I get asked to critique freelancers’ websites fairly often. In general, I find we freelancers tend to make the same basic yet egregious mistakes:
- We claim to be experts in creating a brand yet our own websites are generic web templates.
- We advise clients on color schemes and consistency but use 10 fonts and 8 colors ourselves.
- We constantly pare down clients’ copy but use long, difficult-to-read paragraphs of our own.
Most of us could benefit from spending more time on our own websites and listening to our own advice!
So carve out a few hours this week (or weekend) to put some serious effort into removing these common website mistakes that are costing you clients!
Spelling and grammar mistakes are totally unacceptable in website content. In a blog or comment, it’s understandable, but as static copy on your website – absolutely not. This is a personal pet-peeve of mine – and one of the quickest ways to appear less than professional.
If you struggle with proper punctuation, sentence structure, and spelling, it is imperative that you hire or trade services with someone who can help you.
Tip: Check out the “we vs. I” post to determine which one pronoun you should use on your site.
Generic or inconsistent design
As a graphic designer, your website has to be thoughtfully designed. Think of it from a client’s perspective – if you can’t manage your own website, how could you possibly manage theirs?
Create an identity, select a color scheme, and inject some emotion into your website!
Tip: Select one color for links and use it throughout. This teaches your visitors that anything in that color is clickable.
Too many fonts
In combination with inconsistent design, many websites I see use too many fonts.
The rule of thumb for your entire website is:
- One font for headings
- One font for content
- One font for quotes
That’s it. Sometimes two of these rules are combined.
Look at your website. Does the font change between the About Me page and the Services page? (It shouldn’t.)
According to Nielsen research on how users read on the web, just 16% of web users read word-for-word. 79% scan text, and the remaining 5% ignore text altogether.
For this reason, your most important information needs to be quick and easy to digest.
What makes text hard-to-read?
- Poor justification. I’m talking to you, center-justified paragraphs!
- Long paragraphs – break ‘em up or write more concisely.
- Long lines of text across a screen, which are very hard for your eyes to follow. Skinnier paragraphs (to a point) tend to be easier to read.
- Fancy fonts. There’s a reason books aren’t written in Kaushan Script.
- Poor contrast between the text and its background.
Tip: Use emphasis and bulleted text to highlight key words, and don’t be afraid to play with line-height (leading) to give paragraphs a lighter, more appealing look.
Text as images
The biggest problem with displaying text as an image is that you get none of the benefits of SEO. SEO works by having search engines “crawl” through your text and pick up key words. If your text is in an image, they can’t do that.
Furthermore, it’s a hassle to update information, and if your image ratio gets distorted, your text looks terrible!
Tip: If you want to use images instead of text for navigation buttons, use the img alt text wisely to beef up your SEO. For example, the “Services” button could have alt text that says, “<your company name> services.” This gives you the added SEO benefit of this combination of words on your website while still using beautiful buttons for your navigation.
“Hottest ever!” “Convert 100% more of your visitors!” “FREE everything***!”
By indulging in credibility-killing obvious exaggerations, your serious potential clients will exit in a hurry and you’ll be left with all the visitors who want a Porsche on a Ford budget.
Be straightforward and open with your web visitors – the best clients aren’t looking for gimmicks.
Lack of hierarchy
Have you ever heard the saying, “If everyone’s yelling then nobody is yelling?”
This theory applies to websites, too.
What do you want your visitors to see first? Second?
Now ask someone who’s not familiar with your site. Do they see things in the order you want them to or are they mesmerized by the floating, meowing, revolving kitten in the top right-hand corner?
Your website needs to have focus, otherwise it can be literally painful on the eyes when elements or garish colors compete for attention.
As freelancers, we need to be our biggest critics.
Take a good, hard look at your website. Compare it to some of your competitors – or take a good look at some of these freelancers’ websites.
Now ask yourself these questions:
- Would you hire you?
- What types of businesses/companies/organizations would be most likely to hire you?
- What emotion do you get from your website?
- If you were a client, what advice would you give yourself?
If the answers to these questions don’t match up with your ideal answers, it’s time to get busy!
Speak up, GDB readers!
What common mistakes do you see? Which mistake is your pet-peeve that will make you refuse to do business with them? What changes have you made to your website that really improved it? Leave a comment below and let us know!