don't put music on websitesA few weeks ago Scott wrote about 4 Critical Website Design Considerations that small business owners should keep in mind when designing a website: why do you have a website, who is it reaching, what is it saying, and how well does it work. (Click the link for more details). He offers some excellent suggestions on the types of questions to ask when preparing the design and content. This article takes it one step further and highlights 11 major website mistakes that are surprisingly fairly common.

#1. Automatically Playing (really loud) Music or Multimedia Content

This is probably among the top 3 website pet peeves for marketing professionals and likely ordinary site visitors. If you have music set to play when someone arrives on your homepage, STOP. Right now. Having the option for music or a video is great! It can be really engaging. But, give your visitor the option of when to hit play. You never know where the person is when they come to your site. By playing music you run the risk of someone leaving your site immediately once they hear music and not coming back…especially if the “turn music off” button is impossible to find.

#2. Construct a Website without Intuitive Navigation

Your website doesn’t have to be boring and have the typical navigation headers such as home, about, products/services, contact, etc.; however, it should be clear to your visitors where they find the information they are searching for or get back to where they came from. Use website analytics to find out which pages are the most popular and make sure those ones are really easy for visitors to access.

#3. Litter your Web Pages with Broken Links

Having broken links is like inviting someone to a party, but giving them the wrong address. You do want people to read your content, right? Take a bit of time every few months and have a junior staffer or intern review your website for any broken links. Also, check the links in your calls-to-action and emails. These are your primary lead generation tools and there should be no mistakes in them.

#4. Don’t Include any Contact Information

If you want people to use your business you need to give them a way to get in touch. In fact, provide more than one way. Not everyone likes to pick up the phone and call…whereas others don’t want to email. At the very least, provide a phone number and email address and list your storefront address if you have one. If you are asking the visitor to fill out a contact form it’s good practice to also include an actual email address somewhere on your site. Bottom line is that you want to appear approachable and easy to work with. What impression are you sending?

#5. Don’t Mobile-Optimize your Website

Really? Does this one even need to be said? Unfortunately, yes. There are still many websites out there not optimized for mobile. According to Microsoft Tag, mobile internet usage is projected to overtake desktop internet usage by 2014. Are you ready? People who use their mobile device for internet browsing do it because it’s quick and easy. If your site doesn’t fit into that category, they will move on to one that does. Check out Natalie’s blog for ideas on how to use mobile marketing.

#6. Use Only Generic Stock Photographywebsite mistakes

There’s nothing like generic stock photography that says “nah, we’re not that unique”. Using stock photography is very common. You often see the typical businesspeople-at-a-table photos, with their perfect pearly-white teeth. Don’t get me wrong, we purchase stock photo to use for ourselves and for clients, but we always make some changes to make it unique and personalized. Your website is a place to show off your brand personality so have a little fun with it! A note of caution, when making changes to stock photos or images it’s best to hire a qualified graphic designer or firm (unless you actually have experience with this). You want to portray a professional and high quality image.

#7. Add Lots of Disorienting Animations and Images

Not only will the images and animation be distracting, but it will also take a really long time to load. Win win, right? No! Animations serve a purpose, but are likely not useful/helpful for most businesses. Tasteful and appropriate images are effective if you use them to help tell your story. If they are simply distracting or confusing to your message, remove them. Don’t be afraid of white space.

#8. Require Visitors to Complete 10+ Question Forms … Every Time

We’ve written a number of times about the importance of having landing pages as a way to convert site visitors into sales leads. You offer something to visit in exchange for some information about them. But, be selective in what you ask them to provide. Most people are comfortable giving up their name, email address and phone number, but any more personal details than that might scare people away. Plus, do you really need it at that point? Say you send birthday greetings to customers. Awesome! But you don’t need to ask for the birth date if they person is making an initial inquiry. Wait until the appropriate time and then ask. A good rule of thumb is to consider what are the 5-6 things you need to know in order to properly assess the person as a sales prospect.

#9. Don’t Provide any Pricing Information

Are you scared to show your pricing information? You shouldn’t be. If you’ve done some research you know what the market prices are for the goods or services you sell. Depending on your business you may sell a bit below or a bit above the average. Probably the main reason someone is on your site is to gather information. They are likely making some comparisons between you and your competition. That’s OK. Acknowledge that (not necessarily directly, but in the type of information you provide). You want to be trusted – so by showing pricing and being honest and transparent, you give visitors a reason to trust you.

#10.  Deceive Your Prospects about What’s Behind Your CTAs

I just talked about trust. Don’t kill any trust you have built by posting deceptive CTAs (ie. “advertising” one thing, such as a 75 page eBook and then delivering another, like a 2 page tip sheet). Make sure your landing page matches your CTA and your content matches what your landing page promised.

#11. Keeping Old, Out-dated or Expired CTAs 

Speaking of CTAs, do you have old ones still lingering on your site? Remove them! Part of looking professional is keeping your site updated and current. At the same time as you your intern is checking for broken links (see above), check for old content, including CTAs. No one wants to be “those people” who keep their Christmas lights on in March!

What else would you add to the list? What one do you think is the worst offender?