To be blunt… building a website can really suck. I don’t say that to scare you or to make you shy away from making one for yourself. I say it because I want you to be aware that the internet has standards in place that can either help you or hurt you, depending on whether or not you follow them. The web is a big place. With an estimated one billion websites out there, you’ll want to do everything you can to make sure that your website doesn’t get lost in the shuffle, never to be seen by anyone.

Following the rules and avoiding some common mistakes will help make your site stand out from all of the rest. Search engines reward websites that are built well by placing them higher in search results. Viewers reward websites that are built well by returning to the site again and again. So be honest… you want to be rewarded, don’t you?

The listeners of the Being Boss podcast may know me as the guy that edits the podcast. If you’re a hardcore fan, though, you may also know that I am the developer for Emily at Indie Shopography, and I developed this BeingBoss.club website; and while it’s far from perfect and still a work-in-progress, I built it with the mindset that we were going to avoid some of the common mistakes that plague websites.

I could write an entire series of novels on best web development practices, but I want to start small by going over five of the most common mistakes that creatives should avoid when building a website.

Mistake #1: Not making your website mobile-friendly

Let’s start with a big one. Your website needs to work on mobile devices. With the vast majority of smartphone owners using their phone to access the internet nowadays (studies put the number at as high as 94%) I can guarantee that at least a portion of the people visiting your site are on a phone. And no matter how many people that may be, you wouldn’t want them getting frustrated because they are being forced to look at your desktop website that doesn’t look good on small screens.

'Your website needs to work on mobile devices.' Click To Tweet

To stress my point, Google has my back on this. Last year, it was announced that websites that meet Google’s mobile-friendly standards will be ranked higher in search results than sites that don’t. This means that if your site doesn’t pass this test, you’re going to get dumped in search results. And nobody wants to be dumped. That just sounds unpleasant, and it is.

Mistake #2: Using images instead of text

It’s no secret that creatives like their images. Pinterest and Instagram thrive on the creatives that use their platforms to share their newly designed imagery. There is a time and place, though. Using graphic images instead of live text on a website can be a big no-no if you’re not using them correctly.

Search engine crawlers are unable to read text on an image. Crawlers can only comprehend HTML code and plain text. They basically skip over images and other types of code.

So if you have important information on an image, make sure you include it in plain text on the page as well. For an example that can be seen right here on this page, scroll up and look at the main image of this article. The text “Website Design Mistakes Creatives Should Avoid” on that image can’t be seen by crawlers. Because of that, we also include the title of the post as plain text directly above the image. It may seem a bit redundant, but it’s crawler- AND creative-friendly!

Mistake #3: Using Java, Flash, or frames

Reality check: it’s not the early-to-mid 2000s anymore. That fad of Flash-based websites is officially dead. But I’m bringing up this point because there are still enough websites out there that still use it to where it’s still a thing. Simply put: Flash is an obsolete platform. It has been replaced by newer technologies such as HTML5, Javascript, and jQuery.

If your website is still using Flash, it’s likely that very few people can actually see and access it. This is because most web browsers no longer support the platform, and search engines like Google have difficulty crawling Flash content.

The same goes for frames and Java (not to be confused with Javascript. That’s still okay!) Frames just confuse the heck out of search engine crawlers; and while Java is a fantastic programming language for client-server applications, you should really stick to web standards like HTML for the frontend of your site.

What this mistake really boils down to is making sure that your website is built with the latest web programming codes (HTML, CSS, Javascript, jQuery, and PHP are the main five.)

Mistake #4: Poor navigation

Have you ever found yourself flustered because you couldn’t figure out how to get to where you wanted to go on a website? And you got so flustered that you rage-quit and go to another site instead? Yeah, that happens to me almost daily. It’s a real problem, and it can severely impact your site’s viewership if your site is guilty of this website design mistake.

When I originally developed this new Being Boss site, we had a flashly-as-all-get-out main menu that was sticky and the logo would shrink and fly into the left side of the links. But after testing it out, we learned that it just made navigating the menu just a little bit too complex. So we simplified it. Sometimes simple is better than flashy.

'Sometimes simple is better than flashy.' Click To Tweet

The key to solving the problem (or avoiding it entirely) is to take a few minutes to view your site with a fresh pair of eyes and navigate it like you are visiting it for the first time. As a new user, are you able to easily find all of the content and pages that you are wanting to find? If your answer is yes, congrats! If your answer is no… you have some work to do. Start with restructuring the links in your main menu and go from there.

Mistake #5: Improper file names and bad URLs

I have a confession to make… I used to be guilty of this. I would name files all willy-nilly and my page URLs wouldn’t make any sense at all. Then… I started working for Emily and she made sure I learned my lesson real quick.

Poorly named files can cause a world of headaches down the road, for both you and your viewers. One of the most common issues I see is image files that have a blank space in the file name. For example, “this image.png” That blank space between “this” and “image” is going to cause that image to break in some places, such as in newsletters and certain browsers. So instead of a blank space, and to avoid have file names that are just one really long word, try using hyphens. Something like “this-image.png” will do the trick!

URLs are similar in that aspect, for much of the same reason. A web address with a blank space in the URL likely won’t work. Much like file names, separating words with hyphens will fix that problem. If you’ll notice with the address of this article, we separate out words with hyphens.

You might also notice that we break down our URLs around a breadcrumb pattern, which helps search engines (and users) better understand how our website is organized. All of our articles can be found at beingboss.club/articles/the-article-name, while all of our podcast show notes can be found at beingboss.club/podcast/episode-name. Following a similar structure can make your website a lot easier to understand and much more pleasant to visit.

If you can avoid those five major mistakes, your website stands a much better chance of getting viewers and ranking higher in search results.

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In addition to developing and launching dozens of websites for creative clients as the website developer for Indie Shopography, Corey Winter is also responsible for editing the Being Boss Podcast and developing the BeingBoss.club website. He also moonlights as a freelance website developer. Some of his freelance clients have included BiddyTarot.com and APracticalWedding.com. He has even turned his passion for drumming into a world championship-winning gig as a drumline instructor.

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