Common mistakes people make on their first website
I mentioned last week that there are a lot of people in my town running for school board in the upcoming election. One is my friend and neighbor, and one is my husband. (And their websites are the best ones, if I do say so myself.) I have more than a passing interest in this race, so I’ve been taken a look at a lot of the DIY websites. As you might imagine, I have strong feelings about websites. I will notice things that nobody else notices, and that’s why I get paid to do this job. But in the past couple of weeks I’ve noticed a number of things that stand out, so I thought I’d share so you can be prepared for your first website.
Fonts are too small
I get it, you have a lot to say, and you want to reduce scrolling. So you shrink down the font. This is a mistake. Small fonts are hard to read. I’ve been seeing a lot of websites come out lately with font that is size 14px. Let me demonstrate what size 14 font looks like.
This is fourteen pixels.
Can I read it? Sure. I do pretty well when I have to read the small fonts at the eye doctor. But it’s small and annoying. Consider that someone over the age of 50 might read your website. And when it comes to a political campaign website, this is particularly important because do you know who votes? Senior citizens vote. I said that to someone recently and their response was, “But they aren’t using the Internet.”
That is a myth.
While senior citizens use the Internet less than their younger counterparts, they absolutely use it. They are more likely to be using it on a desktop computer or tablet versus a phone, but they do use it.
Your minimum font size should be 16px.
That’s a minimum. The font size in this blog is 22px. And if can add a toggle to allow the user to increase their font, all the better.
Not Considering Color Contrast
Our school colors are scarlet and grey and we love our schools. So almost every candidate has used these colors in their website. Which is great. However, sometimes not with the best choices. I’ve seen websites with grey text on top of a red background. Which is hard to read for me, but really difficult for someone with red/green color blindness. Considering that 8% of men are colorblind, that’s eight percent of men who visit that website who can’t read some of the text.
I actually don’t like using percents because I think it often leads you to wrong conclusions because a percent is so often not considered a real person. If you look at the population of the town I live in and you account for 8% of men, you are looking at around 2000 people. Would you intentionally create a website that 2000 people struggle to read? Of course not.
I saw similar issues with light grey text on white backgrounds.
If you make your text too difficult for people to read, they won’t read it.
Not changing the meta title
When you create a new website, or add a page to your existing website, you are creating a new page that will be indexed in the search engines and shared on social media, or even shared via text. When your website shows up in those places, it’s going to show up as an image and your site’s meta title. If you don’t designate what you want for that title, then you’re stuck with the default, which often looks like this:
Home | Site Name
Changing “site name” to the name of your website (which people often forget to change too.) If you expect people to want to click through on your website, or for it to make an impression when shared, then this is something you should think about. It’s a little thing, but it has more of a subconscious effect than you may think.
Advertising web building software
Folks making their own websites are not professionals and more than likely going to use some kind of DIY builder, like the GoDaddy website builder, Wix, SquareSpace, Weebly. That’s fine. Use whatever tools you need to use to make your website. If it works for you, then that’s awesome. Not everyone can afford to hire a professional web developer for their project.
All of these tools provide free templates as a starting point, which can be really helpful to someone who hasn’t made a website before. But they all include the program’s logo and link on it somewhere. Guess what? You are paying for that service. You don’t have to provide free advertising to them. Take their logo off your website.
There’s nothing that says “I made this website myself” like having a website software logo stuck to the page.
Forgetting about analytics
It’s important to know if people are coming to your website. The only way to know that is to have analytics on your site that’s tracking website use. You can’t know whether your website is effective if you don’t see how people are interacting with it, and you can’t see that without analytics.
Thinking that once published, it’s unchangeable
Luckily for me, websites aren’t carved into stone. I make changes on websites all the time. It’s one of the biggest sources of income for me. I had a friend say to me when I pointed out an error, “Nothing we can do about it now.”
After my brain exploded, I said, “YES THERE IS.” And we fixed it.
I was looking at a website the other day and I clicked on the “about” tab to learn more about the website owner. And the slug for that page went to /shop. Not /about or /myname. It went to /shop. And the reason it did that was because this person had used a website template that was made for e-commerce. And that’s fine. Use whatever template works. But there’s no reason the about page should have a permalink of /shop. You can choose your URLs. And you should!
But what’s stuck with me is that it’s never been changed. Maybe they never noticed, or maybe they didn’t realize it could be changed. But what you publish on day one is not what you have published forever, or at least it doesn’t have to be. There’s nothing on a website that can’t be changed. Websites are made to be changed.
If you are making your own website, these are some easy mistakes you can avoid to make your site look and perform better for you.
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