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To say that most websites don’t work is somewhat rash. However, a website that is not achieving its full potential – be it not selling enough products or services, not generating enough enquiries or not adding any credibility to your business – is not working properly and is to a certain extent broken. Of course, the level to which most websites don’t work varies greatly. This is largely due to the fact most people think a website is just like a series of Microsoft Word pages online. There are many other factors that contribute to a website’s success which most people – even those who claim to have expert knowledge in web design – are unaware of.

This blog identifies the nine fundamental reasons why most websites ‘don’t work’; this will help you to choose a web design company that will make your site a success.

Breaking convention

Some companies, particularly those in more creative industries, want their site to be original. Sometimes this comes at the cost of breaking convention, which will cause instant failure for your website. There are certain conventions that any good web designer should know about. For example, everyone knows that if they click on an Add To Basket button it will place an item in their shopping basket, which will appear in the top right of their screen. If you call your button Place Item in Retail Receptacle and place the shopping basket in the bottom left you’ll have usability problems. It may be original, but it won’t work.

Building the website you want, not what your customers want

A websites specification will no doubt start off with visions of grandeur. If these take control of the project your website will ultimately be built for you and not your customers. It will contain all the things you want to see; the core aim of the site – to get your more customers – will be lost. When specifying your website ask yourself: what will urge potential customers to take action?

Getting the foundations wrong

Some web companies don’t have the experience to build websites correctly. They may look okay but an incorrectly built website is like incorrectly laying the foundations to a building. Superficially it may look okay and even perform fine in the short term but a badly built website will take longer to load and more time to update. More importantly it will be harder for users with special requirements – such as dyslexics and the partially sighted – to access.

Believing the search engine rumours

There is so much hot air surrounding websites and Internet marketing. Everyone has their own opinion as to how you appear at the top of a search engine’s results. You need to exercise caution as believing rumours can result in website failure. If you are told a particular piece of information, have it verified. Seeing as search engines update their criteria regularly check that the ‘fact’ was stated recently. Despite what some people may think, Google and the other search engines are far from human. They’re just another computer program and that means that they follow – robotically and without emotion – a set of rules (an algorithm). Since these rules are not made available to the public, only listen to search engine marketeers that have tried and tested their claims. It’s the only way to separate the truth from the lies.

Making the website yourself

A lot of people make their own website. It’s certainly possible but it’s not a good idea. It takes years and years to know how to make a website work. If you give the site to someone inexperienced you risk seriously damaging your online credibility.

Working with a traditional print or graphic design agency

The web is a medium in itself. People using a website access the information very differently to if they are reading a magazine or newspaper. Website users are usually looking for something – a product or service – whereas magazine and newspaper readers are casually digesting information. The former scan the content looking to take action whereas the latter take in most of the information. Traditional agencies will directly port print literature and put it online; it simply doesn’t work.

Over specifying

Some developers add features to your website simply because they can, or because it’s a way of bloating the project – and their invoice. But over-specifying doesn’t just needlessly cost you more money, it delays the website completion date.

Paying for traffic

Unless you’re in a highly, highly competitive industry, a good web design company should be able to get you free search engine traffic by getting your website to appear in the major search engine results for given search terms. While it can take time to see these results they are relatively easy to attain and maintain. Inexperienced web companies will be unaware of how to do this and will get you to spend money on traditional marketing methods and paid web advertisements. Even in competative industries it’s possible to localise your search phrases to limit the competition.

No calls-to-action

Calls-to-action are links, buttons, et cetera that incite the user to take action, whether it is to fill out an enquiry form or buy a product. It’s amazing how many web designers forget this critical element. If you don’t ask them to take action on your site, how will it be a success?


Despite what most people think, getting a website to work properly is a huge balancing act of many different factors. The more people that get involved and the more angles people approach the project from – design, development, marketing and so on – the more difficult it can be to get the balance right. When considering which company to use for your web project be sure to use an experienced company / individual that have / has the balance right. Avoid companies that offer lots of other services alongside web design or that are historically known for their print and graphic design work. Ensure the customer-facing person assigned to you understands how websites work and isn’t part of a team so large that they can’t balance these factors correctly.

If you’re interested in getting a website that does work, get a free, no obligation quote now. I’m always happy to help.

Tim Bennett is a web designer and developer. He has a First Class Honours degree in Computing from Leeds Metropolitan University and currently runs his own one-man web design company, Texelate.