Pro Insights on Web Project Problem Areas

Pro Insights on Web Project Problem Areas

web-project-problem-areasThere are lots of great blog posts about planning your website design project, what goes into web vendor selection, and the like. This post is more than that. This post, written with insight from web professionals who have collectively “seen it all”, is going to help you avoid common mistakes and missteps when it comes to your web projects.

Where else can you get decades of insight and experience, and thousands of projects for hundreds of clients, all under one post? Right here, that’s where.

Each main topic is going to be addressed from our point of view, so hopefully by the end, you will be able to spot, and avoid, all the pitfalls that get in the way of a successful web project.

But guess what? As you read through these problem areas, you will also see how they are all interdependent; missing the mark in one will lead to problems in others.

Problem area: Cost

Richelle Anderson - Lighthouse Web DesignsRICHELLE ANDERSONLighthouse Web Designs
The largest pitfalls in regards to considering the cost of a website is that companies simply do not consider all the costs involved in the search engine optimization, content, and marketing of the website. Many business owners try to take the cheap route when it comes to their website and they usually regret it later down the road. Working with a professional web developer that will stick around as your business grows is one of the most effective ways of gauging the costs involved in developing your website. They can build the site to your current budget, add to it as you are able to down the road, and can assist with driving traffic to the website.

When determining the cost of the website you should think of it as an investment into your business. Ask the normal questions as you would with anything else in your business. If I spend $xxxx how soon will I make it back? How many do I need to sell to get the return on the investment? How much business am I losing to my competition because I am not doing this? Websites are such a crucial part of ANY business today and need to be given priority when considering your budget.

Gary Martin - LabWorkzGARY MARTINLabWorkz
When choosing your design path, you can either go with a complete custom solution or a buy a template. The budget is the number one factor for most businesses when making this decision. However, taking a template and customizing it can be more costly than having a website design created from scratch. The reason is time. If you have a developer reverse engineer a site to make a tweak to the code, it could take a considerable amount of time. Whereas, with a custom designed website, if you want something changed they know exactly where it is coded.

Problem Area: Branding

Dustin W. Stout - dustn.coDUSTIN W.
Branding is more than a logo. It’s more than a color scheme. More than just a visual identification– it’s the foundation for trust for your customers and fans.

From the design of your website to the avatars and imagery across all your social media properties, if your branding is consistent customers and fans will know that your brand is solid and trustworthy. A company that clearly knows who they are, how to represent their identity and executes that identity across all their properties shows customers they can trust you and depend on you to be who you say you are.

Know who your brand is, what they represent, and what your goals are. Then craft a brand identity that is 100% consistent across all your digital and real-world properties. If every aspect of your branding is beautifully and perfectly executed, not only will your customers love and trust you but new and potential fans will more easily.

Problem area: Strategy

Gina Fiedel - Fat Eyes Web DevelopmentGINA FIEDELFat Eyes Web Development
The greatest pitfall for a business when it comes to their web strategy is failing to examine the business or address overall business goals, needs, culture, operations and structure. This is interdependent with identity and branding.

Stephan Hovnanian - Shovi WebsitesSTEPHAN HOVNANIANShovi Websites
All stakeholders must be involved from the beginning, not just the marketing department. Your website is a sales person, a customer service representative, public relations consultant, marketing manager, receptionist, cashier, and even an IT professional. With all those hats to wear, and only a fraction of a second to connect with your visitors in the right way, if you aren’t serious about strategy, you’re wasting your money. Everything you do should be able to check out against your strategy.

Problem area: Content

Angel Perez - 310 DesignsANGEL PEREZ310 Designs
The way you format your content has an element of design, and can affect your visitors’ decision on whether to stay and find out more about your products or services, or, if they’re going to look at your competition. In “If Content Is King Web Design Is Queen” I discussed how it has been proven that — if a website isn’t aesthetically pleasing — 94% of visitors will distrust the website and simply leave. Your content’s layout plays a big role in creating trust.


Stephan Hovnanian - Shovi WebsitesSTEPHAN HOVNANIANShovi Websites
Content is your responsibility. This is your website. Your products. Your services. Your business. If you aren’t comfortable writing content, hire someone who can. Waiting for content is the biggest reason why web design projects stumble, not only with respect to time, but also with respect to how your pieces of content affect the design of your website. Also, knowing which “sections” you have to fill in — and with what types of content — give you a great punchlist that can be delegated to various members of your team.

Problem area: Design

Gina Fiedel - Fat Eyes Web DevelopmentGINA FIEDELFat Eyes Web Development
It’s important to build in visual organization and guide the viewer’s attention effortlessly on the page. This means the layout cannot have competing areas. The biggest pitfall in web design is not having a visual hierarchy. You must identify the priorities for what you want your visitors to see first, second, third and so on. No one can look everywhere at once. That translates into seeing nothing. And then that translates into no identity development or branding. And an unsuccessful website. More from Gina on Strategic Web Design…

Gary Martin - LabWorkzGARY MARTINLabWorkz
Making the website responsive is one of the best investments you can make. With all the different size screens on devices today, and the increasing use of non-desktop devices for search and general computing, a responsive design gives you the best bang for your buck.

Problem area: Integration/Marketing

Stephan Hovnanian - Shovi WebsitesSTEPHAN HOVNANIANShovi Websites
Automation and efficiency are really important when it comes to maintaining an up to date web presence, and also managing your online marketing efforts. If you rely on your website for lead generation, e-commerce or any other type of conversion metric (and you should!), tying that activity directly into your CRM system is so much more efficient. The problem is that many small businesses don’t think through these steps to think through how their website is going to be an integral part of their business. That leads to “square peg, round hole” situations which could blow your budgets out of the water, or stagnate the growth and performance of your online presence.

Problem area: Ongoing Support/Hosting

Ralph M. Rivera - Web Search SocialRALPH M. RIVERAWeb Search Social
Websites, businesses, customer needs and technology are subject to evolution. Every company should adopt the phrase “done for now” instead of “done” and embrace iteration as part of the ongoing support of their website. “The perfect website” has imprecise meaning and is unattainable given the shifting nature of marketing and technology. I propose continuous iteration over time in order to measure customer feedback and adapt to their evolving needs. In this context, “ongoing support” is less about a “break/fix” scenario and more about fine tuning based on analysis and strategy.


You also need to read, bookmark and share Ralph’s post, The High Cost of Cheap Hosting, which pulls back the curtain on all those $4/month ads you see online.

So hopefully the next time you embark on a web project of your own, you will be able to take insights from the pro’s here and end up with a cost-effective, powerful web presence built on strategy and results. Any questions? Leave them for us in the comments!

About Stephan Hovnanian

I own Shovi Websites, a website design and email marketing company located outside Boston. I spend my days managing websites and staying up to speed with all the latest trends across the web so you don't have to.

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  • Gina Fiedel

    Yeah, Dude! Angel said it. You did great and I am very grateful to be included. I am sending you an email with a couple of small edit requests.

    • Stephan Hovnanian

      got ’em and they’re up. Thanks again for contributing to this, Gina. It’s pretty cool how seven totally different businesses can talk about a topic from various personal viewpoints, yet still have the common threads of planning, execution and consistency.

      • Gina Fiedel

        I know! The common thread works! It reads really well. Everyone contributed valuable material. And I love what you said about content being one the the most common delays. So true!

  • Mike Allton

    First, fantastic advice from everyone, as I mentioned on Google+. Kudo’s to everyone involved, particularly Stephan for putting it all together. And love the head bubbles!

    And to these points I might also add one of my own:

    Problem Area: Targeting

    Too often, business owners know that they’re supposed to have a website, but give too little thought to why, and who that website is really for. Is the website for the business? For the owner? No. It’s for your customers and targeted customers.

    That means that, first, you have to know who your targeted customers are. What defines them? What are their issues and concerns and problems, as they relate to the solutions you offer? What is their demographic and psychographic profile? What do they find interesting and appealing?

    These are critical questions when it comes to the formation of a successful website, because the website isn’t about what YOU like or what YOU’RE interested in – it’s about THEM. Your customers. I firmly believe that every business and owner should have a site that reflects their personality and interests, but the focus must always be on the customer or prospect.

    I once worked with a client, years ago, who wanted animated gifs of bunnies hopping across the screen of her website. I kid you not. And no, her business had nothing to do with bunnies. She just liked them! I explained to her that while that kind of thing is fine for your personal website, it’s not fine for your professional web presence. She couldn’t get past the idea that the website was “for her” and that it should look like something she made herself using Geocities Homebuilder. She refused to put her customers first, and think about what theywould be interested in seeing.

    • Stephan Hovnanian

      Thanks for adding this, Mike. It’s incredibly important! By the way, I see your animated bunnies and raise you “hide and seek” leprechauns for an Irish pub client of mine, about 13 years ago!

      • Mike Allton

        Oh no, I think my bunnies win. As least your leprechauns were related to the business in some way!

        • Stephan Hovnanian

          Yeah you can have it. The leprechauns were awesome, though; somehow I have to find the files, hopefully I got them onto a CD (all my backups used to be on 3.5 disks)

          • Mike Allton

            too funny! I know I’ve got my bunnies if I fire up my old PC…

  • Neil Ferree

    Excellent advice from you and your panel Stephan.

    Maybe to add a segment on how important it is for your site to render on a smart phone device and how page load speed is key. Over the past few months, I’ve noticed in my GA dashboard that month over month growth of mobile device visitors has grown significantly and the site duration on a mobile device was way less than desktops so we decided to eat our own dog food and migrate to Genesis RWD config and that helped a lot!

    • Stephan Hovnanian

      Great point, Neil. Gary touched on responsive web design above, and I think these days it’s becoming a standard approach for a web designer to recommend a responsive design. I reserve judgment on whether responsive is the silver bullet, as I covered in a webcast on going mobile right here on this site. But as for strategy, mobile and natural, intuitive design all have to be a big part of your approach. Great feedback!

      • Neil Ferree

        Ahh, you’re right Stephan, Gary’s nugget on RWD slipped past me and yeah, no silver bullet but way better than before w/out RWD

    • Mark Drake

      As for page loading, I’m starting to experiment with dynamic CSS/JS loading based on device width, and setting a cookie for further page view. It has reduced the page load time considerably. I highly recommend it when implementing a responsive design so that mobile users only download the JS, CSS, and images referenced that are important to them instead of making them download the desktop css, and sometimes the desktop and mobile images (@2x).

  • Ralph M. Rivera

    Thanks for including me. It’s an honor to be in such company.

    • Stephan Hovnanian

      Thank you Ralph! I love your posts on Web Search Social…you “get it” which is why it was so great to collaborate on this one!