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20 Website Mistakes That Cost Me Three Years and $22,000

By Catherine Franz
Posted Wednesday, October 6, 2004

"Learn from others mistakes," my Mom always advised me. Learn from mine, save three precious marketing years, tons of frustration, energy, and come out way ahead of the game. Best of all, you probably didn't lose thousands of dollars like I did.

1. If you use a shopping cart, check if the zip code request appears before the city and state on the order form. Most carts don't to this. Why is this important? Because if ordering is not easy, I mean real easy, for your buyers, they drop out in the process. Ordering should be as effortless as possible for the purchaser.

If the zip code is before the city and state and is set to drop their city and state into the next two fields automatically, it saves the purchaser's time. Believe it or not, this one "little" item leaves a memory chip and they will remember the experience in the future. Did you know that 60% of buyers opt-out and don't complete the transaction because of the little things.

2. Do you have boxes or radial buttons that they need to check off in the ordering process? Yes, then go ahead and fill-in the checkmark in for them. Let them uncheck it if they do not want the choice you are gave them. Again, making it easier to buy from you and reduce the chance of them leaving before completing the transaction.

If you have a questionnaire or survey form, check all the "yes" categories or one of the radial buttons for them so they don't have to do the work. They will remember the experience as "easy" and it will imprint in their minds for the next purchase or experience with you.

3. Many people forget to set up their "error page" on their web site. Do not leave that to chance. Ask them questions on the error page so that you know what occurred. Example: "Tell me how you saw this page please." Add your e-mail address. Hyperlink the address and spell out the full address for those with different browsers. Make it easy for people to identify any errors on your web site so you can fix them quickly.

If you think that will never happen to you and that you have checked your links repeatedly, it can still happen. Software has glitches and it happens to the best of the best. In addition, an error page is a great place to add other hyperlinked navigational bar (a list of the main areas of your web site). Also, offer an opportunity for them to enroll in your ezine here as well.

4. Omit the metaphors. Most adults do not have the time or the patience to play games on the Internet. If your market is teens, this is a different story. Teenagers will enjoy the entertainment.

If you offer an entertaining feature on your site, you will need to carryout the theme throughout your site, otherwise they will leave as soon as it stops. This has occurred quite often lately as professionals add video to their site (considered entertainment) and then the rest of the site is flat. They get a lot of hits to the video and then no response on the call to action they set it up to give them.

5. Please do not activate "under construction" pages. Wait until the page is ready and then upload it. If you are using FrontPage, you can remove it from the Navigational system by right clicking on the page and turning it off.

6. Don't beat around the bush with your visitors. Make your message so clear that even a ten year old will understand it. Make the language conversational -- easy English.

7. Make your "buy me" buttons "Amazon" blue. Backed by good research, Amazon has trained millions of their visitors in this color and in their design style. Use their success to your advantage. Visit ( to see what "Amazon" blue looks like.

8. Do you offer a search form on your site? You need to. Once again -- make it easy for your visitors to find the information they want quickly. Here is a tip that I learned only a few months ago that has paid big since. After all I have read and learned over the past 10 years, nothing was every mentioned about this. When someone searches for something and it is not found, set up a default-selling page.

Here are a few ideas on how to use the default page when their search comes up empty. Offer them a 10% coupon for something else, or for anything on your site. Tell them this is a one-time offer (they will not know otherwise). On the other hand, you could provide a list of available discounts or offer them a choice of sections to proceed to. Do not let them get the "Can't find a match" message at any time.

9. When collecting visitor information for your database, do it one step at a time. Do not try to do everything at once. If you offer an ezine, the first step is to ask for their e- mail address only. After they type that in, take them to another page to answer questions.

Alternatively, you can send them an auto responder asking them questions. Better yet, send them to a survey page after they have subscribed to your newsletter. You will enjoy an increase in subscribers and survey submissions.

10. If you use drop down menus for your states or countries, remove them. "Techies" like drop down menus, but visitors don't. Let the visitor type in their state and country. It is ten times faster and much easier than looking through a long list searching for the state and country. Even if the United States is at the top, it is still makes the buyer search.

11. The best way to give your visitors what they want is to keep it simple. This is especially true for the landing page of your web site. The landing page is your main or index page.

What do you want your visitor to do when they reach your site? If they are there to subscribe to your ezine (electronic newsletter), send them to that page by giving them that immediate option. Then send them to a page that focuses them on subscribing. Give them all the information they need to make a choice and to subscribe. If they are a first-time visitor, where do they click first?

For example, if you are a coach, ask them if they want to know more about coaching. If you are a virtual assistant (VA), send them to a page or two about what a VA does and how you help your clients. After they get to the next page, give them choice of different areas where you can help them as a virtual assistant or a coach.

Walk them through the process in steps, "hold their hand" as you lead them through all the things that you can do for them. Create a walk-through easy-to-follow effect. It will pay off in profits.

12. Do not add any pages to the site that do not pertain to the visitors' reasons for coming to your site. People do not have time for irrelevant information.

13. You do not need an engineer or web site designer to design your website. In fact, while they would not like to hear this, you do not need them. They may do everything right technically, but they do not know how to get people to stay at your site or buy from you.

Marketers know how to do that. While 98% of engineers and web site designer claim they are marketers, less than 1% know anything about marketing. The truly rare commodity is a fantastic marketer who is savvy about web site design.

Building your site is just like building a house: without an architect who knows about layout, structure air flow, etc., all you have is a construction company building the house from their sense of style, direction and beliefs.

Know where the advice is coming from and hire them only for their expertise. If you are reading an article on marketing on the Internet that was written by someone who is a web site designer, a red flag should go up.

If you are talking with a marketer who does not have web site design experience and you are looking for help in building your web site, raise that flag again. The rare person with the unique combination may be hard to find, but we exist -- I designed my learning to be one of those rare ones.

I have helped many people clean up their web site after they have worked with web designers and/or marketers. And trust me, the clean up is more time consuming than starting all over.

14. Don't make your buyer feel stupid while they are in the process of buying from you -- in the "cart" process. Internet service providers (ISPs and web site hosts) do this frequently. Just one example of this is when they ask their nontechnie buyers the question, "Choose your server."

The majority of their buyers have no idea what this means. They do not understand you are asking if they want a Unix or Windows based system. Moreover, even these same buyers are asked in this manner, they still do not have any clue what are the advantages or disadvantages or either one.

So, they feel stupid. You will lose more buyers with questions like this. The buyer feels frustrated and 99% of the time leaves without buying. Look on your site, are you asking any questions that make the buyer or visitor feel stupid?

15. The most common place to click on any web page is the top left-hand corner. Put the choice to go to the next page or to pick the most popular page or product in this location. If the purpose of the page/site is different, you may want to put the back and forward buttons there.

Don't put graphics, especially your logo, in the upper left hand corner. This is prime real estate for your website. If you have a retail site, place your top-selling item in this space or a drop down menu of three of the top selling items.

16. Answer the visitors' main questions in one easy-to-find and readable paragraph. Don't make the font too small to read and do not make it go across the page requiring the reader to scroll. I've seen young web site designers use small fonts who want to attract a market thats in their 40s and 50s. Fact, the older you get the bigger the font.

17. Don't talk down to your visitors. They are intelligent people who will not stand for it. They will leave and never come back. There is a difference in talking down and presenting a conversational style. Talking down is like explaining it to your child; the other is like talking to another adult. Technical people have a big tendency to talk down to nontechnical people.

18. Make it easy for them to share their comments with you. Whether it is about a hyperlink that does not work or other errors they have found. They may want to tell how much they appreciated your information. Create a place on every page where they can feel comfortable about submitting their comments. Comfortable also means that they have a choice on sending their contact information or not.

19. Organize your site from the visitors' point of view. If you are not sure, ask some typical visitors. "What questions did they have when they landed on the first page?" is a great question to start. Get them to walk you through their thinking. You will pick up some patterns after the first three or four. This is the best research you can do and it will save you years of revisions.

Do not ask family members or friends. Ask clients who have just finished visiting your site. They are familiar visitors and they will want something different from a new visitor. You need to set up your landing page to handle both familiar and new visitors without being confusing.

20. One of the most valuable pages in a web site that is sadly overlooked is the "thank you" page. If someone signs up for your ezine or places an orders include a popup saying "thank you for visiting." Use whatever way you can think says it best, but don't leave it out. The other half of this equation is not to loose the opportunities to cross sell or up sell on the thank you page.

First, say thank you and then give them an offer they cannot refuse. On the thank you page, you can provide a coupon for 10 percent off anything in the store or 10 percent off any overstocked or limited stock item.

Now that you have these tips on what mistakes not to make, you need to put them into practice. Choose three and start completing them. Then move on to the next three and keep moving through the list. You will be excited by the results.

Bonus Tip 1: 60% of the buyers opt out of purchasing a product on the Internet in between the first cart processing page and the last page. It is usually because it took to many clicks to complete the transaction or it took too much time to think about it or to make choices. Check your web site and eliminate any obstacles or places so you can reduce this percentage on your web site.

Bonus Tip 2: If you have questions on your page, divide them into categories and don't put them all on one page. Spread them out between pages. It looks easier and faster to the person answering the questions. Give them an incentive to move from one page to the next and give them encouragement between the incentives.

About the Author
Catherine Franz, a Business Coach, specialized in writing, marketing and product development. Newsletters and additional articles: ( blog: (


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