Avoiding Mistakes with Your Web Store

Web store owners sometimes make mistakes and fall into traps when they're designing or maintaining their Web stores. Here are some major stumbles to avoid as you build and take care of your online business.

Overloading your home page

Some Web store owners pack all sorts of content, pictures, and links onto the home page. The page becomes so thick with content that most customers give up and never enter.

Your first goal is to make sure that all the vital information or links appear "above the fold," meaning that the first screen of information that someone sees, at the top of your home page, has the vital links or info that any customer would need.

Remember that you don't have to display everything on the home page — you can make secondary category pages or feature pages that point people to a plethora of options. There's only one page on your Web site that should mention every single Web page you have, and that is the Site Map page. Make the most important options visible on the home page, and make everything else one or two clicks away.

Putting too much animation on a Web page

Web site owners have an ever-changing array of ways to capture people's attention, from the simple blinking text and animated pictures, to full-blown Flash animation, audio, and video. Some Web site owners think their Web page needs to be full of activity, so the user can't help but notice the Web page. The effect is that the user's eyes get worn out and they have to stare away from all that activity on the page.

Optimizing your store for one Web browser

If customers don't see your Web store properly, and perhaps certain functions don't even work on other Web browsers, they can't shop with you. Do you really want to turn away a potential section of your audience before they have a chance to buy? Try using different Web browsers to place orders, and make sure your Web site is available to anyone who wants to shop from you, regardless of the technology they're using.

Mixing personal opinion with your business

Some entrepreneurs see their Web stores as a way to do good and promote their own personal beliefs. The trap is assuming that your customer's beliefs are the same as yours, and that your beliefs cannot offend anyone else. Your customers have a wide range of beliefs, ideologies, and customs, and they're shopping from you because you offer a good product or excellent customer service, not because you have the same affiliations.

Accepting only one payment method

Even if 90 percent of your customers use the one payment method you offer, you're instantly losing 10 percent of your potential customer base. As a new Web store owner, you can't afford to isolate a chunk of your audience if you can help it. Just as customers want selection of products, they want a choice in payment methods too, if for no reason other than it signals flexibility and concern for the customer experience.

Forgetting to consistently refresh your Web content

If your customers see the same Web pages, with the same color scheme and layout, month after month, year after year, they may begin to wonder if anybody is actually "minding the store" or someone built the store and walked away.

Although you should reserve a big re-design of your Web site for an anniversary or special product launch, consider changing a small element of your Web site regularly. Roll out a new color scheme after 6 or 12 months. Change any promotion boxes or announcements on your home page more frequently. As you introduce fresh looks, make sure every page remains consistent. Otherwise, you'll end up with a jumble of different designs that convey an unstable, unprofessional, unprofitable store.

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