Often one of the the biggest challenges facing new business owners is not finding clients, developing their brand, or even tackling the financial aspects of business ownership. For many, the biggest hurdle to overcome is taking on the daunting task of building their website. If you’re anything like me, I didn’t have a budget to hire someone to build my site, so I set out to learn how to do it on my own.
Through many hours of trial and error, Googling, and pleading with (cussing at) my screen, I learned how to build a site that works for you and the many mistakes to avoid along the way.
Mistake #1: Procrastinating
Many of us have heard the phrase “done is better than perfect.” I’ve found this to be especially true when it comes to your website. Your site is the digital storefront of your company and the first thing many people will encounter when they learn about you. This means that there is added pressure for the site to make a good impression AND added importance that the site is live. I have worked with many entrepreneurs who tell me that their website has been “in the works” for months but just isn’t right yet. Or they have a vision of including a video on their site but they don’t have the budget to create it yet. I totally understand the value of your brand and wanting everything to look great before you launch. But, also, the importance of actually launching.
I’ll let you in on a little secret. Even when you think it’s perfect, you’ll change it 6 months later. I COMPLETELY changed my website three times in my first year of business. You’ll find out what speaks to your audience, have great new content to share, and really hone in on the message you want your site to convey. So, for the initial launch, done is better than perfect.
Do this instead: Take the plunge.
Mistake #2: Jumping In Without a Plan
Yes, I just told you to take the plunge, but don’t do it blindly. It’s nearly impossible to build your site from scratch just staring at a blank screen in WordPress or Squarespace and this is one of the biggest reasons that entrepreneurs get stuck trying to build their own sites – they don’t know where to start!
It can be overwhelming to sit down to such a large task when you only have a few hours a day (if that) to work on it.
Do this instead: Before you even sit down at your computer, make a plan. Sketch out a site map. Set goals for the site. Once you have a clear idea of what you want to create, break the big tasks up into smaller “to-dos” and set a schedule to achieve them.
Mistake #3: Focusing on Form over Function
Of course you want your site to LOOK good, but building around solely the aesthetics will leave you with a pretty website that doesn’t work for you. I often see this when people want to mimic other sites that they’ve seen or find a template that they love but that doesn’t fit with their business or content.
Remember that your website is not just a digital brochure of your product or services, but the initial interaction that many prospects will have with your brand. It’s crucial to make sure that it is working in your favor.
Do this instead: Start with an outline of the content and goals, then incorporate the design elements that fit best with what you’re trying to convey.
Mistake #4: Not Knowing Your Limitations
I’ll be the first to admit that building your own website can be difficult and time consuming. Not to say that it’s impossible, but it takes some work. That’s why it’s important to understand your limitations. If you are neglecting client projects or are particularly stuck on a certain task, it might be time to take a step back and see what portions of the project are outside your abilities and enlist some help.
Do this instead: Work with other experts to take on the parts of the site design that you are less comfortable with.
Mistake #5: Building the Site for You, Not Your Target Audience
I often see a classic case of “features and benefits” when people build their own websites. It’s natural to fall into listing all of the services you offer and how great you are when describing your business. Honestly, it’s hard to turn off your own opinions when building a site that’s as personal as your business, but it’s important to focus on your target audience when writing and designing your website.
Do this instead: Visualize how your ideal customer would react to your site. What would they be looking for? What are they most interested in? Write and design your site to address their challenges and goals, not just overwhelm them with information about you.
Mistake #6: Missing the “Next Step”
The worst feeling in the world is creating something outstanding and waiting by the phone for new clients to call and nothing happens. Ever been there? Refreshing your email every 5 minutes just waiting for the influx of perfect prospects? A website launch can feel a little bit like this if you don’t include a perfect “next step” for your site visitors to take.
Do this instead: Include a free download, newsletter sign up, or consultation to encourage website visitors to take the next step and connect with you further.
Mistake #7: Designing for One Screen
This should be a no-brainer but is often overlooked. You don’t want to finish your entire site design only to notice that it doesn’t respond well when viewed on mobile devices or smaller screens. Especially as they account for such a large portion of web traffic.
Do this instead: Use a template that is responsive. This usually requires very little custom work and will automatically optimize your site for mobile screens.
Mistake #8: Working in a Bubble
We all know that looking at something too long means you can no longer be objective when reviewing it. So, don’t work in a bubble. Don’t be afraid to share your work as you go along to get feedback and constructive criticism.
Do this instead: Ask a friend to proofread. Find a feedback service online (there are many free options). Plan a soft launch for friends and family members to read and review your site before sharing with your prospects.
Mistake #9: Overlooking Analytics
Once your site is built, the work is not done. This is not a “build it and forget it” situation. Websites are best used when optimized and it’s difficult to optimize without analytics – especially in the early days of your website. The power of analytics is often overlooked because people don’t want to take the time to understand it. I’ll admit it, it is easy to get overwhelmed with the amount of data available to you. But, it’s important to put that data to use to maximize your site’s effectiveness.
Do this instead: Install Google Analytics onto your site and set a time to review monthly. Choose a few key metrics to track and monitor your progress based on your goals. My favorite metric to track is Length of Visit and Bounce Rate for each page. This allows you to narrow down which pages are delivering relevant content to your audience and which need to be revamped.
What obstacles have you run into while building your site? Share your biggest challenges in the comments and how you overcame them.