1. Not asking yourself why
Having a website is a must-have for most professional companies, yet the guiding rationale for most new web projects is “we need to have one,” rather than defining what the site should actually achieve.
Creating a website merely to be a glorified company business card is common, but not a particularly effective method of utilizing the web. Your resources might be put to better use by flinging money out of the office windows - at least that way you’d attract crowds of people and maybe a news crew.
The best way to begin a web project is to brainstorm specific ways the site will provide visitors with true value. That should be the basis on which you start your design process.
Websites with value = more time spent on your site = higher chance of them doing business with you = $
2. Building a website that pleases management
Of course it’s important that management likes the new website, but it’s even more important that it pleases your visitors. Company pages, about us sections, mission statements, and corporate history all have their place on a website - but shouldn’t be the majority of content. Instead, focus on building a site that your target audience will love. Management is not your target audience.
3. Contracting work out to numerous agencies
A company may choose to outsource various tasks to agencies, and while this can ensure work is completed quickly and professionally it can also have negative design consequences if handled incorrectly. When deciding to outsource tasks, limit the number of agencies you will work with. If you’re not careful, your site could easily end up looking like a patchwork quilt.
Design inconsistencies are irritating to users and can make navigating a site a logistical nightmare. On the other hand, consistency will improve usability giving users increased confidence, which may result in a higher likelihood of them perusing your site in detail.
The solution to inconsistent design is to ensure that one overarching body is responsible for designing the entire site. In some cases this won’t be possible, however it is still advisable to have one group whose job it is to oversee design and ensure guidelines are being followed.
4. Underestimating the role of content
Whether you are designing your website for the first time or undertaking a redesign, understand the role content will play before you get started. Often websites are designed first and then content is made to fit, rather than the other way around. Interestingly, content (not design) is the reason people visit your site.
When building a brand new website it is essential to understand that the web is a unique medium and will require unique content. Whilst it may be easier to recycle content from other mediums such as brochures and booklets the result will often be a content heavy site that doesn’t meet the users’ expectations.
Similarly, content should play a major role when undertaking a redesign. Unfortunately this is rarely the case and when a newly designed site has the same old content it will usually fail to meet the needs and expectations of users, which can prove costly.
To overcome these issues, consider investing in a content team or individual whose only job is to design new or refreshed web content. Ideally this person or people should have experience creating content specifically for web, as opposed to other mediums. The implementation of editorial guidelines can also prove helpful in ensuring that content created by a team for large websites is consistent across the board.
5. Impractical market research
The use of market research is not new, yet many companies are still failing to go the extra mile to understand how users will operate within the design. All too often companies spend time and money on focus groups where they talk about the site’s design, instead of employing usability engineering methods to actually see what happens when people interact with a site. While focus groups can be useful for gathering information about users’ concerns and needs, users should be given the chance to test a prototype design and see whether it works for them.
A good method involves combining market research with usability engineering so that you can see which elements of your design may confuse users, slow them down, or simply don’t work as intended.