Let’s face it, the vast majority of online entrepreneurs don’t throw money at a job they can do themselves. And these days, putting up a website has become a DIY task that any business owner can take care of. At least, on a basic level. It doesn’t take much to open an out-of-the-box website, throw in your company colors, build some product pages and hit “GO”. Of course, you do it this way. Of course, you want to start selling right away without spending months (and dollars) on a pretty custom website from a web dev.
On the other hand, you also don’t want to spend those same months (and dollars) hiring an expert to fix whatever went wrong during your whirlwind DIY installation process. What you need is a real Do-It-Yourselfer’s guide to fixing that website in all the ways that it’s typical for an out-of-the-box website tends to be broken. So today, I’m here to offer you a quick crash-course that will open your eyes to just how many ways a quick-and-dirty website can go ever-so-wrong. And how to fix them.
What You Forgot to Add
When you’re throwing a website together with the end-goal insight, it’s easy to forget an essential or two. We all do it, especially web-design first-timers who don’t have the website best practices already drilled into their heads.
1. The Favicon
The favicon is that little icon inside the web page tab that lets browser users quickly identify which tab is which. This should be a miniaturized version of your logo and easy to differentiate even with only a tiny handful of pixels.
2. The Custom 404 Page
The 404 page is (ideally) what users see when they try to visit a broken or non-existent page in your website. Broken pages happen, and users don’t always type in the right URL. That 404 page should be designed to make your users smile, with links to help them get back on the beaten path.
3. The FAQ and Help Section
Websites work best when they’re self-serve. You love to help yourself and so do your customers! Make sure there’s a pretty informative help-section or at least a FAQ page to give your users all the answers they need.
4. Pretty URLs
Many out-of-the-box websites have some pretty gnarly URL building practices, so you wind up with pages like mysite.com/blog/72hsdj82ujsy instead of mysite.com/blog/awesome_
Your Navigation Mistakes
For customers to use your website, they need to be able to get around. Searching for the right product or blog without navigation tools is like trying to find a polar bear in a snow storm.
5. Too Much One-Page Design
If your website is basically one page with all your products branching from that single point, navigation is basically nill. You need a real structure. Try to model your website nav like the website you enjoy navigating most. Yes, enjoying website navigation is a thing.
6. Too Much Content, Not Enough Navigation
It’s great if your website has hundreds of product pages and dozens of blog articles, but only if your users can find their way from place to place. Search features, side-bars, page sorters, and breadcrumbs are all necessary to make those many pages worthwhile.
7. Lost in the Woods (No Breadcrumbs)
Speaking of breadcrumbs, do not leave your users like Hansel and Gretel after the birds eat their forest trail. Tell your users where they are by showing them where they’ve been. Display each page’s location in the website navigation map visibly and clickably.
8. Un-Guided User Experience
Put some thought, effort, and automation into helping your users find the experience they’re looking for. Guide them from one great blog to related (and interestingly un-related) great blogs. Guide them from product to product to checkout. In general, guide them.
9. Low-Function Internal Search
It’s great when users know exactly what they want… unless your search function is utter crud (as so many default search features are). Make sure you’re using a grown-up search plugin or custom feature that can handle misspellings, synonyms, and produces pages inside your site (not just ads and Google results).
Where Performance is Failing You
Is your site clunky? Does it take for-freaking-ever to load your prettiest pages? Is Google penalizing you because of this? Here are some things you can fix.
10. Mobile-Unfriendliness (Responsive Design)
If your site lacks responsive design or mobile-first design, then you’re not going to make the front search results page. Make sure your site has modular, dynamic assets that look great (and load fast) for both web pages and mobile browsers.
11. Slow Page Loads
There are tons of reasons why you might be seeing slow page loads and we don’t have time to cover them all. But big clunky non-optimized images… they are probably the culprit.
12. Low-Cost Hosting Server
If you’re using a bargain-basement server, that may be great for your wallet but it’s death for website performance. Upgrade to something faster and make sure you’re working with one of the reputable major players.
Why Your Content isn’t Hitting Home-Runs
You know you need a blog and you’ve been populating those articles. But they’re just not getting readers. Here are some really common content mistakes that DIY website designers make:
13. Scannability & Readability
Your pages (not just the blog, all your pages) need to be quickly scannable by layout and well-written to enhance readability. Too much or too little white-space, poor design, text-oceans, and poor grammar all make users click away as fast as they can.
14. Focusing on Keywords Instead of ReadersIt's a common mistake to think that keywords are more important than reader experience. So you wind up using the phrase 'best plumbing fixtures' ten times in an article without actually saying anything useful or interesting. That's not gonna fly.Click To Tweet
15. Saying the Same Thing a Hundred Ways
Speaking of using the same phrase over and over, many brands get too head-down in what “industry content” means. Really, your blogs can be about anything your readers will read. Get creative in how you relate that to your business, industry, and products. Don’t just right the same “5 best” articles again and again.
16. Backlinks and Internal Links
Link, link, and link again! Create a helpful and interesting network of internal links in your content to other internal pages on your site. And don’t forget to link any external concepts to cool guides, infographics, and blogs from other authoritative (high ranking) sites outside your website.
Lastly, there’s the backend stuff that few first-time website owners even know where to start with. So it’s no surprise if you missed some of this.
17. Backups and a Recovery Plan
Never ever run a website without taking at least monthly backups. And knowing how to enact a recovery. Most of the big-league hosting brands like AWS, Azure, and Digital Ocean are great about providing the tools you need to do this pretty easy. But if you don’t, anything that goes wrong can seriously delete or kill all your hard website work.
18. Metadata Galore
Metadata is tastier to search engine crawlers (the algorithms that rank you) than anything else. Write and optimize metadata wherever you can, from image titles to meta-descriptions of your site.
19. Out-of-the-Box Blues
There are so many security and optimization things that are wrong by default for most out-of-the-box websites. Especially WordPress. Never assume the config settings of your site are ideal to actually get started. You’re going to need to close those security holes and optimize those settings pretty much ASAP for really great performance and results.
20. Test, Test, and Test Again!
Lastly, test everything. Test it many times. Get your friends to test it on all their devices. Pay local teenagers to see if they can break your site or find errors. Whatever you do, never assume your site is error-free, there are always things to fix.
Understand, we got to 20 and had to stop. There are really hundreds of things (big mega-category things and tiny little common oversights) that can go wrong when DIY-ing your own website. In fact, even pro website designers can make these same bloopers by overlooking just one little detail. But if you’re ready to get cracking on fixes and optimizations, I’m here to help!
Want to know how your website is really performing? Follow This Checklist for a quick DIY assessment of your website’s performance that will tell you if your website is up to snuff or falling behind the curve in just a few minutes.
Hungry for more website-improving actionable advice? Come check out my DIY guides on how to make your site attract paying customers, provide opt-ins that convert, get GDPR compliant, and of course fix everything that could possibly be wrong with your website.