My husband and I recently decided to screen in our back porch. It was a classic DIY project. We looked at lots of plans and information online, took plenty of trips to the hardware store and in the end were pretty happy with the new porch. Although I am pleased with the outcome I can look around and see plenty of small problem spots that annoy me. I wish that some of the people who wrote about building a porch warned me about some of the common issues people run across. For example, when buying wood treated for outside the wood is swollen with treatment fluid. We used a lot of this wood for paneling. Once the wood dried out it created gaps in the paneling, so I had to go back and shift those panels over. Not a huge deal, but still a waste of time.
This got me thinking about launching a website. I have designed and developed so many sites over the years that I forget about the things that become troublesome for a first-timer. It is not that you are not smart enough to figure it out, it is simply experience. Experience is invaluable, so let me share a little of mine.
Let Me Save You Valuable Time
If you are starting a micro-business chances are you have more time than money. Your time is important, your idea is important so lets make sure you hard work is the right hard work. Time is our one non-renewable resource. And for many of you, the time to build this business is very limited. Therefore, it is better to start your web project with a plan and avoid getting off track as much as possible. Part of this is knowing what to avoid and what to focus on.
I absolutely love this quote from a recent blog post on Think Traffic:
“None of us were born equal. We come from different backgrounds, different cultures, different socioeconomic situations. Suffice it to say, we were not all born on a level playing field. Time is the one exception. The only thing we all have in common is time. We all have the same 24 hours in a day. You can find the time if you want it bad enough.”
-Joshua Fields Millburn of The Minimalists
With that in mind, let’s look at what to avoid when building your website so you don’t waste any of those precious 24 hours.
5 Common Mistakes to Avoid
All of these recommendations are for someone who has decided to start their own website/blog. If you are starting your own micro-Mom-business this is probably a good move for you. Paying someone else to do it is only necessary if you need a more customized site, or the site itself is your business (for example, a web based application, Flickr). Keep in mind you can use a blogging tool (WordPress) to build your website, even if you are not going to actually blog on it.
1. Don’t jump in and a start a blog using the first blogging tool you come across.
While this is not an end of the world decision you probably want to avoid building on a system like wordpress.com (notice I said .com, not wordpress.org). Mainly you want to ensure that you are the owner of your website and information on it. A good indication is whether the website is provided for free or not. I strongly recommend paying the $5 a month for Bluehost hosting and use the one-click install of WordPress.
2. Don’t make “look and feel” your first website priority. Site structure comes before “look and feel”.
While the style and design of your site is an important communication piece, it shouldn’t come first. Sit down and wire frame your site first. Make sure you know what content is going to be on there and how it will be structured. For example, products, services, about, contact, etc… are all content pieces that you may need to work through. Don’t just stick the type of content on your list and consider it done. Sit down and really brainstorm what needs to be in each section.
3. Don’t pay to get any artwork or branding done before you check for your domain name.
You may determine you want to have your logo or other branding pieces done by a professional graphic artist. This is probably a very good idea, if you want to come across as a professional business. However, you want to make sure you have checked for the domain name on www.godaddy.com. If you think the name of your business is going to be “Punky Pets” and you have artwork done based off that name and then come to discover the domain name or the LLC name is gone it is going to be an expensive mistake.
4. Don’t use page counters, flash intros, or anything that requires a plugin download.
Just as a general rule don’t use anything on your site that was cool in the 90s. There is a reason some of these web fads went away. Page counters are like the number one way to make it look like your site hasn’t been updated in about 10 years, even if it is brand new. Plus that counter may have some low numbers, why brag about having no real visitors yet? Flash intros (generally speaking) are just a distraction in getting your user to your main content. In addition, they are not search engine friendly and can cause a whole host of problems.
5. Don’t wait until your site is 100% “done” to launch it.
If you wait until that point, it will never happen. The web is never done. And that is a good thing. There is no such thing as a final product when it comes to the web. I once read that a jet in flight is constantly re-adjusting just to stay in line with the flight plan. Just like that jet, your site will have to re-direct due to outside forces and influences. Don’t spend too long perfecting it.
Get your site up and running. Once users start visiting, you will learn about all the tweaks you need to make to serve them and your business best. Get out there and constantly re-assess how your site receives and serves your customers. What your site becomes, due to where your users take you, might be different that what you envisioned, but it might be even better.
You won’t avoid every pitfall of putting together your website, but hopefully I saved you from some of the most common ones. Don’t over stress about these items. There is a fine line between avoiding common pitfalls and using them as an excuse to not really get started.
If you are ready to start your own website take a few minutes to watch my video, How to Start a Blog Using Bluehost and WordPress in 10 Minutes.
**The Bluehost link is an affiliate link, but I strongly recommend them.