How to avoid costly website mistakes

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Whether you’re migrating your existing site or building a website from scratch, a website disaster can cost your business big money.

Any savvy marketer knows you cannot run a business these days without having an online presence. In this digital age, consumers expect businesses to be online and if they can’t find your brand on the web they will lose confidence in both you and your services. Today’s consumers rely on the web to give them information on products and services, a brand’s reliability and credibility and even details as simple as opening hours or how to make contact. You simply can’t be in business and afford not to have an online presence. Failing to have a website can be a costly mistake for a business – but having the wrong website to suit your needs can be equally devastating.

If your business supplies anything other than a basic service, avoid generic templates. Whilst there are some easy to use WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editors that feature drag and drop functionality so even a novice can set up a site, they may not have the functionality that you need for your business.

Opting to get a professional to design your site is always a good idea but make sure you do your research. Don’t be caught out by putting your website build into the hands of someone with little or no experience in best practice or the importance of SEO and SEM.

And always remember just because someone can design a good looking front end doesn’t mean they have the knowledge to build the framework to support it on the backend.

Joanna, a Sydney-based life coach told Kochie’s Business Builders how she was over the moon with her site redesign but then discovered some key elements had been left out of the backend causing her website to almost disappear entirely from Google.

“I had a friend who is a graphic designer redesign my site for me,” she explains. We had several meetings to discuss the look and feel and worked through a site map and she came back to me with some great concepts. I loved the new look and told her to go for it. I really loved what she came back with and everything on the site seemed to be functioning properly but I soon discovered my site was slipping down the ranks on Google. We finally figured out that when she had changed the look and feel of the site and replaced the existing site with her front end designs it had messed up a lot of the SEO and SEM and that some google tags had also fallen off pages – so it was a disaster for my business.”

Fortunately for Joanna, the solution was easily remedied but it still proved costly for her small business.

Having an easy to manoeuvre website is crucial 

It’s a familiar story; KBB Facebook group member Lexia told a similar tale. “My first website I was promised delivery within 14 days (it was a simple three pages, non-ECommerce site). After 10 weeks I spat the dummy and discovered the website I was promised was not going to happen. I had already paid the money but I cut my losses.  The second designer delivered my initial 3-page website within five days but when it came to delivery of my 30-page website (again non-ECommerce) she took over six months and the final product was terrible. It took 20 seconds to load (even with a dedicated server that my designer convinced me I needed) and was not mobile friendly.”

Lexia tells us she spent weeks lamenting her ‘terrible site”, pondering the issues.

“I spent a fortnight crying. I discovered that she had uploaded ALL media at full size and had failed to index my site. I am sure you can imagine the results on my organic rankings.”

Another KBB Facebook group member, Rachel, who runs a successful startup reminded us of the importance of having a contract with your website designer and outlining your design expectations.

Rachel recalled how her developer had failed to deliver a suitable design and pushed back when asked for changes, despite paying for the design in advance. “I am sure many start-ups go through similar situations while they’re finding their feet and we undoubtedly learned a valuable lesson (and lost a lot of money),” she tells Business Builders.

Click play below to discover the 7 essential website must-have’s

“I think one of the trickiest things for a start-up, especially if you need a website built and it’s the entire foundation of your business, is a) knowing what you want and b) finding the right person to execute it. Someone who understands your vision. If you’re lucky, you’ll already know that person or have a recommendation, but for a lot of start-ups finding their feet, it can be a minefield. I know we’re not the only ones who’ve found it very difficult finding the right developer – and there is the potential to lose a lot of money. We learned this the hard way with the first developer we engaged to build the site – it was not a good experience and we lost a few thousand we didn’t have to lose in the first place because we paid several ‘progress payments’ as per the contract (pretty typical stuff), but then this particular developer went out of business, leaving us kind of high and dry with no usable design or site to speak of.”

While she feels sympathy for her designer now, her advice for anyone in a similar position is to nail down the details.

it’s really important not just to have a contract but to also have a cost breakdown of every little thing – and projected timelines, so you can see where the money is going and how the site is progressing. The developer I have used for the past 5-6 years is strict on all of the above. We have detailed briefs, many discussions on how things are going and how they should work, we share Trello boards and a cost break-down in the Google cloud. It is such a different experience to what I had before, and I know that the quote is what I will pay, and if it changes, he is very clear about it and about why. I also know, from experience, what he will deliver – and that he is committed to delivering a product that works, that serves up a functional user experience and that looks as I intended. On that note, I tend to now use a separate designer and a developer for my websites but if you can find someone who does both and does it well, I imagine you would save more money.”

Protecting yourself with a contract is always a good idea when embarking on any new endeavour and your website should be no different. But make sure to read the fine print.

Make sure you are aware of exactly what you are paying for upfront

Alex who runs a successful design agency thought he had everything under control until he decided to change host providers. What he didn’t realise when it came time to migrate his site was that his CMS was not supported by his new host. Unfortunately for him, this was listed in the fine print. It proved a very costly mistake.

“I had to pay them additional funds to design a script to import all the metadata and tags and even then my site looked like a dog’s breakfast and loads of pages were returning file not found errors. I wish I had never done it. It was a nightmare.”

Your website design or redesign needn’t be a horror story. Being clear with your designer about what you want, who your customer is and what they need, will get you halfway to a great site. Keeping communication channels open will make sure you and your designer are on the same page. Having clear deadlines and expectations also help and it’s always a good idea to do your research before you begin any new website design. Start work on your content as soon as possible and remember good things come to those who plan.

For website advice or assistance without the usual agency price tag, talk to your local Snap Centre today.

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Cec is a media professional with over fifteen years experience as an editor on titles as diverse as SX, Better Pictures, Total Rock, fasterlouder, mynikonlife and Fantastic Living. She has spent the past four years working as a news journalist covering all the issues that matter in the political, health and LGBTIQ arena. She is the Senior Writer at Pinstripe Media and a recent convert to the world of small business.

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