I often attend a number of business networking groups in my area and enjoy meeting many wonderful business people and learning about their businesses and what they offer. Sometimes I am intrigued by their products or services, and after returning home, I look up their website. All to often, this is when my interest in their product or service suddenly fades.

I would estimate, that about 80% of these websites look largely unprofessional, with an amateur design and/or programming quality, and seems to lack any understanding of me as a customer or my reason for visiting. The website erodes any trust or credibility I had toward the company. One eCommerce site I visited was so poorly designed that I could not imagine anyone would feel confident to provide their credit card number to make an online purchase. Another poorly designed site represented a marketing consultant! I noticed a link to its web designer who, I learned after following, had absolutely no design or marketing background. Obviously, the website they designed, was testimony to this fact, but I was more shocked that a marketing professional would fail to grasp the marketing value of a well designed site!

Frankly, I know these are good, well-intentioned people who own these sites and they do an excellent job at promoting their business in face-to-face conversations. Just as a “follow-through” is important in swinging a golf club or baseball bat, as it is with our online marketing efforts. You may also think of your overall marketing process as a chain, with each link representing a stage of the sales process. Your process chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

Many businesses have some common myths about website design which can cause them to make serious and critical mistakes in developing an effective website, and end up costing them far more in lost sales or reputation. Here are just a few I’ve observed:

MYTH: If You Build It, They Will Come

Yes, long gone are the days that merely building a website was enough to get you noticed and drive online sales. Depending on the industry, 5-10 years ago, much of your competition didn’t have a website, and those that did, usually didn’t have a great one. Consumers were grateful to find your information online. They didn’t have much to compare you with, and didn’t expect much from a website. Today, almost all your competitors have websites, and consumer expectations have risen dramatically as they’ve grown accustomed to well designed websites that are centered around their needs. Today a website needs to work harder to achieve good results. What was once considered to be an “average” designed site can now harm your credibility and reputation, and even repel results.

MYTH: Design Quality is Overrated (Anyone Can Do It)

We’ve heard it said that “Content is King” on the web. This is true however, design is content just as much as text, if not more. You’ve heard it said that, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” If your design quality and the overall experience a visitor has when visiting your site does not match your words, design wins out. A recent study funded by Consumer Reports, found that design quality was, by far, the number one criteria most people use today when determining a website’s credibility and trustworthiness–a critical component of effective sales.

MYTH: A Low-Cost Website Is More Cost Effective

Many small businesses and entrepreneurs, often on a tight budget think that they cannot afford a high-quality website. On the contrary, a low-cost, low-quality site can easily end up costing a business far more in lost sales revenue, credibility and reputation. A high-quality, professional, custom-designed site that is focused on your customers expectations, differentiates you from your competitors, and reflects the quality of your products and services, will often pay for itself many times over during the lifespan of your site.

MYTH: Driving More Traffic to the Site Will Increase Results

Most of my clients come to me after making the mistake of taking the low-cost road, wondering why their website doesn’t produce the results they expected and ask me to help drive more traffic to the site to produce more sales. While Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Social Media and other web traffic driving initiatives are excellent investments, it’s far more cost effective to first fix a poorly producing website, so that it converts a higher percentage of existing visitors into customers. Then additional traffic driving efforts can result in even higher sales. What is the point of driving additional traffic to a website that fails to convert visitors into customers? It is a waste of time, money, and effort.

What to Look For in Choosing a Web Designer

When looking for a web designer look for someone with training and experience in designing and developing successful websites and has a great portfolio of examples. Look for someone who will take the time to fully understand your business, your products and services, as well as your customers and competitors. They should understand the strategic process of how your website will best convert your visitors into customers. It is also important to choose a web design provider with whom you can partner and responds quickly to your needs even after the site launches. Cost is also a consideration, in that many mid- to large-size design agencies often charge much higher rates than a smaller firm or experienced freelance designer who can deliver the same or even higher level of quality and responsiveness.

So to all my business networking friends, I hope I’ve provided some good advice in helping you have a website that truly matches and follows through on your already effective outreach efforts. Your success is my success.