one or more of the most damaging errors of website design by avoiding these seven
1. Failing to Formulate a Clear Purpose for Your Site
That might sound obvious, but failing to define and execute a clear purpose is one of
the more common website errors—and one of the most costly.
Do you want a website solely to establish an internet presence, with a single page
providing basic information such as your address and phone number, and a general
description of your business? Or do you want a complete e-commerce site with multiple
pages, photos of your store, staff and pets, a description of your specialized expertise,
and other data—or something in-between? If you can’t state your purpose clearly in
a sentence or two, you’re probably not ready to dip a toe in internet waters.
2. Failing to Provide Interactivity
In a business such as pet retailing, providing a means for the viewer to interact, or
communicate, with the site is a big help in eventually closing a sale.
Static sites that provide only for one-way communication miss out
on one of the most powerful selling features of a modern website.
3. Failing to Understand that the Most Important Element of Any
Website Is Content
A site cluttered with annoying animations and graphics that do
nothing to enhance your message will be a sure turn-off for most
Perhaps you’ve seen sites alive with dancing bears, cartoons,
pulsating banners and other irrelevant devices. If you’re like most
people, you have little patience with that sort of nonsense. Make sure
that your designer understands how you feel about unnecessary distractions. Graphics that are primarily decorative in purpose should
be kept to a minimum. In website design, less is more.
4. Failing to Provide a Simple Navigation System
Web users are notoriously impatient. Viewers who log on to your
site want to see, at a glance, the nature of your business, what pet
supplies you offer and what they must do to find other key information. If your home page and your navigation system do not provide
quick answers, many viewers will quickly move on.
The most popular navigation systems consist of bars laid out
vertically on the left side or horizontally across the top of each page.
Whatever system you choose, it must be consistent. At an absolute
minimum, every page on your site should contain a “return to home
5. Failing to Provide an Easy Way for Interested Viewers to Contact You
If you have a full e-commerce site, this requirement might seem
too obvious to mention. However, if it contains only basic information such as phone numbers and a description of your practice, it will
be easy to overlook the need to provide a feedback link.
Prospective customers could have questions that you haven’t
anticipated, or there might be problems with the site such as broken
links. In either case, a quick-and-easy email link will allow the viewer to reach you with the click of a mouse.
Caution: Once you set up a feedback link, it is essential that you
arrange to have your email checked several times every day, and
that you respond promptly to every message. Many people regard
unanswered email messages as a personal affront. That’s not a good
way to build your business image.
6. Failing to Test Loading Time on an Average Computer
The short attention spans of most people today will cause them
to move on quickly if your site takes more than a few seconds to
appear on their screens. Excessive use of large graphics, animations
and other devices that increase the file size of the pages on your site
will increase the time it takes for the page to appear on the viewer’s
If you own a high-powered computer with a lightning speed
processor and a ton of memory, or if you have high-speed internet
access, don’t use your own system to test your site’s loading time.
Find a friend with an average setup. Then, if your site takes more
than four or five seconds to load, you and your designer need to sit
down and decide what has to go.
7. Failing to Utilize Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Tools
Search engines on the internet allow web users to type in keywords such as “pets,” “pet stores,” a company name or any other
subject. Then, in the blink of an eye, the search engine scans the millions of sites on the web and lists those that have meta tags identical
to the typed-in search term.
Meta tags are simply words and phrases that describe the con-
tents of your website and the nature of your business, making it
easier for the search engines and interested viewers to find you. Meta tags can increase
the chances that your site will be included in the list that pops up when a web surfer
types in one of those words or phrases.
The use of meta tags is a technical subject too complex to cover in full here. For our
purposes, it is sufficient to say that you should discuss the matter with your web design-
er to make certain that a full measure of appropriate tags is included on your home page.
If you’d like to learn more, log on to wordstream.com/meta-tags. You’ll learn how
search engines work, and you’ll find all you ever wanted to know about meta tags.
William J. Lynott is a veteran freelance writer who specializes in business management as well as
personal and trade publications and newspapers, plus consumer magazines including Reader’s
Digest, AARP Bulletin and Family Circle.