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12 Ways to (Not) Screw Up Your Website

By Jennifer Lonoff Schiff, CIO
November 07, 2012 01:40 PM ET

CIO - A lot can go wrong when it comes to building a business Website. To find out some of the biggest mistakes companies make when redesigning their website--or launching a new one--CIO.com surveyed Web developers, Web designers and customer experience experts We cite the 12 most often problems, as well as how you can fix or prevent them.

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Mistake No. 1: Forgetting who your audience is. Your senior management team is not the audience for your website. Your customers are. But all too often companies forget this, creating content they like instead of content their customers will like--and click on. "Customers need to feel that you relate to them," says Charlie Claxton, principal and vice president of Creative Strategy at Produxs, a customer experience and design firm. Therefore companies need to "know as much as possible about [their] customers and clients... and deliver a website that accurately and appropriately speaks to [their] audience." Remember, while you may think your website is about you--your products and/or services--it's really about your customers.

Mistake No. 2: Not going mobile. "Approximately 20 percent of all Web traffic is via a mobile device," says Darren Hill, co-founder and CEO of ecommerce provider WebLinc. "If your site forces your customer to fumble through a nonmobile interface, then your customer is likely to leave the site." The solution: make sure you site is optimized to be viewed on mobile devices. If the platform you use does not include this option, there are plenty of inexpensive tools and services that can help you create a mobile version of your website.

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Mistake No. 3: Changing your URLs and not redirecting them. When asked about some of the biggest website mistakes they had encountered, respondents cited this mistake the most often. "During a site rebranding or redesign, companies forget to 301 redirect all of their old pages to the correct new page. This leads to a terrible user experience and it is very bad for search engine optimization (SEO) since the value of those links is not passed to the new URL structure," says Michael Freeman, senior manager of Search at ShoreTel Sky, which specializes in cloud-based phone systems.

The solution: "Work with IT before the switch to ensure that all URLs redirect properly to the new site. This is done easily using a tool like Xenu's Link Sleuth. Take a copy of the old XML sitemap and crawl all of those links. Take note of any that do not return a 301."

Mistake No. 4: Using jargon, empty marketing terms or clichA(c)s that don't tell visitors what it is you actually do or sell. "Tell your audience what you do... in simple language," advises Kelly Garrett, the president/creative director of Ekcetera Marketing and Design. And "don't assume everyone knows who you are and what you do."

Mistake No. 5: Stale or static content. "In today's search society, organizations want and need to be found," explains Michael W. Byrnes, Jr., president of Byrnes Consulting, LLC. "The search engines are going to use content as the biggest factor when they rank websites." So you need to frequently add new, relevant, descriptive (i.e., search-engine-optimized) content to your site.

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