7 Fatal Mistakes When Obtaining a Website

There are plenty of people out there spruiking unbelievably cheap websites, but if something is too good to be true, it usually isn’t.  If you plan to go down that path there are a number of traps you need to be aware of.

Depending on the nature of your business, having a good website can indeed be the singular most effective strategy for your business, but it will not achieve your expectations without a clear marketing strategy.

Fatal Mistake #1. Not understanding all of the real costs.
Getting a website created is only part of the cost of running your website.  Other costs include ownership of your domain name (ie: www. whatever. com), the annual or monthly cost of hosting it on a web server and the ongoing cost of maintaining your site if you need to change anything or if you need to resolve any technical problems due to software updates or the more unlikely prospect of interference from hackers.  A cheap offer on a website may just be bait to get you in so that they can then make money on charging you inflated prices on domain and hosting renewals, or inflated prices on changes and maintenance.  Those are the real costs that you need to understand before you agree to anything.  But in reality,  your biggest risk from cheap off-shore suppliers is that when you need to contact them for any reason, you simply can’t get anyone to respond to your inquiry.  Which leads into my next point...
Fatal Mistake #2. Not dealing with a reputable supplier
Can you actually contact the person that you are buying your website from? 
Many off-shore companies, and some local ones, make their money from high-volume sales of sites that are built from a standard template.  Often these sites are not very unique, have limited functionality and are built on borrowed or stolen code from other sites.  And often the seller has no interest in servicing your ongoing needs at all.  The biggest danger is that you may end up building your whole business strategy around a site that you cannot change and ultimately have no control over. 
It’s always a good idea to see a folio of work that your web developer has created and then to ask their customers if they are a good supplier to deal with.  In business integrity and reliability is everything. 
Fatal Mistake #3. Not owning your own domain name.  
Retaining domain ownership and administrative control of the domain name is actually one way that web developers can safeguard themselves against unscrupulous customers.  If someone refuses to pay them for their work, ownership of the domain name gives them absolute power over the website.  Even if the customer controls the actual website files, whoever administers the domain name can switch the site off in the blink of an eye.  And if your web developer actually owns the domain, you will never get it back unless you are prepared to give them whatever they demand.  So as you can see, that’s really not a situation you want to be in if your domain name is connected to your business name.  Whilst it may be necessary for your web developer to have administrative access to the domain, it’s imperative that you retain ownership of your domain name.  That way, even if your web developer is hit by a bus, you will be able to regain control of your site and resume business. 
Fatal Mistake #4. Not placing a priority or value on good design.
Building a website based on a borrowed template is a very valid approach IF the template is part of a licensed product that your developer has paid to use, or if it comes from an open source platform that you can use legally.  Templates are particularly useful when building CMS sites (CMS stands for Content Management System and are sites that allow users to login and alter content without the need to edit code). The advantages of using a good template system is that often they accommodate a range of layout options and they provide plugins for a wide range of technical functions that might otherwise be beyond the technical ability of your web developer. 
But if you’re going to base your site on an existing template it’s important to customise your website so that it reflects your own company's unique image and branding and should be approached like any other design project.  Within the design constraints that are determined by your viewing device (be that a computer, tablet or smart phone) it’s just as important to be as creative and original as you would be if your were creating a brochure, newsletter or magazine advertisement.  Borrowing images from unknown sources without authorisation can potentially get your company into deep legal trouble, so you need to discuss this with your designer.
Other aspects of design go beyond visual appearance of the site and relate to the user experience.  How navigable is your site? How easily can users find the information that they want?  A good menu system will allow a user to get to any page on the site from any page on the site through a logical and intuitive process that requires a minimal number of clicks, and then to find their way home again. 
Fatal Mistake #5. Not planning ahead for future requirements
Website design is not only about the visual aspects of the site, but also the technical aspects and it’s very important to identify what you need your site to do before you commit to any particular platform.  For example, do you need to be able to edit content on your site yourself or will you pay someone else to do it? If you need to make changes, what kind of changes will you be making?  Editing text? Adding photos? Listing products?  Creating new product categories? Selling online? Receiving payments online?  All of these options, and more, can be designed into your website from the beginning but may be more difficult to implement later unless you have planned for it in advance. 

Think of it like this:  You build a house and later decide that you’d like to renovate and make some changes, but you suddenly face a problem.  Your ground level floor plan won’t accommodate your extension because there’s a central load-bearing wall that cannot be removed.  Suddenly your planned extension becomes so expensive that it would almost be cheaper to build a whole new house.  Well, the same can happen with websites.  If you anticipate the need for added functions down the track it’s imperative that you let your developer know in advance, even if those advanced functions are not immediately required.
Fatal Mistake #6.  Not optimising the website for good performance
One fatal mistake that is commonly made on websites is to use images and file sizes that are way too large for on-screen display and fast download.  Unlike print design, which requires very high resolution images, websites actually don’t.  And there’s actually an upper limit to how much resolution a computer screen can display anyway.  Using files that are too large will do nothing to enhance the user experience.  In fact, it will make your websites slow and frustrating to use.  Experienced designers know how to optimise all of your website images for clear viewing and fast loading and this will have a direct impact upon the usability and appeal of your site. 
Other vital considerations in optimising your site have to do with the navigation or menu system (see point 4) and making site and content visible to search engines.
Fatal Mistake #7.  Having unrealistic expectations from your website
Some business owners have the slightly naive view that if they have a website that gives them a global presence on the world-wide-web that the world will suddenly beat a path to their door.  That would be great if it were true, but sadly... it’s not.   A website can be like a shop front on a street that no-one travels past in a town that few people visit.  Or it can be like a shop front directly opposite Flinders Street Station.  Or somewhere in between those extremes.  Or to use a slightly different metaphor, your website can be like a magazine in a magazine rack in house where everyone is away on holiday.  Or it can be like a magazine on a table in a busy doctor’s waiting room.  The difference is traffic and traffic is determined by need, demand, interest, relevance, competition and a whole range of other factors.  So when all things are considered, having your website up and running is just the first step.  Depending on the nature of your business, having a good website can indeed be the singular most effective strategy for your business, but it will not achieve your expectations without a clear marketing strategy.  You still need to employ methods that are going to attract visitors to your site and to convert them into paying customers, and there are a whole range of strategies that can be used to achieve that.
Want to know more?  Contact Allan Weatherall through the links below. 

 Allan Weatherall is a graphic designer who specialises in logo designs, creative typography and print publishing (and you may also be able to persuade him to build a website now and then). If you'd like to speak with him about his design and marketing services, you can contact him through this website at www.altconcepts.net/contact


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