Freedom is a beautiful thing, especially when it comes to building your own website. You get to pick all your own colors, fonts and images and create something that's reflective of you.
But you can really screw it up too, and not even know it.
Here are some common mistakes that DIY-ers make and how you can avoid them.
1) Not collecting an email address “above the fold” aka – somewhere on your homepage where people can see without scrolling.
Start collecting them now even if you don't have a business or are blogging just for fun. Seriously, someday you may have a million dollar idea and you'll be way ahead of the game with a list of people who are interested.
You gotta give to get, so come up with something ah-mazing to give in return for an email address.
2) Fonts that are hard to read.
This means color and style. You can use a funky font for headers, but they shouldn't be used in for the body text.
Fonts should be like Channing Tatum – easy on the eyes. They should also have enough contrast – light fonts on dark backgrounds and dark fonts on light backgrounds.
3) Not enough breaks in paragraphs.
I'm guilty of this all the time. In fact, I just went back through this post an broke apart my paragraphs.
Writing online is not like writing your traditional middle-school english class paragraph with an opening, supporting sentences and a closing. You still need to convey those ideas – we're not animals here – but you shouldn't format it that way.
Your headers (bold/larger text that indicate a new idea) are actually what indicate a new “paragraph” in the traditional sense of the word. Putting a break between every sentence or two makes it easier for people to scan, which is how most people read online.
4) Not enough headings.
See number 3. If you break apart your paragraphs, you need something to visually indicate you're talking about a new idea.
5) Poor quality or poorly cropped graphics.
Images bring clarity and enhance what you're trying to convey. They can also be distracting if they look like crap – and make you look less credible.
Don't just throw any old stock image on your blog. Take care to select good quality images (read: not blurry and not cheesy) and learn about how to properly size and crop them.
6) Too much stuff in your sidebar.
Nobody likes a sloppy sidebar. It's distracting, it makes you look like you're all over the place.
Pick a couple of key things you want to make sure people know about, and brand them to look like the rest of your site.
If you have sidebar ads, give your advertisers uniform sizes so that the ads all play nice together.
7) Too many menu items.
Analysis Paralysis. It's easier to leave than to make a decision. It's your job to create a logical flow through your site so people know what to do when they get there.
Analytics are great for looking at how people enter your site, how they move through and where they leave. Knowing this can help you make changes to guide them to do what you want them to do.
Whether this is a mistake or not is debatable. Everyone says they hate them, but everyone uses them.
I go back and forth between using a pop-up and embedded opt-in form on my site to capture email addresses.
I personally don't see a big difference in conversions – but that's probably because people are coming to my site from Facebook ads rather than Google searches at this point. They already know why they are on my site, so they don't need the pop-up.
If you use them, look for ones that have exit-intent built in, meaning they only pop up when the user makes a move to leave the page, and then only on a few key pages.
So how many of these mistakes were you making?
No biggie – they're all easy to fix! And making them will make your website look uber-professional.
You'll definitely want to update your static pages, but if you have a ton of blog posts on your site, just make it a point to pay attention to these things going forward.
These small things are all part of your brand and how you present yourself to the rest of the interwebs. Happy DIY-ing!