[Photo credit: unicorn by Totally Severe, on Flickr]
Conventional wisdom counts with building websites. Some techniques are proven and really will make your life easier and bring more traffic to your site. But there’s plenty of misinformation out there too. Watch out for these easy-to-fall-for myths.
1. Building a website is easy.
There’s “easy,” and then there’s “easy.” True, there are tools that can make managing a website easier, but that doesn’t mean going through the process of creating a site is a walk in the park. Successful sites contain heavy forethought and attention to detail, which never comes without hard work. Technical prowess aside, be prepared to sweat a little when it comes to planning and maintenance.
2. Fancier websites are better.
Everybody likes glitz, but it’s not always better. A four-page brochure can be infinitely better than a wham-bam Flash affair with movies and sophisticated animations. Before you put a bell or whistle on your site, make sure it has a good reason to be there.
3. Accessibility doesn’t matter.
It matters if you’re a potential member, volunteer or donor and can’t see the website. It matters if you’re looking at a website on your cell phone. It matters if you’re a web crawler from a search engine looking to catalog the site.
4. You can cut corners by copying the text and format of successful websites.
Plagiarism aside, you won’t gain anything by creating a copy of someone else’s site. You might find inspiration from some of their features, but successful sites should be built from the ground up. Otherwise, they won’t be unique enough to meet your goals.
5. Mission statements should be front and center.
I get the idea behind mission statements, but most of them are loaded with double-talk and jargon that mean nothing to the average website visitor. Include a link to your mission statement, if you must, but devote your website to the most important thing your visitors should be seeing.
6. The key to SEO is submitting to search engines.
You won’t see much of a bump in search engine rankings if you limit your SEO (search engine optimization) to this single move. SEO is a multi-step process that never really ends.
7. You never need to check your website in different browsers.
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut when it comes to web browsing, but IE, Firefox, Chrome and Safari (and the other guys too) go through changes over time, and so does your website. It’s a good idea to periodically see how your site works (or doesn’t work) in browsers besides the one you’re used to.
8. Design is design.
The person who designed your business cards might be a web designer too, but probably not. Designers specialize in print or web, because each craft applies different principles. Designers want work, though, so some over-promise and deliver websites that don’t make sense.
9. Usability isn’t necessary.
If no one knows how to use your website, they won’t use it. ‘Nuff said.
10. I need a webmaster to update the site.
Webmasters are nice to have, because they can handle updates and field questions. But if you assign responsibility wisely and have a website that’s easy to update, a webmaster isn’t necessary.