This article originally appeared on the Prime Design Solutions website.

(The audio for this podcast is no longer available, but it is summarized below.)

In September 2014 NetCraft reported that the total number of websites worldwide reached 1 billion. In that same period, the UK’s Daily Mail reported, “In the time it’s taken you to read this sentence, at least four new websites have been registered.” Yet, even though the average person visits 89 different websites per month, many misconceptions persist about the medium. In today’s podcast, we’ll talk about some of the reoccurring fallacies we encounter working daily in the website design and development industry.

It’s Easy to Make a Website

It’s true that anyone can make a website, but not everyone can do it well. Generic sites are easy to launch and can be useful in some instances and applications. But without an experienced developer, your site may lack some key features, including:

  • SEO (search engine optimization) basics — SEO helps your site come up in relevant searches — in other words, SEO makes it so your customers can find you.
  • Design concepts — These include color theory.
  • HTML/CSS best practices and basic security — So that your site won’t be hacked, and your contact form is spam-proofed, for example.
  • Good content —  If the content is poorly organized, it doesn’t serve you or your business well. For example, a lot of sites have a book for the home page, and just a sentence or two on succeeding pages.

Web Design is About Making a Site Pretty

Of course, good design does include making a site attractive, but there’s so much more to web design than that. More important issues in web design include:

  • How well the site functions — How well does the site content flow from page to page, and can your customers find what they’re looking for?
  • Valid, well-written code — This prevents error messages and other problems.

Once the Site is Built, You’re Done, and The Site Will Go Viral

A lot of people think a site will instantly go viral once it’s built, but nothing could be further from the truth.

  • It takes a lot of work to promote your site — Building and launching the site is no small undertaking, but you have to be in it for the long haul for your site to be a beneficial marketing tool. For example, the Prime Design Solutions site has been built over years, and promoted carefully.
  • Your site should be updated regularly — This depends to some degree on the type of site you have, but regular updates are important. (The Learning Center blog you’re reading now is an example of regularly updated content).
  • Your design should also be refreshed every now and then — Maybe not every year, or every two years, but it’s definitely easy to see when a site is outdated. Old content or outdated design sends a powerful, negative message to your customers.

“Just build the site. I’ll put the content in later.”

Content seems to be the most problematic part of creating a website. The content and the design have to work together, for starters.

  • Content is the most important part of the site — Without content, your site is nothing — the best design in the world is useless without actual content. Have you ever noticed that pages that say “under construction” seem never to go away?
  • You don’t have to have a lot of content, just very good, relevant content — For example, the Village Street Cafe’s site doesn’t have a lot of content, but it doesn’t need it — what’s there covers what most people are looking for.

It’s Important to Have a Lot of People In the Approval/Decision-making Process

In fact, it’s best to have one or two dedicated point(s) of contact. The reason is simple: it’s easy to revise a comp for one or two people, and keep the design strong. It’s hard to revise a design for ten people and keep it from getting messy and out of control. Everyone has an opinion, but it’s tough to involve so many people in a design process because so much thought and effort goes into it — revising designs based on multiple off-the-cuff opinions that may even contradict each other is virtually guaranteed to provide a result that nobody likes.

You Need to Be a Part of Every Social Media Network/Fad

It’s not necessary or important to be on every social media network. If a social media network is not relevant to you and your customers, don’t be on it. That said:

  • There are a few that are probably always a good idea — These include Google+ (primarily for SEO benefits) and Facebook.
  • If you’re not going to post and interact with your followers regularly, you should skip it entirely — Don’t place social media buttons on your website unless you actually use the social media they link to. There’s nothing worse than a dead social media channel. What story does that tell about your business?

All Important Information Needs To Be “Above the Fold”

“Above the fold” traditionally means the top half of a newspaper, where the most important headlines are placed — in the context of web design, it means the part of the website that users see when they first arrive at the site, without having to scroll down. In the 90s, conventional web design wisdom was that users didn’t know how to scroll, or were reluctant to do so — but it’s safe to say that this is no longer true. Further:

  • There are also many, many, (many!) more desktop monitor sizes around now — Back in the 90s there were two major monitor sizes, and that was it.
  • In addition to monitors in many different sizes, there are now are tablets and phones — What you can fit on a 17″ monitor is very different than what you can fit on a 2.5″ phone. Putting important information “above the fold” is no longer relevant or even possible.

“Our competitors’ web strategy is perfect… let’s just do what they’re doing!”

For starters, their strategy is probably not perfect. Further:

  • It’s a great idea to look at competitors’ websites for inspiration — You want to see what they’re doing well — but it’s equally important to try to figure out what they’re not doing so well.
  • Don’t “just grab text/images/content from Google” — Grabbing content off the web and using it on your own website is plagiarism or copyright infringement. People seem to do this especially with photography, as it is so easy to search for and copy images. However, stock photos are usually not free — you have to pay, either with money or a link/credit to the creator. If someone finds out you’re stealing content (which is fairly easy to do, even with photos) and decides to push the issue, it could cost you money as well as your reputation.

All visitors will view the site the same way you do

It’s easy, as a website owner, to lose sight of why your visitors come to your website. Visitors are there for a reason — information gathering, making a reservation, or registering for an event — they have a specific purpose in mind. They’re probably not interested in watching a long, drawn-out animation or slider. Sliders aren’t always horrible, but it’s probably best to focus on one idea at a time instead of four or five — especially since they’re not the most mobile-friendly thing out there. Instead, think about your website the way your visitors do — what information do they want? What’s most important to them?

Other misconceptions:

  • Our logo should be bigger — Naturally your logo should be prominent, but it does not have to be huge to be effective, and you don’t want it to overwhelm the design or get in the way of what the visitor came to the site to do. The logo is important to you, and to some degree, it’s important to the visitor too — but not nearly as important as the information.
  • White space is bad — we could be using that space for information! — White space is actually good — it makes information more accessible, and easier to read. Crowding the design with information will make the design much less user-friendly.
  • When a designer sends comps to a client, it’s the client’s chance to become a designer — It’s great to give constructive feedback, and ask for options — the design is for your business, after all. But you hired a designer to design, so there has to be an element of trust in their professional expertise. Bear in mind that fonts, design elements and colors are very thoughtfully chosen by the designer. So say “I don’t like that font — what others would you recommend?” instead of “I want you to use Comic Sans.” Or, “I was thinking more of a navy blue instead of a sky blue — what do you think?” instead of “My favorite color is purple. Use that.” If you work with the designer on changes rather than dictating them, you’re much more likely to arrive at a result that everyone feels good about.