed to have multiple pages. Her business is brand new, she hasn’t even served a single customer yet. I told her “A full website for a new business owner is quite the feat. You would have to sit there and make stuff up. A one pager is more than enough to get going.” 
  2. Getting bogged down in the details. Business owners tend to find and fall for this frequently. Repeat after me: Done > Perfect. You can always revisit down the road. And websites should be living, breathing entities that grow to fit your business, not the other way around. If your plan is to “set it and forget it” you’re probably not ready to have a website in the first place.

When you build

  1. Getting panicked by the content needs. A blank word processor page with a blinking cursor waiting for your input is the most anxiety inducing of business tasks. I’ll refer one more time to Done > Perfect. Make sure your content answers the most basic questions about your product and/or services: What is it? Why should the reader care? How to get in touch with you? Something to catch their contact information. Testimonials. That’s it. That’s the skeleton of website content for a small business.
  2. Your images must be high resolution, quality images. Visible pixels are not sexy and they’re not cute. They scream “AMATEUR” and nobody wants to hire an amateur. You’ve already taken the leap and made it this far. Don’t let your images be what breaks down the deal. Want free images? Check unsplash.com. Want paid images? Check shutterstock.com for low cost image credit packages. If you use Shutterstock, use the built in image sizer tool to download web optimized images. If you use Unsplash, run the images through Canva or Photoshop and make sure they are no bigger than 1200 pixels wide, and no more than 72dpi quality. Use JPG for photos. Use PNG for images that have copy in them. As a rule of thumb, your website images should never be more than 500kb.
  3. Ignoring the smartphone users. It’s 2020. You should start from the assumption that 50% of your audience will come to your site on a mobile device. Most website builders have a mobile device preview screen. Use it. Then, test it on your actual phone. After that, try a different phone too – different model or brand whenever there’s a chance. If this involves borrowing your kid’s phone, or asking a friend to take a peek, that’s fine. Is it THAT important? Yes. Google will take into consideration how responsive your site is when they rank it in search results.
  4. Picking the wrong font. Your font should be legible in size, color, contrast and placement. Google has beautiful free fonts that are available in most website builders. And there are people out there who’ve put together articles like: The 40 best Google Font pairings that will let you step away from the expected Open Sans Regular or Times New Roman. 

After you build

  1. Forgetting to QA. Quality assurance is a super important step. Usually by the time the site is behaving the way you need it to on both desktop and mobile, and is loading relatively fast, you’re ready to move on to the next thing. Hold up just a second. Put together a spreadsheet, recruit some friends or a significant other who hasn’t obsessed over the website the last 30 days and have them read through every page and click every button. Is everything loading? Are the animations working? Are there broken links? Create a punch list of every issue and work your way through the entire thing. 
  2. Leave your traffic anonymous. Using free tools like Google Analytics or Google Tag Manager you can have basic data about your website usage. Where are the people coming from? Who is referring them to you? Who are they? What do they do when they’re on your website. This is a portion of the process that can be hard for beginners to understand or learn how to optimize. At this point, I recommend you find someone who can do the basic setup and make the investment to collect this data. Even if your site has zero traffic right now and nobody knows who you are. Data collection that has been collected over a period of time can help you figure out how your business is growing and predict important things like: what products are better for your bottom line, if one or several of your pages are not helping you convert your traffic into leads, etc.
  3. Ignore the free tools. Google Search Console and Google My Business are two extremely powerful and FREE tools that Google offers business owners. Google My Business is a free way for you to include your business in Google’s search results for businesses. It will do cool things for you like: put your name on a Google Map, or priceless things like: collect your reviews and give you a star rating. Google Search Console is a way for you to submit your brand new website to Google for crawling and indexing, so you appear on search results quicker. 
  4. Set it and forget it. The most important of all these pitfalls is not updating your site. Even small tweaks like dropping a new post in your blog, updating your cover images or your testimonials can help it look like “someone is home.” The internet is littered with abandoned websites that never get updated. At a very minimum you should be touching your website quarterly to freshen up your message, tweak images and move things around. You know how sometimes the grocery store moves products around so that you have to go to new aisles to look for what you need? Keeping your website changing ever so slightly helps people discover new corners of services or testimonials they might have ignored until now. 
Astrid M. Storey

Astrid M. Storey

Astrid Storey is originally from Panama and spent most of her early years traveling through Central and South America. She arrived in Denver in 2003. During the next decade-and-a-half, she’s juggled a career in a variety of creative and marketing roles while building her own studio, Storey Creative, with clients in real estate, health care, publishing, and tech.

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