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Before we start our series of common web mistakes, I should probably share the story of my first site. They say that experience helps us avoid mistakes, but mistakes are how we gain experience. So this is a tale of how I became “experienced!”
In 1996, after several years of building and running a handheld computing forum on AOL, I decided to apply my online “expertise” to my own manufacturing company. While I did avoid a number of still-common web design mistakes, I did make one—I designed for the owner rather than the audience.
Like many, I got caught up on graphics, appearance, and trying to have the site reflect a multimedia presentation we had created. I didn’t have Photoshop back then, and probably wasted hours with another program creating a poor facsimile of what would take 5 minutes now. I was already convinced of the merits of our product, and unconsciously took it for granted others would feel the same way.
I’d have been better off focusing on good, compelling text content.
The net result was a first year of no web sales, and even searching on one of our product names would bring up a competitor. Our first order finally came—from a company located about two blocks from mine! This wasn’t our target market.
At that point, I started researching what it takes to get found on the web, and how to convert visitors to buyers. Search engine optimization was applied, the text content of the site expanded, we added more content, and gave people a reason to come back or subscribe to our newsletter. It worked—once changes were made, our online sales jumped to six figures (a huge number for the web in the 90s). The site—and sales—continued to grow. When others approached me to help their web business, it led to my selling my manufacturing company and spending full time on Web Refinements (now Blitz Media Design).