During our many years in the business we have worked with various clients: those who are aware of the opportunities and threats in digital marketing, and those who are just starting off. Every time our task as an agency is to: advise, invent and create a product that will allow the clients to reach their goals. However, much depends on the clients themselves. It is not always possible to talk the client out of bad ideas. Meanwhile, cooperation with the client, their awareness and trust towards the agency may play a key role in the success of every undertaking.
“Not succeeding is a form of defeat”- Frogriot
When creating a website, sometimes it is hard to objectively say whether it has achieved success. My ideology is that whatever we do, we do it not for the sake of doing it – in the end our client has to benefit – either obtain profit or realize a different aim, which in most cases also translates into money.
That is why we can divide our clients into two categories: those who have succeeded in the web world and the rest (i.e. those who just exist, existed, or are already gone). This post will describe many bad practices encountered by us when realizing products (mainly websites and web applications) and give an answer to how to avoid them. Finally, it will also help to better understand the creation processes of every project and will maximize success by increasing its effectiveness.
1. Not identifying aims – shooting yourself in the foot
For me this is one of the two key mistakes. Very often clients call us when they need a website because it is fashionable to have one or they just want to “appear” on the Internet. This is a big mistake. These are not the aims for creating a website, or rather, these are the worst aims one can set.
Well defined aims are the basis for our further work and a starting point of every concept. Ultimately, they are the measure of the project success. The aims should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attractive, Realistic and Time-related). An example of an aim well set is e.g. getting 10 new clients monthly through the website; and in case of social media actions e.g. getting 1000 shares on Facebook for information on the threats of using designer drugs.
An excellent article on setting aims for websites was written by Radek and will be soon published on Marketing Manager+ magazine and on our blog.
I will just say that you always have to be aware what your reason for creating a website is. Believe me, we have never created a superb and profitable product without first setting the proper aims.
2. Skipping the UX / UI Design process
The other key mistake when it comes to creation of websites or web apps is skipping the UX / UI Design process. This problem usually stems from the lack of awareness concerning the creation process of digital products. Our clients would often ask us to create something similar to what can be found on site X and site Y. Everything, of course, without any analysis whether the given solution will work for their target group. We also heard that we are the specialists (so we should know). It does not work that way. Creation of every digital product should be preceded with a thorough data analysis, creation of path models, tests and prototypes. The final product should be aimed at a right target group and with special attention paid to meeting the set aims.
What’s more, the UX process makes one more thing possible – thanks to wireframing it allows the client to understand and test how their website will run. All of this without having to write a single line of code, or drawing a single line in Photoshop. Such knowledge is priceless and eliminates misunderstandings like: “I thought it would work differently.”
How greatly the process will be developed has to be correlated with the project’s scale and budget. Skipping the UX / UI Design process means being at the creator’s or rivals’ mercy (in case of copying their solutions). Thanks to UX’s we can avoid many shortcomings, so it is not important whether your budget allows short, or long and very thorough actions – always plan investing a part of your money in the UX / UI process!
3. Lack of vision and consistent strategy for digital marketing
This topic correlates with the above described problem of not setting aims and not having a relevant budget for all types of promotional actions as well as those that build content and brand. When creating a website we always have to have a broader view on what the website is and what its place will be in the whole strategy of digital marketing. We have to decide how it will be supported and from where we will get the traffic.
The role of a website in the digital marketing strategy depends on many factors, among others, whether it is the only or the main meeting point with a client. What role it plays in generating leads, making profit or informing. What can the client do with it (the same things as at the brick and mortar shop) etc. Moreover, you need to have a strategy – it can be created on your own (although it is better to consult it with an agency) or you can ask an agency to do it. Lack of a strategy is simply a sign of an irresponsible approach toward your business. Too many times have I encountered companies that wanted just to have a website. They just wanted it to be there – and that’s that. We do not want a website to simply exist; it has to accomplish an aim or aims, and at the same time eventually bring profit to the client. You cannot do it without a strategy.
4. Following the model of other companies’ websites
While in the UX Design process one of the tools is evaluation of competition and other companies, as well as choosing the most and the least liked solutions, it’s a mistake to blindly follow the models of your rivals’ websites (not taking into account law or ethical aspects). We are sometimes asked about the price of a website that looks exactly like website X.
The most important reason why we should not copy 1:1 solutions of our rivals is the fact that we do not know the aims behind a particular project. Moreover, apart from the aims, the ways of reaching them are also important. We can copy one solution (the way), and at the same time badly support it in other aspects, causing the result to be counterproductive. It will work for them but not for us. The reason is simple: the solution was created for aims different than ours.
5. Low quality content and materials
A website constitutes some kind of a platform or vehicle for thoughts, ideas or visions. However, the most important thing is still the content. This has not changed for years and probably won’t in the future. Quite the opposite, Google algorithm updates put more and more focus on unique and highly valuable content. Thanks to it, Google evaluates the quality of a website and grants it specific rank in search results. Whether the content is good or bad determines, to a large extent, the behavior of users and the final effect.
In case when a client decides to ask an agency to prepare content, we are sure that it will be the highest quality. Sometimes it takes more work (photo and video sessions, graphics, text content, presentations and brand statements), and sometimes less (choosing together the materials prepared by the client). All the worse if the client brings materials on his own, without knowing how complicated and time consuming the process of their creation is. Then sometimes because of the sheer volume of other activities, and sometimes because of lack of time, we get poor materials that simply will not do.
For sure you have seen all these beautiful websites with seductive graphics and texts which embed in your memory – none of these was created by coincidence. It was not a one-man job; it was the work consisting of the mutual commitment of the agency and the client. Together, they prepared the highest quality content. Sometimes we are told: “We want to have the best website for XXXX”. Then I always ask if the client can spend an adequate part of his budget (very often higher than the creation of the website) on creation of the content. Some clients do not know that work on unique and quality texts may cost more than the website itself. Unfortunately, this stage cannot be omitted; the initial costs will work for themselves in the future and will build up a reputation for the website.
6. Lack of functionality development
Many owners of new websites, at the moment of their premiere, think it’s the end. Only those aware, who want to achieve success, know that it is just the beginning. This is the moment for collecting empirical data and constantly improving functionalities and modules in order to maximally increase conversion or effectiveness of your tool – as the old saying goes:
To stand still is to move back
Those who do not improve their websites (but want to profit, collect leads etc.), at the moment of premiere, start losing ground to competitors and put money, which could be spent more effectively, to waste.
Creation of a website is a constant process of data analysis, inventing and implementing improvements and functionalities, as well as collecting empirical data and feedbacks from the clients. Then we analyze the collected data and repeat the whole process. These repeating cycles should last by and large till the moment of another website redesign. This extension and improvement process of a website is the more important the higher its position in the strategic campaign of the company and the higher the budget for advertisement.
7. No content development
Every web product should evolve by changing and elaborating its content. Leaving the same content on the website for a long time after its premiere has negative consequences. It may e.g. suggest the revisiting users that the company “stands still” or worse, that it’s no longer in the business. Additionally, every day competitors create new websites, and when you’re sitting idle, you can be sure that they aren’t. And, there is only one Top10 in Google 🙂
8. Too many aims and website success indicators
Like our clients, sometimes we give in to temptation and add “one more” module or functionality. It looks nice as a concept, however, it usually does not work in every day usage experience. It is not a big secret that star-ups stars of the past years achieved success because they concentrated on doing the ONE thing well. That’s because all functionalities were subordinated to this higher aim. And so Spotify is still an amazing tool to stream music from the Internet, and Slack is a great chat-communication app.
It is our philosophy that the website works better the fewer functions it has to fulfil. Generally, it would be the best to determine one higher aim which will always be on the top. This way, when realizing functionalities we can ask one fundamental question – how will it help us or our users in reaching the aim?
9. Lack of a budget for driving traffic and promotion
This point is a part of the general strategy of digital product, but it is so important that it should be investigated separately. Owners, especially of new websites (and businesses), have a tendency to look at the world through rose-tinted glasses; especially after the premiere. If we want the website, service, or application to stand a chance against our rivals, they have to be backed with an appropriate budget for promotion (or at least a plan of how to reach the clients). This is crucial especially at the initial stage of their functioning.
The budget may be freely spent on tools such like new content, search engine optimization, AdWords, banner adds, social network advertising, social profiles or other instruments. However, be aware of the fact that before you get the sufficient audience (eventually also clients) you need to have a constant influx of users. Good content or even the greatest idea may not be enough. Creation of a new website is like saying “A”, after which you have to say “B” and invest some money into its promotion. Never think of your web product in isolation from its promotion, because by itself it does not guarantee any profit.
10. I know better than the agency
We love working with experienced and knowledgeable clients. Sometimes this is connected with interesting discussions, and sometimes with high pressure; either way such creative stimulation leads the best products. However, every single one of us creators has certainly met people who know everything better. It is not important how many years you have been in the business, or how many projects you have realized – you just know less, or – what’s worse – you end up as a mouse extension 🙂 I do not suggest blindly accepting everything what the agency tells you. However, I think that trusting the product creators is a necessary element needed to create good projects.* After all we entrust them with our project. It is worth to think about it in the following way: if I go to the doctor do I make diagnosis and treat myself?
*If the principal argument, when choosing a contractor, was the price, then actually you can have a lot of doubts about his abilities. Anyone with relevant experience will never be the cheapest, but it’s a topic for a completely separate post.
11. Reinventing the wheel (functionalities)
This is a trap every web designer and website owner falls into (yes, me too! And not once!:) ). Some common patterns may seem boring, but they have one very important feature – they work, because people know them. Therefore, before we think about giving a drop-down list box an “exceptional” animated form (which probably makes it less operational) or when an idea dawns on us to display the logo on the right side of the screen, you might want to ask yourself whether or not you are trying to reinvent the wheel. How can you tell? Simply – ask yourself not whether the new approach is “cool”, but what your product user gains or loses.
12. Drawing out the project over the time
Some designs suffer too much because of being stretched over a long period of time. There are many reasons: decision-makers in the company do not have time to meet or cannot make a decision, the company suffers from a lack of liquidity, it does not provide materials, etc. It is worth remembering that the project would be the best if it is created in one cycle within the time planned. It is impossible to approach it with the same commitment twice, so it is worth taking care of the proper and constant course of the whole process.
13. An overly beautiful website
There is a tendency to create overly beautiful web products. Now the most fashionable is flat design that perfectly blends in with the idea of RWD. It rejects most of the unnecessary frills and ensures readability. Although the love for flash or too spectacular graphical bells and whistles are still popular. Never let the desire to “to pimp” a website hide its true purpose. In a sense I understand that attitude – I am also a designer who adores graphical details and little touches. However, I stopped going overboard a long time ago and put the user in the center of attention. It’s about function, not form. If you do not know whether to add something to the project, ask yourself how your recipient will benefit from it. In any case, remember that for the majority of users simple functionality is more important than its lack covered with esthetic stopgaps.
14. Hiring contractors according to the criteria of lowest remuneration
We often get inquiries from clients who were so dissatisfied with their previous contractors that they had to order the same job again. Almost as often we hear that “my budget is limited, because I had to spend a part of it on the previous contractor”. There is a saying:
“If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur”
Let’s set things straight – if price rules the market, it becomes its greatest curse. Clients, especially those unaware, base their choice on price, because they think that when they compare prices, they compare identical products. Which, obviously, is untrue. When the main factor is price there is little room left for innovation and proper approach to the product.
One needs to remember, that we’re discussing “soft services”. Are two products created by two different companies equally pretty, functional and professionally run? Surely not. I need to once again emphasize, don’t get deceived by the idea that when you compare offers you also compare the same products. Because in reality when you bank on the lowest price, you not only deceive yourself but also generate losses.
You simply can’t make a high quality product, created by specialists in a generally well-paid field, without proper investment. Basic question is: do I want a product or do I want profit? The product can be made easily and quickly, but one that will bring you profit is a whole different story.
15. Avoiding the issue of proper hosting (with proper administrator support and backups)
Unless you have your own server and administrator, it’s always a good idea to invest in good quality hosting or a server with quick and efficient service. More often than not, hosting is overlooked by clients, until something goes wrong. That’s when backups, safety and service response time gain significance. Always pay attention to where you keep your website, mails and data, especially since once you choose hosting, you are very unlikely to change it in the near future.
There you have them – the 15 mistakes our clients make when they create websites. Some of these are trite and easy to avoid, while some are seemingly insurmountable, or require a completely different approach to the project. You need to be aware of what can be improved in order to get the most bang for your buck with your planned budget. Of course, the above mistakes do not exhaust the topic – they are only 15 of the most prominent ones.
I would be happy to learn your opinions on this topic (both developers and website owners). Let’s have a discussion in the comments. What are, in your opinion, the biggest mistakes made when creating websites or web apps?