The Top 10 Website Pitfalls to Avoid #10 – No Traffic Strategy

The Top 10 Website Pitfalls to Avoid Rock Paper Simple 10Oh yea… we made it! We’ve gotten through all 10 pitfalls and with plenty of time to spare… and here’s #10! 

This one doesn’t really have anything to do with your actual website at all… but it is just as important as all the others, because if you have no strategy to drive traffic to your website, there really is no point in having it!

This is one of those questions we ask our clients. “How will people be coming to your website?” This really should be determined before even building your website, as it can greatly affect how it should be laid out.

Many companies have great websites with fantastic visual and call to actions, but they are not seeing the results they expected? Why not? Because there is simply no traffic going to the website! A website can only convert traffic that it receives. So how are people finding your website?

Without some sort of marketing to drive people to your site, your website would be like a billboard put out in the middle of the Sahara desert, wouldn’t it? It would be completely worthless and it won’t be seen by anyone… except the random gerbil and gazelle (yes, I used gazelle as an example on purpose and yes, they live in the Sahara desert).

So make sure you come up with a strategy to drive traffic to your site. It can be any number of marketing techniques including internet marketing. You could try search engine optimization, pay per clicks, social media marketing, content marketing, blogging, postcard mailings, speaking engagements, networking, radio and any other number of methods.

Just make sure you don’t have any of the other major pitfalls on your site once you do drive traffic to it!

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The Top 10 Website Pitfalls to Avoid #9 – Coding Errors

The Top 10 Website Pitfalls to Avoid Rock Paper Simple 9We run across improperly coded sites every single day and having that developer in me, I want to fix ALL of them! Sadly, I can’t just hack in and fix all the errors I see, so I’ll just have to be satisfied with making sure our clients have error-free websites!

Websites with coding errors are like sick websites. Something just isn’t right and until it is righted, it’s just not going to work properly. Symptoms may include the obvious broken page elements and layout, slow load times, lack of search-ability, browser incompatibilities and more (if your computer starts literally sneezing… run, because it is definitely NOT supposed to do that).

Most of the time these errors can be identified by running the w3c validator on a site to see what errors it catches, though not all of these issues can be caught that way. I’ve run into nightmare sites with hundreds and hundreds of errors and that is typically when I advise a complete rebuild instead of trying to fix the errors.

Run the test on your site and make sure you clear all out the errors. Your site will run better and the major search engines will be able to read and index it better too. Some sites have so many errors, they aren’t searchable by search engines, while some are searchable, but only partially. If search engines like Google, Yahoo or Bing cannot read your website, they cannot list your website or if they do, you will not rank high. Should you wish to be found in search engines, ensure your search-ability is top-notch or you may be wasting your SEO efforts or budget.

One of the most common problems websites run into is browser incompatibilities. HTML is a language and web browsers interpret that language. The trick is many of these browsers interpret various HTML/CSS elements differently than other browsers. Having a website work and display properly in all major browsers can be quite difficult and is one of the key elements of a professionally built website. These browser inconsistencies aren’t always the result of actual errors, but there are specific techniques that just do not always produce the same results in all browsers, so you’ll have to watch for that and make sure your site looks right in at least Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox and Safari.

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The Top 10 Website Pitfalls to Avoid #8 – Not Mobile Friendly

The Top 10 Website Pitfalls to Avoid Rock Paper Simple 8As smartphones and tablets become a major part of how visitors browse the web, it becomes increasingly important to ensure your website comes up properly on any device.

Ever tried to pull up a website on your phone, only to find it was pretty much impossible to navigate, buttons were too small to tap, phone numbers didn’t call when you tapped them, and you had to zoom out and in to see anything? Maybe you’ve seen whole sections missing where Flash elements failed to display on your iPhone or iPad?

It can be maddening, can’t it!? You are sitting there being all responsible… trying to drive, text, eat a taco, drink a Coke and browse the web and the darn thing is too small to see. What a safety hazard!

We build all of our sites to be mobile friendly now. It no longer makes sense to leave out that tremendous market share. Sites that are hard to use or slow on mobile devices will lose that traffic.

Here are three solutions to the mobile issue:

Your simplest option is to just make some minimal adjustments to make sure it is easy to use on a mobile device. This typically includes making sure the buttons and navigation items are big enough to tap, that the site doesn’t break or shift oddly on small screens, staying away from Flash and keeping lots of open clear space. This works in a pinch and every website should at least present itself somewhat friendly to mobile devices.

The next step up is to have a mobile website. This is a different version of the site that mobile users are redirected to. It has an interface designed just for mobile users, loads faster and shows just the content mobile users need. This is good, except it requires you to maintain two websites and has a different URL structure because it is two websites.

The most effective and modern technique is for the site to be completely responsive. We call this responsive design or responsive layout. What this means is that the site actually adapts to the screen size based on certain parameters. This allows the same website to adapt and look differently on varying width devices. It is a much more complex procedure than the other methods, but works great on any device and eliminates the need for multiple websites for different devices. Our website is an example of a responsive website.

We recently had a client whose site had to be fully custom and fully responsive. We had to make sure that all of our conversion and design work was preserved on any size device. On some pages, a form would even adapt into a button based on screen size because there simply wasn’t room for it on the smaller screen sizes.

Responsive design is really where websites are headed and I expect mobile sites to completely give way to this growing trend.

We have a blog post all about it… click here to learn more about Responsive Design.

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The Top 10 Website Pitfalls to Avoid #7 – Slow Load Times

The Top 10 Website Pitfalls to Avoid Rock Paper Simple 7Phew… we are seven pitfalls in! Didn’t think I had the stamina to make it this far, did you? That’s right, I’m a blog writing machine!

Okay, so I’m not actually a blog writing machine… in fact, I’m not really a machine at all. I’m a human being with feelings and… oh, sorry, I got off topic. What was it I was saying, again? Oh yea! Pitfalls! Let’s chat about #7!

We can all relate to this one. Does the following scenario sound familiar?

“Aha, that looks cool, I think I’ll click on that….”

(five seconds later)

“I’ve been waiting YEARS for this site to load, I give up!”

I can’t count the amount of times I’ve hit the back button because a website or blog post or image or comment box took too long to load. We just don’t have the attention span or time to wait for things to load anymore and neither does your visitor, prospect or client!

When a page loads slowly it wreaks havoc with its productivity, traffic, conversions and stunts any kind of growth it has. No matter how awesome your website is, it will never reach its potential if it takes eons to load.

I still remember when we began production on Space Coast Daily, one of our particularly large projects, the client said “… and it has got to run like a gazelle!” I later Googled gazelles and sure enough, they are pretty darn fast (50-60mph!), so we went to work and made sure the thing was fast. To this day, years later, when we make updates to that site we remind each other of that statement. (which is totally a great time for some shameless self promotion… if you are looking for a gazelle-fast website in Melbourne FL, guess who does that!?)

So how do you avoid the long load time issue? Easy! Pay us millions of dollars to fix it! Okay, okay… I’m kidding. There are a bunch of things you can check on your own or have your developer check on. Here are a few to get you started.

Optimize your images! Check to see if there are any really big images that can be reduced in size or optimized. Sometimes I see websites that have a 200×100 image on the site that is actually a 5000×2500 image that is just being resized with HTML or CSS. You, know what I’m talking about… that image, that when you click on it, blows up so big that all you see is a big eyeball on your screen instead of the whole portrait!? So much load time can be saved by resizing the image in an image editor like Photoshop or GIMP.

Your images can be further optimized by making sure you use the right file type. Images with flat illustrations or artwork are best as PNG and images with lots of colors like photos are best as JPG.

Once you’ve resized it and done some optimizations, you can also run it through Yahoo’s Smush.it to get it even smaller.

Look for JavaScript Errors or Unnecessary JavaScript. Sometimes a site has lots of JavaScript running to accomplish simple things that really don’t need it. Sometimes it’s still there from features or plugins that have been removed and is just eating up load time.

If it doesn’t help your website, kill it. Remove it. Delete it. Have no mercy! Send it back to the darkness from whence it came!!! (oops, sorry… I got a little excited)

Also, take a look and make sure there are no JS (that’s short for JavaScript) errors being thrown. That can slow you down too.

Remove slow queries. Queries are requests sent to the database for your website; that is, of course, if your website has a database and is powered by a content management system like WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, etc.

Sometimes a page loads really slowly because the code is taking a long time to ping the database and get all the content for the page. This is a hard one to track down, but it can be the downfall of many a website, especially once it starts getting lots of traffic and can even lead to server crashes. Sometimes you just have that demon (it’s evil I tell you) query that is wreaking havoc on an otherwise great website.

Make sure your hosting is good. Sometimes sites are just slow because the hosting is terrible. If you think this might be the case, contact your host and tell them your website is running slow. Ask them why. It can’t hurt. Sometimes they find a problem on their end and your site is back to being greased lightning!

Unfortunately, though, there are times to switch hosting and find a good provider that has good servers, support and can handle the traffic your website has.

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The Top 10 Website Pitfalls to Avoid #6 – Poor Presentation

The Top 10 Website Pitfalls to Avoid Rock Paper Simple 6It’s all in the presentation!

How I present something can completely change your perception of it. If I have a carpet cleaning business and I knock on your door to try and sell you on cleaning your carpets and I am covered in mud, wearing jeans filled with holes and smell of smoke and alcohol… then asked you “hey, I clean rugs… wanna hire me?”, do you think you will actually be hiring me to clean your home’s carpets? Absolutely not!

But what if I came to your door dressed neatly, well groomed with a very nicely designed brochure and business card and said “I’m with Awesome Carpet Cleaners, International; we clean carpets, like new! May I have a moment of your time to show you what we can do? I promise it will be awesome.”

What a difference!? The same service? Maybe. But the second try, I’ve got a better presentation, right? Plus, I had an awesome company name (come on, you know it was awesome).

Same thing with your website. You might have a great service or message, but if you do not present it right, you lose them! I see this every day… people with awesome products and services, but no presentation, or the wrong presentation altogether! They have such potential, but their marketing simply isn’t telling the story properly.

Your website’s presentation is how you present the brand, the imagery, the call to actions, the navigation, your products… everything. It has to be dressed neatly, well groomed with a nice design that is organized and put together. It has to instill confidence and it has be clear and concise.

Granted, this all begins with your branding and company image, so make sure you have a good solid company image before going too far with your website. A great logo is absolutely a must and good imagery can be all the difference. If you don’t have a solid brand yet, think about getting it worked on.

You have five seconds to impress your visitor. Will you?

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Rock Paper Simple Welcomes Scott Eller to The Team and Celebrates The Successes He Has Already Created!

Scott-Eller-Rock-Paper-SimpleGooood morning! Meet Scott!

Scott is our new Head Dealmaster (well, kinda new)… that’s our fun way of saying he’s our new sales manager! But, of course, regular titles are far too boring for us so we came up with a fun one. His responsibility is to find people we can help whose companies and organizations can benefit from stronger web and marketing presences. He brings the solutions that our team provide and connects them to companies and organizations that have a need.

He takes the sometimes complicated and confusing subject of web design and marketing and helps make it simple for his clients, sticking to what matters and what is going to generate results for them. Scott has been in sales and marketing for over fifteen years and enjoys networking and meeting new people. He is the Chairman of the Melbourne Regional Chamber of Commerce Chambers Champions who serve to mentor new Chamber Members and help grow their business.

Scott isn’t the typical “sales guy” though; you’ll find him joining in planning sessions and contributing ideas and input into his clients projects and campaigns. We love that he is so engaged and interested in his clients success and it’s one of the reasons he is such a valuable member of the team.

In his free time he enjoys spending time with his wife and 3 year old daughter, boating, playing golf, serving at his church and rooting for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (he kindly requests we don’t judge him for that last one… but we can’t make any promises).

While he has been with us for a few months already and has seen some great success, we are still very excited about Scott joining us and helping our clients with their web design and marketing projects here at our office in sunny Melbourne, Florida!

The Top 10 Website Pitfalls to Avoid #5 – Confusing Navigation

The Top 10 Website Pitfalls to Avoid Rock Paper Simple 5This one is really a simple fix in almost every situation. Ever been to a website and you really just weren’t sure where to find something? Maybe the menu was in a weird place or it had a thousand sub menus that made you feel like you were trapped in the labyrinth doomed to eternal wandering! Yea, we’ve all been there when it really just isn’t obvious how to get where you want to go and you feel lost.

I was taking a look at a website recently and simply could not find the menu. I finally had it pointed out to me. There was a little “button” that when you clicked on it, slid out across the screen and opened up into a menu. Please don’t do that. No, no… seriously, just don’t do it. Take it from your friendly local web design agency… it’s just a bad thing to do.

Keep it simple. Make sure the menu is in an obvious location in the header with clear concise titles and sub menus, keeping the sub menus to a minimum and being concise with those as well.

Be sure to provide alternate navigation methods at least in the footer, but also possibly in the sidebar or on certain pages in the form of call to actions.

If you have to sit down and show your prospect how to navigate your site, you are doing it wrong! It should be easy and fast to navigate your site. Don’t let a confusing navigation ruin an otherwise great website.

Rock Paper Simple Welcomes Stephanie Snyder to the Team!

Stephanie-Snyder-Rock-Paper-SimpleMeet Stephanie!

Stephanie is our new Director of Awesome here at Rock Paper Simple, your favorite web design company in Melbourne, Florida (if we aren’t your favorite yet, come visit… we’ll change that!). She’s been with us just a few weeks, but she has already brought great organization and team synergy to the office and we just can’t wait to see all the awesome she is going to be contributing in 2015!

Her primary role will be to ensure our projects stay on point and that everything is done juuuust right! She will be a point of contact for our clients and will keep everyone updated with project and campaign statuses. Our clients will hear from her regularly and she will be heavily involved with every project from initial planning stages to development, through revisions and on through launch and beyond, into the ongoing marketing efforts. She’s going to be your new best friend!

Stephanie’s forte is in organization and problem solving. Her background in cinema production has prepared her to handle high stress environments with a cool head and clear, efficient communication. She is passionate about being organized, punctual and professional from beginning to end. She has over five years experience as the project manager and head media director of several organizations.

We hope you are as excited about her joining the team as we are!

“I knew Rock Paper Simple looked awesome by their website, but working with this team is a dream come true. I love the people we work with, I love the products we produce and I love the fun that we have on a daily basis.” ~Stephanie Snyder

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