It’s an exciting thing getting your first website off of the ground. Moving forward is always the key – you don’t want to get stuck in paralysis analysis and never get anything done. But there are some basic things to keep in mind as you enter your new project so you can avoid some of the common mistakes made by newbies webmasters launching a new site.
Let’s look at some of these stumbling blocks and pitfalls.
1. Not Owning Your Site
There are various web platforms out there that will help you get a very professional-looking website off the ground. These can be tempting for a newbie because you can be up and running immediately, and they’re so simple they could be run by a kid.
Not to mention the investment is lower – you often don’t have to pay any domain registration or hosting fees at all, meaning it’s completely free, as is the case with Blogger and WordPress.com.
There are some advantages to getting started this way, to be sure, but these platforms are not without drawbacks. The most important one is lack of control. If you run your site with Blogger, for instance, you put your entire website in their hands. That means if a policy change suddenly restricts your type of content from their platform, a decision that is fully up to them, you may be left scrambling to get your site moved, if you are even given any time to move it at all.
Not a good situation to get in. Domain registration and hosting are not that expensive, and if you’re actually paying a little bit of money to get this little project off the ground, it’s more likely you’ll take it seriously.
2. Not Having a Site Concept
First websites often have no focused content. Examples of this are stores that sell just about anything the owner is interested in or blogs where the writer explores any subject that tickles his or her fancy. For a site to work, you need something that ties it all in together; you should be able to convey the site concept in one short, intriguing sentence.
This is how you become memorable. Otherwise you’re just throwing things at the wall, hoping something will stick. And, truth be told, it probably won’t.
3. Thinking “If You Building it They Will Come”
People without web experience often feel like owning a website automatically means they’ll be making bread. After all, everyone knows people are getting rich on the Internet, right? Ecommerce is huge right now!
Well, yeah, but not so fast, Cowboy. Just because you build it doesn’t necessarily mean they will come. You need a strategy for getting traffic to your website once it’s up and running, and on top of that the strategy has to deliver relevant, interested buyers.
Websites without traffic generation are like deserted islands, and a deserted island is no place to run a business.
4. Cutting Corners
A website provides an experience, and above all, that means it should be user-friendly. How do you create a user-friendly experience? By always thinking of the user, of course. And if you’re thinking of the user, it’s never okay to cut corners. Put real energy into website content that actually communicates with readers, for starters, and make sure every action you want them to take is clear and efficient.
5. Overdoing Bells & Whistles
A website can be high-quality and user-friendly without breaking out every possible technical trick available on the web. In fact, many seasoned marketers will tell you that simple websites convert better than fancy ones. And the fanciest websites may take too long to load, turning readers off before they even make it to your site.
Bells and whistles only impress when they’re new – and too many of them because chaotic, cumbersome, and distracting. Keep things simple. What do you want visitors to do on that page? Now stick with that.
6. Not Tracking
If you want to know what’s working, on your website and off, you need to track where traffic comes from, what visitors do on your website, and where they go. Without proper statistics, you’re running your website blind. If your website is based on WordPress, WordPress.com Stats is a simple but effective solution.
A more robust solution, but still free, is Google Analytics, which can be installed on a wide range of different platforms.
7. Not Knowing Your Market
Do you even know what your market wants? Don’t just decide you want to sell snowboards because you know people buy them and then fail to do the research. You should be looking at other snowboard sites and finding out what the snowboard buying experience is like. What language they use. What needs aren’t being met.
Get to know your market so you can create the best user experience for them specifically.
8. Forgetting to Offer Value
This might sound a bit redundant, but it unfortunately does need saying. Just having a website isn’t the same as having a business. What is the purpose of the site? Are you actually contributing to the world? Are you filling a need?
Maybe I love Kermit the Frog curtains but if no one else in the world cares about them, there’s no real point in creating a site to sell them.
This is just as important with blog-type sites as it is with ecommerce sites. Do you have something valuable to say? Maybe not yet, but will you go out of your way to find something at least? If not, what makes you think there’s any room for you in the marketplace?
Don’t create an online business just to put money in your pocket. Create something of value, and in doing so, money will put itself in your pocket.
It may seem a trivial distinction on first glance but if you truly ponder the difference you’ll see that it’s paramount to success.
9. Focusing Too Much on SEO
Maybe you’ve heard the big secret online is getting your website to hit the top of Google and just sitting back and making sales. Hate to break it to you but that business model is largely on the way out the door. SEO still does have its place, but what’s severely outdated is too much focus on optimization, which can often kill your chances from getting any Google love at all – and to make matters worse it destroys your user experience.
Users first. If you take nothing else form this article, take that.
10. Failing to Test Functionality
The final corner to round with any new website is making sure everything is in working order. Newbie webmasters all too often leave this to chance when all it takes is a bit of clicking around to double check links and possibly even purchasing your own products to make sure the orders go through.
Look, your first website launch doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s okay to get something up and then keep testing and tweaking until it clicks or you realize it never will. But if you’re serious about ever making it online, you need to take your first project at least somewhat seriously. And the above list is a great place to start.
Tell us about your first web project. We’re here to help eachother.