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Managing a website is a non-stop, action-packed adventure full of edge-of-your-seat excitement. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry. You’ll drink – maybe a lot. It’ll only get worse if you don’t have a plan; and since that’s no way to live, we’re presenting to you our 10 Commandments of A Legit Website to keep the borderline alcoholism to a minimum (what you do in your free time is totally on you).

1. Thou shall not bring the ugly.

Personal taste aside, there are some broadly accepted standards to what makes for an ugly website. Loud colors, too many calls to action, cluttered pages and graphics that distract from the message are just a few. Design should support the message, not distract from it.

2. Thou shalt not type garbage.

Using excessive jargon – or even excessive text – can appeal to some, but not being clear about exactly what you offer and want the visitor to do can be a fatal move. Skip the fluff and write like your audience will only spend 3-5 seconds on your verbiage. Chances are, that’s all you get.

3. Thou shalt make navigation simple.

Much to the point above, your visitors aren’t going to go to many pages on your site. Make each page count as if that will be the only one that gets visited and ditch the deep submenus and disorganized content. Your aim should be to get the visitor to act, not get overwhelmed and move on.

4. Thou shalt not ignore mobile users.

The number of mobile devices tapped into the internet has surpassed desktops and shows no sign of stopping. If you don’t have a responsive design or a mobile equivalent of your website, not only is your traffic going to bounce like a paycheck from Enron, Google won’t be too pleased either.

Your site speed is just as important as its design when considering mobile users. At times, my brand-new iPhone loads can still load websites like I’m on dial-up. Do what you can to speed up your website load times so your visitors stick around.

5. Thou shalt optimize like a boss.

While there’s a lot behind the scenes of a properly-optimized website – things you should bring on a professional for – there are quite a few you can do on your own. Making sure your page titles and descriptions carry the longtail keyword phrases you want to rank under, incorporating those phrases into your body copy, and getting more reviews on Google, Facebook, Yelp, etc. are just a few things you can do on your own.

6. Thou shalt have a strategy.

Back to the aforementioned comments on how people don’t spend much time on your site. To keep your site’s message simple, focus only on the top 3 objectives (pro tip: talking about yourself shouldn’t be one of them). Immediately address customer pain points and how you are the only one that will give them the experience they want.

7. Thou shalt know thy metrics.

If you’re not reviewing your site traffic, sources and visitor trends on a regular basis, you’ve essentially spent a buttload of time and/or money on nothing. If you are looking at numbers and not adapting and improving your website over time, well, that’s just as bad. There are a slew of tools – both dirt cheap or free – that can help you optimize your site for the traffic it gets. Start with Google Analytics and add more sophisticated tools over time.

8. Thou shalt not rely on the website alone.

Digital marketing is a multi-discipline practice. To build a following, you should be using a combination of email marketing, social media, press releases, thought leadership, webinars and more. The adage of “build it and they will come” may work for cornfields, but it sure as hell doesn’t work for the rest of us.

9. Thou shalt keep it simple, lest thou be stupid.

I’m gonna make a guess and assume that you have far more to do with your time than work on your website. You’re a busy person whether you’re a marketing director or solo entrepreneur, so simplify the way you improve your website. Use an easy-to-use content management system like WordPress for your site, keep the site content brief so updating it isn’t a laborious process, and set a realistic schedule for publishing news and blog posts.

10. Thou shalt not pay out the nose for hosting.

Finally, no small-to-medium business should be paying a ton of money for good hosting. If you have a lot of content and traffic, the most you should be looking at is about $70 per month, and that’s rare. Most sites should only cost about $15/month to host. Anything else is probably an unnecessary markup.

Patrick King

Patrick is the Founder of Imagine and advisor to places on brand strategy and creative. His insights have been published in Inc. Magazine, SmartCEO, Washington Business Journal, The Washington Post, and Chief Marketer, among other publications, and shared at conferences throughout the US. He also has an amazing sock collection.

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