David Lee - May 11, 2017

5 Mistakes to Avoid in your Next Web Design Project

We’ve gone through our share of successful (and even a few not-so-successful) website design projects with clients across several industries. In the process, we learned the following valuable lessons that we wanted to share with you so you can avoid these top five mistakes in your next web design project.

#1 - Not benchmarking your current site’s performance


One of the biggest reasons companies approach us is that their current website has reached the end of its shelf life of three to five years. Common signs of a “dated” website include: it actually looks “old,” the site is not mobile-friendly or, quite simply, our client is embarrassed to give out their web address. Now, these are all fine indications, but sometimes when I ask specifically about the performance of the current website, I get shoulder shrugs, bewildered looks and a slightly embarrassed answer of “I don’t know.”

Knowing the key performance metrics of your current website BEFORE you start your re-design will help you understand whether your shiny new website actually produced results that matter. Collecting most of this data is as easy as installing Google Analytics. Here are a few key metrics that you should measure:

  1. Number of page view / visitors per month
  2. Bounce rate on home page
  3. Time on site
  4. Average number of pages per session
  5. SERP rankings for keywords
  6. Call to Action (CTA) click-through rates
  7. Landing Page Conversion Rates

Once you have these metrics, you can work on avoiding Mistake Number Two.

#2 - Not setting a goal for your new website


If you are a business, you need to view your time, resources and funds as investments into your website and marketing activities. And, like all investments, you need to make sure that you have goals for your website.

For Inbound Marketing, here are three goals you should set up right away to make sure that all web design activity is aligned with your business goals:

  1. Increase the number of visitors to the website by x% in the next time period
  2. Increase the number of leads generated by the website by x% in the next time period
  3. Increase the number of customers from the website by x% in the next time period

The actual percentage increase and the time frame really depend on your current traffic, leads and sales. So make sure that the goals you set are SMART: Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant and Timebound. And make sure that these goals serve as the foundation and business drivers for your entire web redesign process.

#3 - Focusing too much on how it looks


Now, don’t get me wrong: I am not saying that it doesn’t matter what your website looks like. In fact, the appearance of your website is incredibly important. As part of our scoping, we routinely include custom photography and spend quite a lot of time and effort in the user experience design stage.

But every so often, we have a client that is a little bit too obsessed with how their website looks to THEM. The mistake here is that they forget that the website is not for them, but for their prospects and customers.   

Our best-performing websites are the ones on which our clients make sure to answer the Five Questions that every website visitor asks:

  • Who Are You?
  • What Do You Do?
  • Can You Prove It?
  • Why Should Someone Buy From You?
  • What Makes You Different?

In other words, focus more of your time on making sure that your design team understands how to answer these fundamental marketing questions to get the most out of your website project.

#4 - Setting an unrealistic budget


There are actually two components to this mistake:

The first mistake is to not have a sufficient marketing budget set for the entire year. According to a Gartner study in 2015, marketing budgets averaged 10.2% of revenue. This figure is in the same ballpark that the Small Business Administration (SBA) recommends: You should be allocating between 7-8% of your revenue on marketing if your revenue is less than $5 million.  One thing is clear from either study: If you want to generate sales and grow your company, you will need to invest in marketing.

The second mistake is to spend nearly all of the marketing budget on the website and not leave enough funds for promoting your website and advertising your products or services. As a general rule, unless you want a website that is an online brochure, a good website design takes time...sometimes more than you think. If you hire a professional website company with a strong marketing background that will help you achieve your website goals, expect it to take 100 to 150 billable hours spread across two to four months. If this consumes most of your marketing budget, then maybe it’s time to either increase your marketing budget or re-evaluate your goals for your website.

# 5 - Thinking that the website is done once it is launched


The typical website design process is that every three to five years, a client decides that they need a new website. The challenge is that during those three to five years, with the exception of their blog, the site is stagnant, while the rest of the world and their competition continues to evolve.

While this strategy may have worked in the past, with today’s rapidly changing marketplace and the increase in the quantity and quality of competitors, having a three to five year gap between improvements means that you are missing out on opportunities to improve conversion rates and sales.

One of the best ways to avoid this mistake is to revisit the design of the site periodically and make improvements based upon data from how visitors use your site. Google Analytics is one tool we use for measurements, but we also use Hotjar, which gives us a visual representation of how a site is actually being navigated and used. Check out the business tools we use.

We recommend evaluating the metrics of your website at least once a quarter to make sure that it is accomplishing the goals you set (See Mistake #2). If it isn’t, then take a look at the benchmarks and make the appropriate adjustments.

Do you know what your website is doing? Apply for a a Website Assessment



Written by David Lee

As the founder of Do What Works, my goal is to take the best practices and lessons I learned from working with Fortune 500 companies and bring them to the mid-size market and help our clients grow their business.