Designing and developing websites can seem easy but getting it right is not. Below are our top 5 mistakes that could be affecting your website right now.
1. Incorrectly Using Adobe Flash
This one’s been around for years but is still a major problem. Adobe Flash allows the use of animation on the web. It can be used for something as simple as a blinking button to something as complex as an entire website. Flash is rarely needed in 2011 with new technologies capable of reproducing its functionality across more platforms than Flash supports.
- Search Engines try to understand Flash but it will never be as readily indexed as standard text. That means your audience will be visiting your competitors site because they simply won’t know yours exists.
- Flash doesn’t work on the iPhone or iPad, both of which are increasingly used in the Medical, Pharma and Healthcare industries.
Why it’s important: Mobile web browsing is increasing exponentially. If your site can’t be seen it’s not worth having.
2. Ignoring Search Engine Optimisation
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) should be considered for every site but is hugely important when patients and medical professionals are involved.
- 75% of consumers use the Internet to search for advice about health, medicines or medical conditions
- 81% of physicians use search engines like Google to research medical related info
Basic SEO can be achieved using a few simple techniques that can make the difference between you or your competitor being found by a potential or existing customer. For starters:
- Always use a page title that accurately describes the purpose of the page. This is what will show up in Google so keep it short (max 70 characters) and appealing (to encourage people to click it!)
- Always include accurate, concise headings. Headings not only help the search engines understand the nature of the page they also help users find the information they need quickly.
- Always use plain text. Plain text is what the search engines understand so don’t be tempted to use images, PDF files or anything else instead.
Why it’s important: Your competitors are in Google. If you’re not, you’re losing business.
3. If It’s Broke, Fix It!
This really covers a multitude of sins but essentially boils down to sites not being maintained properly and becoming out dated.
The 404 error (techno speak for a missing page) can be a major irritant for site visitors who expect to find what they’re looking for without having to jump through hoops. Most often, 404 errors occur because a site has been redesigned or restructured and the content has moved. By using ‘redirects’ a 404 can be avoided. A redirect is a hidden instruction that automatically routes a user to the correct location when they try to visit an outdated page. Redirects should be implemented every time a site is restructured or a page is moved. And just to cover all eventualities, use a ‘friendly’ 404 page that recognises the error and advises on what to try next.
Out of date information can be equally damaging, particularly if it’s medical related. Ensuring a site can be readily maintained by using a powerful yet simple Content Management System can help avoid this.
Missing pictures, broken downloads, slow loading pages, duplicate pages, contradictory information, doesn’t work in an old web browser, doesn’t work in a new web browser, doesn’t work full stop! There are plenty of things that can go wrong with a website so good reporting and a comprehensive maintenance routine are essential.
Why it’s important: You have seconds to engage a visitor. A badly maintained site = a lost visitor.
4. No Call To Action
So you’ve ditched the Flash, optimised the site, got bang up-to-date information and the visitors are coming. Now what? One hot topic in web design right now is Conversion Optimisation which is the technique of encouraging visitors to perform goal oriented tasks. The task could be downloading a brochure, placing an order or completing a contact form for example.
Without setting specific goals and having calls-to-action that channel users toward those goals you risk wasting a visitor. If someone comes to your site, finds the information they’re after and then immediately leaves they’re far less valuable than if they go on to volunteer their contact information.
Having a call to action and making sure it’s optimised is key to a successful modern website.
Why it’s important: You’re wasting budget if you’re not getting the most from every visitor to your site.
5. No Tracking
You ditched Flash, optimised, informed and converted. Or did you? Tracking, reporting and analysis is hugely important in understanding not only how your site is currently performing but how it can be adjusted for improved performance.
There are many reporting options available but the one which has quickly become the standard is provided free by Google. Google Analytics is a web based service which requires a small amount of code to be added to every page on your site. At it’s most basic it can tell you how visitors arrived at your site, the search terms they might have used, which pages they viewed, where they exited, how long they stayed, the most popular pages and much more.
By monitoring site analytics, and making use of the more advanced options to track online marketing campaigns, you can identify patterns in visitor behaviour that allow you to introduce changes to help increase your chances of converting visitors into customers. Furthermore, you can more easily identify which areas of your online marketing activity are delivering the highest quality of visitors and focus more budget on those activities thus reducing budget waste.
Why it’s important: To improve your site you have to know how it’s performing.
Bonus item: Ignoring Mobile
According to research, half a billion people accessed the internet using a mobile device worldwide in 2009. Usage is expected to double within five years as mobile overtakes the PC as the most popular way to get on the web. If your website doesn’t accommodate mobile users you could well be cutting off a significant proportion of your audience.
There are lots of mistakes that can be made when developing websites, the list above is just a few that we think are paramount right now. It would have been easy to write a top 10 but we’ll save the rest for when we talk to you!