Many small business owners try to save money wherever possible. They may prepare their own taxes, repair their own copiers, and decorate their own offices. However, one do-it-yourself task that small businesses should think twice about is designing their own websites.

Websites take on many roles for a small business. These roles include:

  • Providing information: Websites give the public information about your business hours, location, and goods or services. Some websites also provide pricing information.
  • Marketing your business: Websites are an opportunity to sell your business and explain to potential customers why they should select you over your competitors.
  • Building your brand: Websites allow you to establish your business reputation and personality. Whether you have a whimsical website or a serious website, your business’s online presence helps tell your company story and build up recognition of your brand. Nearly 90% of searchers have no preconceptions about your brand before starting their search. Your website may be your best opportunity to make an impression on them.

Here are some common website design mistakes made by small businesses and ways to avoid them.

Building Your Own Website

Unless your business designs websites, you will likely rely on a template if you are building your own business website. While templates have evolved from the simple copy and paste templates of the 1990s, template websites still appear uncreative and unoriginal.

Moreover, website designers often work with graphic designers who understand how to use visuals to convey a message to viewers. Fonts and white space, as well as the layout of text, graphics, and photographs, can help — or hinder — the impression you want to convey to potential customers. Remember that most viewers will leave your website within three to eight seconds if it does not catch their attention.

For example, a website dense with text in an elaborate font does not say “sophisticated” — it says “unreadable.” Similarly, while a picture is worth a thousand words, flashy animation, a large gallery of videos, and high-resolution graphics can be a nightmare to load on a user’s mobile device.

Misunderstanding How Customers and Potential Customers Use Your Website

While a website must serve many purposes, you will need to understand why people visit your website and how they use your website so that it can efficiently and effectively deliver what your potential customers need.

Restaurants understand that their websites should almost always include a menu. Without this information, potential customers will move on from the website in search of a restaurant website that is more descriptive in the food served. Featuring their most popular foods can also draw potential customers in. An ice cream parlor, for instance, may want to feature their vanilla ice cream, as that is the most popular flavor with 28% of consumers’ votes. By failing to provide the information the average viewer is looking for, the restaurant fails to convert a potential customer into a paying customer.

Equally importantly, a website must include the information its viewers need so that the viewers can find the website using a search engine. Search engines crawl your website and index the website according to its hidden and visible text. If, for example, your restaurant mentions “Mexican food,” it is more likely to appear in searches for “Mexican restaurants.” Better yet, if your restaurant mentions “Mexican food in Knoxville, TN,” it is more likely to appear in searches for “Mexican restaurants near me” for users in Knoxville, TN.

For these reasons, you should put serious thought into what information your potential customers are looking for and how to deliver it to them. One of the most common mistakes that small businesses make is to leave out their address or contact information even though this is critical information for both converting viewers into paying customers and showing up in location searches.

Misusing Your Website

Like any business asset, your website is intended to help your business turn a profit. Remember that your website is not a vanity project where you can showcase your talents as a website designer. Rather, the website is a means for communicating with your customers and potential customers.

This does not mean that your website cannot showcase your business. If you are a tattoo artist then you should, by all means, have a gallery with photos of your best work. Similarly, if you own a law firm, be sure to brag about your past clients or cases won. However, what you should not do is waste space on anything that does not speak to your clients and customers.

One way to fill out a website without making it look like it is stuffed with filler is through content marketing. Content marketing is an online marketing strategy that offers potential clients and customers something for free to draw them into your website. For example, a trucking company could present an in-depth article on what logistics is and how it affects manufacturers with international vendors and customers. Examples of content marketing include:

  • Articles, blog posts, e-books, and white papers
  • Infographics, podcasts, and instructional videos
  • Demonstration videos, trial versions of apps and software, samples of music

By providing free content to potential customers, you can increase traffic to your website, garner publicity for your products and services, and engender goodwill with potential customers. After all, everyone likes “free stuff.”

Doing Too Much

Just as you do not want to do too little, you also do not want to do too much. This is both a financial and marketing decision. Larger websites cost more because they require more storage. If your website is unnecessarily large, you will spend more than is needed to host your site.

Moreover, a large website can become unfocused. Remember, your website does not need to be all things to all people. Rather, your website needs to speak to your customers and potential customers in a clear, concise, and focused way.

No one can blame a small business for being frugal. However, frugality should not interfere with your ability to retain existing customers and obtain new customers. By its ability to present the online face of your business, deliver information, and communicate with your customers, your website is often the place where you should avoid DIY approaches and seek out the assistance of experienced and knowledgeable professionals.