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5 Common Pitfalls to Avoid When Developing a Website

There are well over a hundred million websites on the internet. The number is increasing by the minute, but most web surfers will see a tiny fraction of these sites because of some common mistakes. The following is a list of 5 common pitfalls to avoid when developing a new website.

1. Choosing a domain name / buying related domain names

It’s easy to get carried away with very (too) creative or long domain names, especially since most simple domains are already in use. Be sure that you keep the domain as short and relevant as possible, and make sure it makes sense when you look at it. And, please don’t buy a domain name ending in .tv, .biz or .mobi because your preferred .com is unavailable. It is poor form and it will look like an attempt to ride the coattails of a successful .com domain. Consumers who stumble upon your site in the search for the .com domain will feel like you are trying to dupe them into visiting your site whether you intended to or not.

By the same token, when you purchase your .com domain, don’t be afraid to pick up your domain ending in .info, .biz, and / or .org (if appropriate to the nature of your business), especially if you think your site will attract copycats. As mentioned above, successful .com sites will often see their domain name popping up ending in .biz, .info, etc, because the owners of those sites really are hoping to ride your coattails by duping your visitors into coming to their site.

2. Spending too little or too much on your website

We can’t tell you in one article how much you should spend on your site, but we can give you some ranges and guidelines. If you pay under $1000, you are dealing with a price leader, which is ok. Just know that this individual or company is in the business of getting customers based solely on lowest price and not much else. You are going to get an extremely basic website or what we call an “online brochure” that doesn’t change much and doesn’t compel visitors to do business with you. And that is the best case scenario- if you pay this little for a site, chances are you aren’t dealing with a seasoned expert who knows the fine ins and outs of inserting metadata for search engine indexing, or who utilizes professional copy writers, designers or project managers. Your site design will likely be a template, and probably will lack the functional and interactive elements that consumers are looking for online these days.

Conversely, there are developers that charge staggering hourly rates, and huge companies who have to support major overhead. These companies may charge upwards of $50,000 or more for a site with all the bells and whistles and ongoing maintenance retainers. If you work with a creative, successful developer or company, they should be able to prioritize your immediate needs with future wants and give you a firm estimate and solid contract.

Talented, professional web developers know that their time (and yours) is valuable- they charge more than the “price-leader” for an effective online marketing tool, and they will work hard to give you exactly what you need. However, be leery of large companies and all the bells and whistles they throw at you- you may end up supplementing their sky high overhead. A fantastic, effective website doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

3. Too many “dynamic” elements

Dynamic elements are FABULOUS ways to get your visitors interested in your website by allowing them to learn new things or interact with you. For example, you may have a weekly column on your site written by a guest expert in your field- your loyal and interested patrons will subscribe to a feed or visit your site often for this information and they will think of your business anytime a similar topic comes to mind.

However, if you also add a blog to share your personal musings, a photo gallery, calendar of events, an invitation to ask questions and…. How can you keep up with all of this? Pretty soon visitors notice that the information is stale and they don’t come back anymore, and don’t think of you or your company. At worst, the information that you no longer update will look stale and become a turn off to visitors.

Using all of these elements appropriately can send the message to a visitor that your business is the expert in your industry, that you are professional, and makes you stand out among the competition. But, it is crucial to have a plan to manage these elements, and choose which of them to use very carefully based on what you can handle. For instance, a reputable company (ahem, MetaMorph!) can manage your updates for you, or train one of your employees to manage these updates for you.

4. Lack of relevant, useful or entertaining content

The previous example is what happens when trying to manage too much content. Another common pitfall is not having enough information that the visitor finds useful, relevant or interesting to read. Make sure that articles are updated often and that they contain the kinds of information your target audience is looking for on your site- answer common questions about your product or service, address trends and developments or your industry in the news.

5. Typos, misspellings, dead links

This is a pet peeve for us! There is an incredible invention called Spell Check and it is your friend. Check and double check everything you publish. Have some other people read it before posting it, and go back and read things you have posted in the past. Test your links often (both those leading to other pages on your site and those going to outside sites) and make sure they are functioning properly.

A note on linking to other sites- make sure that those sites also link back to you unless you think the other site is such an amazing resource that you must share it with your visitors. Having too many links to other sites and not enough links coming to your site can make you rank lower in natural or “organic” search rankings. Also, make sure that your links don’t jettison your visitors to other sites- set your links to open in a new window or you risk another abandoned shopping cart and losing your customer’s attention forever.

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