Top three website mistakes

Having carried out countless website reviews and live website teardowns over the years, I have seen more than my fair share of websites selling in “interesting” ways. Patterns have emerged, and it is clear that there are certain mistakes that business owners make time and time again. To help you avoid following in their footsteps, I’ve written up three of the more common home page mistakes.

Mistake Number One – not focusing on your customer

Most visitors don’t come to your website to read about you, your plan, dreams or aspirations. They come because they need something, and they hope you’ll provide it. They want to hear how you can help them – and the easiest way to do this is to address them directly on the home page. There are two main rules: try to avoid the passive voice, and avoid using the terms “I” or “we”. Instead, talk to your customers by addressing them with “you”.

Compare these three examples of realistic introductory sentences:

FunkyTool 3.3 has been developed with ease of use being a top priority.”

We offer a full range of productivity solutions and time management software. Our first priority is customer satisfaction.

Organize your notes, tasks and schedules – save time, and make your life easier and more productive!

The first example uses the passive voice, and while there’s nothing technically wrong with it, it is a bit dull and bland and probably won’t catch anyone’s attention. The second example is the biggest no-no – at this point, visitors don’t care about you and your priorities, they simply want to find out what your software does. Clearly, the third example is the most immediately appealing as well as the easiest to understand.

It’s simple, really: just leave self-importance and technical details behind, and talk directly to your customers as if they were in the room with you and you only had ten seconds to convince them to buy what you sell. Simple!

Mistake Number Two – too many links

Most websites start quite small and then grow. And most businesses don’t usually have the time to rethink the navigation and make things easier for visitors. So we simply add a link. And a second one. And a third. Take a look at your home page, and count the links. All the links, including that one to news about the latest update, the little one to the award you got three years ago, the old purple download button that your forgot to remove, and the link to SETI that no longer works. All of them.

While it is a good idea to provide your visitors with information, too much choice at this stage will only confuse them. Trim your links down, and leave the ones that really matter. Provide your visitors with a clear path to the pages you want them to focus on, and they will no longer stray over to the ones that you yourself have forgotten about.

Bonus tip: you actually get to control what your visitors do next. Good copy will make them stay a little longer, and a big shiny call to action will have their finger itching to click.

Mistake Number Three – a lack of consistency

Your home page is like a shop window. It’s the first thing people see, and so it is your only chance to make a first impression. Now, imagine you’re standing in front of the window of an electronics shop, thinking about going in. The left side of the window looks great, with a wide range of tempting gadgets artfully laid out looking shiny and new. In the middle of the window you notice a big smear on the glass, and there’s a camera with some Christmas glitter on it even though it’s the height of summer. Odd. On the right side, things seem a bit haphazard, and there’s dust and some breadcrumbs in the corner. Disconcerted, you leave the store without entering.

You know this would never be acceptable in a shop window, so why do you think it’s not a problem on your home page? Making your home page look better doesn’t have to cost you anything, either. Deciding on a look and sticking to it can make all the difference in the world.

There you have them – the three most common mistakes I’ve seen over the years. Easy to rectify, and even easier to avoid in the first place. Have a good, honest look at your own home page and see if you’re guilty of any of them. You’d be surprised by the difference a few small changes can make.