Websites are a big investment for every business, and they’re worth it because of the increase in sales and exposure they provide. With a great website, your customers and clients will find you online, and are far more likely to buy from you. But a poor website can do the opposite, scaring away potential customers. Websites can be really complex and technical, which makes it difficult to get it right, and get the most value for your money.
In this article, we’re going to explain the 5 most common mistakes we see businesses making when paying professionals to make them a website.
1. Choosing an agency that will outsource the web development work
There’s a wide variety of companies that offer to make websites, from design agencies, to development (coding) houses, to marketing agencies, and IT and telecoms corporations. If you ask these agencies to make a particular kind of website, and if they don’t have an employee who’s skilled with it, it’s not hard for them to find a freelancer or another agency to do the work for them, and ultimately for you. And not every agency will even tell you when they do this.
The trouble with this sort of situation is that you won’t have direct access to the people actually building the website, meaning that your feedback and instructions will go through at least one or two additional people before it gets to the designer. It could be like playing “broken telephone” with important information about the website you’re paying a lot of money for. This isn’t something you should allow unless the agency is upfront about it, and proves to you that they’re going to do a great job managing the project and the contracted developer.
If you’re considering getting your site built in Drupal, check out our list of Drupal agencies in South Africa 2021 / 2022.
2. Allowing the website to be built in the wrong software
The world of developing websites is a big one, because there are so many ways to make a website, and each one requires years of practice to become highly skilled in it. This means that most agencies are only specialised in making websites using just one or two particular software systems. For example, in South Africa, WordPress is software that is incredibly popular among website agencies, and many of them use just WordPress and nothing else.
On the one hand, this means that many of these agencies are really skilled at using that particular software. On the other hand, they’re often blind to the disadvantages of their particular software, and they have little idea which other types of software excel in various situations and contexts. And because they won’t know anything but this particular software, they will try to convince you that it’s the right tool for the job, regardless of whether it really is.
The solution to this is pretty simple; speak to several agencies that build websites using different software, and ask each to explain the pros and cons of their particular software. If they don’t know, or appear to be biased, they might not be worth trusting.
To clarify some of these difficult technical topics, read our article Technical words you should know before getting a website, in simple English.
3. Spending too much or too little
Websites can range in price hugely, from as little as R 1000 in South Africa, to several millions of Rands. The more you pay, generally speaking, the more you’ll get, but few people will ever tell you “no, you don’t need to spend that much”, which means you’ve got to decide how much the right amount is to spend on your site.
If you choose someone that charges very little, you’re probably going to end up with a website that doesn’t have the features you want, such as being able to log in to edit the content yourself when it’s finished. It could also be built really badly, meaning that the layout could break as you start adding content, or it could load really slowly, or it could be insecure (vulnerable to cyber threats, including malware and hacks).
And if you pay too much, then the site could have several features you don’t need and don’t use, or it could be unnecessarily optimised; in other words, it could be far more than you need. And the result would be that you have less of your budget to spend on other types of marketing that actually bring you more sales.
To get a good idea of how much you should be spending, read our article How much should a website cost?
And speaking of budget…
4. Spending your whole budget on the website when you don't have a way to attract visitors
Imagine you have a physical shop or store, but it’s on a quiet little street with few passers by. It doesn’t matter how incredible the store is, if nobody knows about it, nobody will visit it. And the same is true for websites.
You might think that when your customers use Google, they’ll just find your website. But that’s only true if they type in your company name. More often though, they’ll be searching for something generic like “buy books online”, and Google will send them to your competitors if you haven’t invested in ways to attract people to your site.
The first way you could bring people to your site is with digital advertising. You could advertise in Google, or on social media, or anywhere else these days. This can work, but it’ll cost a lot and will stop as soon as you stop paying. Better alternatives are to:
A) invest in search engine optimisation (SEO), which is basically making Google like your site enough to send people to it, and
B) invest in creating great content like articles (blog posts) and videos that you post on your site. If you create and post content that people find very valuable, they’ll be attracted to your site like bees to honey.
And of course you could invest in the millions of other forms of marketing that bring awareness to your brand and ultimately visitors, like email newsletters, social media posts, influencer marketing, etc.
To properly understand how your customers find you when they search online, read our article The only 6 ways customers will find your site.
5. Being more concerned about its beauty than its effectiveness
When we’re getting a new website, it’s really easy to get caught up in the fun activity of imagining what it could look like, all the features it could have, and how impressed people will be when they see it. You probably dream about telling your friends and family about it when it’s ready. However, no matter how pretty it is, if it doesn’t have the right ingredients, it’s not going to do what it’s supposed to.
You should have one or two goals for your website - things you hope that it does for your business. For example, these could be getting people to call you to book an appointment, email you for a first meeting, purchase a ticket to your event, or buy your products online. The goal could even be more indirect, such as getting visitors to sign up to your email newsletter, where you develop a relationship with them and turn them into loyal customers over time.
If you focus on what your website looks like, it’s not going to be able to achieve those sorts of goals properly. Instead, you should focus on your customers’ journeys through your site - what they look at and read, and which pages they visit, as well as call to actions that should be on each page. Call to actions are things like buttons that people click to get a free offer or to learn more about a product. Focus on these, and your site will properly help your business grow.
To help you find and select the right professional to design the site for you, see our article How to choose a Website Designer.