Top 7 Web Design Mistakes Small Businesses Make

Web Design Mistakes

As a small business, your website is a vital piece of your marketing and branding efforts. Visitors are coming to your website for a specific reason, and you want to ensure that you answer their questions and use your website to sell your product or service.

If you get your website designed wrong, you can easily lose thousands of dollars initially, and ultimately lose even more money in potential revenue that you could be making from a well designed, properly functioning website.

Grow your bottom line by avoiding many of these common mistakes among business owners:

1. Putting urgency over understanding your target market.

Instead of focusing on getting your website done as soon as possible, you must first research your target audience in your specific market. Then, design your website around your research.

For instance, if your target market is older, perhaps the font size should be larger. Or if your product is geared towards a younger demographic, then you need to think about catering your site to be smartphone compatible.

You’re going to have to determine where should your users go once they get to your site? That question is easily answered if you know your market.

2. Design is too busy or flashy.

My company, Ciplex, is a web design and development company, and we know that in order to be successful on the Internet you need to focus on marketing your website — not a flashy design. Your design should not just be focused on bringing users there, but also getting them to the right place once they reach your homepage.

Plus, flashy websites don’t look good on mobile phones or tablets, and a large majority of Internet users now visit websites from these wireless devices.

Remember: when a visitor comes to your website, they probably already know what they want out of it. If within three seconds they can’t figure out what to do next, you might need to go back to the drawing board.

3. No clear call to action.

What do you want users to do once they’ve found your website? Do you want them to buy your product, contact you, or subscribe to your business e-newsletter? You need to tell visitors what the next step is and when (ideally, now!). Your content should answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” and then the call to action tells them what to do next.

4. Paying too little or too much.

You don’t know how many times people come to my company after they’ve hired a cheap designer, let them make business decisions that are poor, and ended up with a horrible product. At the same time, companies get distracted by expensive agencies that work with big brands, and don’t realize these agencies might not be able to help a small business that’s ROI focused. Simply put: don’t blow your budget on your website, but do your research to ensure you’re receiving a quality product.

5. Stale, out-of-date content.

Customers expect your website to contain the latest information about your products, services, and company. When it doesn’t have this, they may assume you’re not in business any longer, or simply aren’t innovative and ahead of the competition. Your content must address the needs of your customers (or potential customers) and be updated as things change. If you have a blog, updating it at least once a week — if not more — can help you drive visitors to your website and keep search engines happy.

Additionally, avoid putting links to your Facebook or Twitter pages if you only have a small following. People may think your business is too small and end up not hiring you.

6. Trying to target everyone.

This goes back to knowing your target market; your website will be a mess if you try to accommodate every kind of visitor you might end up getting. It’s best to figure out your most frequent users and focus on creating the best possible experience for them. If you try to please the masses you’ll likely end up not pleasing anyone.

7. Taking the DIY route.

Your website is often your customers’ first experience with your brand. If you don’t have design experience, do you really think you can do it justice? Remember first impressions are everything. Don’t allow your customer to make assumptions about your business because of a poorly designed website.

What do you think? What web design mistakes really drive you crazy?

– – –

WittyCookie is an award-winning digital agency that specializes in affordable web design, graphic design, and SEO solutions to help small businesses grow.

Service plans start at just $19/month, all-inclusive with web design, web hosting, email setup, ongoing maintenance, and unlimited updates. We charge no setup fee, no cancellation fee, and no term contracts with a full money back guarantee.

Visit wittycookie.com to get started.

Advertisements

Choosing a Designer: How to Review Portfolios

It’s easy to spot a beautiful portfolio. Designers know that looks sell, and many people sell themselves that way. Of course, the ability to make something that looks good matters, especially for visual designers. But the challenge is that great images say nothing about what it will be like to work with someone, or whether they’ll be consistently able to produce good work.

Hiring a designer is a challenge. As a founder without firsthand design experience, it’s hard to know what skills to value and how to judge a candidate. You likely have experience reading résumés and interviewing candidates, but how should you judge a design portfolio?

It’s possible to look past the pretty imagery — you just need to balance first impressions with a bit of rigor and analysis. A portfolio isn’t a collection of pictures. (Writers have entire portfolios without a single image.) A portfolio is just a collection of past work. And it’s a great complement to a résumé because it shows you the actual work instead of just listing responsibilities and top-line accomplishments.

Actually, start with the résumé

Before I look at the portfolio, I usually look at the résumé to establish some baseline expectations:

  • How many years of experience do they have?
  • Any formal design education?
  • Any companies or agencies I’d recognize?
  • How are they positioning themselves? (Interaction designer, visual designer, etc.)
  • Any job titles or responsibilities that seem overstated?

Based on the résumé, I’ll look at the portfolio to challenge possible biases, look for clues to questions I now have, and get a more nuanced picture of what type of designer this person might be.

Then I dive in. After seeing a couple hundred portfolios, there’s a set of questions I ask myself. Some are about the portfolio generally, and the rest are about the work.

Look at the portfolio design itself

Did they treat this like a design problem? Too often, designers don’t think about their portfolio as the solution to a design problem. Let’s phrase it as one: create an experience giving the person screening you enough insight into your unique set of experience, skills, and approaches that he or she feels reasonably confident that interviewing you won’t be a waste of time.

Did they build it themselves? Yeah, building it yourself gets you more credibility, but only if it’s well-designed. An interaction designer might suffer here by putting their lackluster visual chops to work, though there’s more room for building thoughtful interactions. Portfolio sites — CargoCollective, Behance, any number of WordPress templates — tend to only emphasize images, and even a visual designer should have a good story to tell.

What’s the navigation like? If it’s custom, are they communicating that they understand the nuances of portfolio browsing? Whenever I drill down on one piece, I look to see if I can move to another piece directly, and whether they’re placing that navigation in a thoughtful location, such as the end of a long page. If you’re using modal lightboxes, have you tried to make the image bigger and the navigation better than the defaults? If they’re grouping work, is it by theme, by job, or arbitrary?

Look at each piece of work

Did they communicate their understanding of the problem they were solving? Very few people do this, and it sucks. It sends the message that they were either lazy, not user-centered (where the “user” is the person looking at the portfolio), or that they value the wrong things about design: making pretty things and not solving problems through clear communication.

Did they understand if and why their solution was successful?Success can be defined a number of ways: meeting the goals originally laid out, improving on a key metric, recognition by the press or users, etc. Can they be self-critical and assess the outcome of their work? Can they communicate what makes something effective?

What was their contribution as part of a bigger team? This is especially tough if it’s a bigger project where other designers played a similar role. It’s great to know how much collaborative work someone has done, and it’s even better to know that a person can gracefully share credit with their peers.

Generalize: What kind of designer is this?

There are a few portfolio stereotypes I tend to see. Does the design candidate fit into one of these categories? Which category best fits your company’s need?

Visual/UI designer: Likely the lowest word-to-pixel ratio of any designer, and the greatest use (and misuse) of trendy type, color, and visual effects. They can make your homepage hum and your buttons sparkle, but can they create a consistent and comprehensive brand and visual system?

New grad: The portfolio is heavy on student projects. Most often it’s an HCI Masters student, or possibly an industrial or graphic design undergrad. How much work in your domain have they actually done? Can you discern their contribution to group projects? If they have an HCI background, they may have better research skills than actual design chops.

Web designer: Comes off as a real all-arounder. They’ve most often worked at agencies or freelanced. Mentions their front-end skills and visual design skills, but might be bluffing on their UX chops. Have they tackled more challenging, stateful, and conditional interactions, or have they just built content sites?

Experienced UX designer: They’ll throw out big product or company names you recognize, and you may see inflated job titles. Hopefully they’ve tackled longer projects and more challenging feature sets. However, if they’ve been at big companies, they may have moved much more slowly. Either way, set your standards high, but be hopeful.

Making the decision: Should I interview this design candidate?

Think hard about what a designer is communicating — deliberately or not — based on what they’re showing you. What are they saying and how are they saying it? Their focus and delivery tells you a ton about what they value. Will that align with — or be a complement to — what you and your company value?

Who to hire depends on the specifics of your situation. Different products need different skills. It’s easy to go with the wrong set of skills, and easy to be swayed by the wrong things.

What if they don’t have a portfolio?

Lots of great designers don’t have portfolios, including some of the best ones I know. They’ve been working somewhere for a long time, or have great connections, or otherwise haven’t felt the need. Among web and software companies, portfolios weren’t used commonly as a screening tool until a couple of years ago. The portfolio was presented as part of the interview, but not as a requirement to get the meeting.

But times are changing. When I screened candidates at Google from 2004 to 2008, I didn’t expect portfolios. Now I see online portfolios frequently enough that I do. If I don’t see one, I feel comfortable asking for one, usually expecting a PDF. If they’re hesitant or too busy but it still seems promising, I usually ask for a quick screen-sharing session over Skype to walk me through a project or two. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than wasting time on multiple in-person meetings if you learn too late that the person is clearly not a match.

Some advice for designers

Stop selling sex. If you’re not showing how you think, all you’re selling is your good looks, and you’re setting the tone for the relationship between yourself and the rest of the team going forward. Pretend your portfolio is an online dating profile. What would it say if you looked at someone’s profile and all they had was a bunch of perfectly coiffed photos of themselves, with nothing written and little else — visual or verbal — to give you a better sense of personality?

Show that you’re a great thinker, not just a great Photoshopper. You are not a voice controlled mouse cursor for the client. Show that you can clearly frame a problem, establish goals for success, and explore solutions in a way that inspires confidence.

Vary how deep you go. Show a wide variety of work. Do a “case study” where you spend more time on problem framing and process work — everything that shows that you’ve got a great brain, not just good eyes and hands. Then mix it up with shorter project descriptions — something that piques my curiosity and leaves me wanting to hear more. Surprise me with a section that’s shallow but broad, say a collection of your best sketches.

Write about what’s unique. Don’t just say that you follow best practices: Personas, Contextual Inquiry, Card Sorting, blah blah. Everyone has that same list. Show me why your persona doc is better than any other, or why the way you capture behavioral states should be signed and framed. If your design solution is novel, tell me. If none of them are, that’s not so great, but then tell me why working with you is different. You are a unique snowflake, dammit, so hand me the magnifying glass.


Choosing who to hire is arguably the most important decision a startup makes. Given the high-risk nature of startups, the kind of collaborative work involved, and the small size of the team, the team you pick (and the team who picks you) has a huge impact on your success. Hiring is important at large companies, but at startups, it’s absolutely critical.

Designers have never been in more demand, so I feel conflicted about telling you to be more rigorous when looking at portfolios. But as demand rises, there’s always the risk of quality taking a dip. I want a generation of creative, thoughtful, disciplined designers making continually bigger contributions to startups, and your hiring choices will make that happen.

What have you learned in your time spent perusing portfolios? Anything you’ve seen more than once that makes you wonder, “why’d they do that?”

– – –

WittyCookie is an award-winning digital agency that specializes in affordable web design, graphic design, and SEO solutions to help small businesses grow.

Service plans start at just $19/month, all-inclusive with web design, web hosting, email setup, ongoing maintenance, and unlimited updates. We charge no setup fee, no cancellation fee, and no term contracts with a full money back guarantee.

Visit wittycookie.com to get started.

Beautiful Depiction of the “The Godfather”

WittyCookie Vancouver Web Design

This beautiful depiction from the Oscar-winning movie, The Godfather, is made up of thousands of letters and words. In fact, every word from the script! It was created entirely by hand and it took artist, Rick Almanzan, over 300 hours to complete. Zoom in and take a closer look!

Junk Mail Portrait of Elizaveth Taylor

Vancouver Web Design | WittyCookie


WittyCookie
would like to share with you this Junk Mail Portrait of Elizaveth Taylor at Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum in Hollywood. Rather than throwing away all the annoying junk mail, artist Sandhi Schimmel uses it to create colorful mosaics in a process she calls “uncycling”. This stunning portraint features Oscar-winning Hollywood legend, Elizabeth Taylor.

Join us now on WittyCookie’s Facebook for more idea and knowledge sharing!

Beat Nation, Mastering Tradition with Urban Youth

Celebrate Aboriginal Awareness Week (May22-25) with a visit to BEAT NATION.

Satellite Gallery Blog

by Janine C. Grant

"Indian" by Nicholas Galanin, Vancouver Art Gallery

The exhibition of Beat Nation begins even before you enter the Vancouver Art Gallery. Carved into the cement by the Hornby Street entrance, the stylized logo ‘Indians’ of the Cleveland Major League Baseball team physically imprints the sidewalk with new meaning.  Interweaving the history of Vancouver with contemporary re-appropriation, Nicholas Galanin’s piece sets the tone for the work found inside. In the past, the gallery building held the Land Title office of still un-ceded Coast Salish territory. The enlightening play between space, medium and meaning throughout the gallery presents re-interpretations of tradition and the lived experience of Aboriginal people today.

View original post 547 more words

Happy Mother’s Day!! Best Mother’s Day Gift From WittyCookie!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Here’s a special gift to all of you from WittyCookie. One of our staffs captured this sweetest moment in a residential area in Vancouver. Feel free to share it with your friends and your loved ones.





This human kaleidoscope gives an amazing “visual experience”! Dancers + Camera + Kaleidoscope = this gorgeous video. Congratulations TED and Doha Film Institute for your excellence!

TED Blog

Dancers + camera + kaleidoscope = this infinitely gorgeous short video. (Watch in 1080p fullscreen if you can.) It’s made for TEDxSummit, an unprecedented gathering of TEDx organizers from around the world. The video celebrates “the power of x” to multiply great ideas.

And if you’re wondering … yes, it’s a real kaleidoscope. No editing tricks — everything you see here happened in the camera. (Watch the jawdropping making-of video.) Credits below.

Credits:
Agency: WE ARE Pi http://wearepi.com/
Creative Directors: Hobson-Chant
Strategy: Alex Bennett-Grant
Agency producer: Jamie Nami Kim
Director: Körner Union http://www.koernerunion.com/
Production company: Big Productions Paris http://www.bigproductions.fr/
Producer: Raphaël Carassic
DOP: Laurent Tangy
Set Designer: Laurent Tesseyre
Choreographers: Icouldneverbeadancer http://icouldneverbeadancer.com/
Editor: Matthilde Carlier
Wardrobe: Elisabeth Rousseau
Hair & Make-Up: Avril Carpentier
Line Producer: Nicolas Avram
Head of Post-Production: Natacha Dolar
Post-Production: Mikros Image http://www.mikrosimage.eu/
Music artist: Yasmine Hamdan http://www.yasminehamdan.com
Producer: Toolbox Audio http://www.toolboxaudio.com/
Sound design:…

View original post 3 more words

Rare Views of the Northern Lights and the Milky Way

Vancouver Web Design | WittyCookie

Today’s April 22! Happy Earth Day! 

It’s the time to celebrate the wonders of our planet. Just take a moment and appreciate the amazing things going on around us on the Earth.

Do you know that April 22 is chosen to be the Earth Day because it is the first official day of Spring in the Northern hemisphere and of Fall in the Southern hemisphere? In fact, after Christmas and Halloween, Earth Day is the 3rd largest celebrated holiday.

A passionate landscape photographer from Norway released a unique footage online of the northern lights and the Milky Way. Within 6 hours of the release, more than 20,000 people had shared the video with their friends. Check it out on the Wall Street Journal: Earth Day: Rare Views of the Night Sky