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By far, one of the most important things to understand about your website is that it needs to rise up and become more than just a virtual business card.

These days, the vast majority of all online experiences between a consumer and a brand begin the same way: with a search engine. This means that most people who discover your business will be doing so via your website. People form first impressions in literally fractions of a second, which means that you need to have a site that immediately creates the feeling you need to not just get someone's attention, but to retain it.

There are a lot of subtle ways to do this via the choices you're making in terms of web design. However, there are also certain mistakes that will almost instantly run contrary to that goal. Understanding as much as you can about these mistakes is your key to avoiding them at all costs.

The Common Web Design Mistakes You Need to Know About

One of the biggest mistakes that small businesses in particular seem to make when it comes to web design involves building a website where there is simply far too much going on.

Again, people will judge your website - and as a result, your business - almost immediately upon arriving at your site. Because of that, you need to avoid having a website with a massive amount of images, text and other things going on to avoid creating an experience that is too busy to quickly understand.

In seconds, people should get a good idea of A) who you are, B) what you do, and C) why that matters. Resist the urge to cram too much information on your home page and pare everything back to just the bare essentials. It's not to say that all of the other information you want to include isn't important, because it is. It's just that there are other areas of your site where this information can live. Keep things short and simple to entice people to keep clicking around - don't overwhelm them so they head back to Google or whatever search engine brought them there.

Another web design mistake that a lot of businesses make involves failing to pay attention to your call to action or CTA - a seemingly-simple element that may be the most important part of your website of all.

Obviously, you don't want your relationship with a consumer to just begin and end by clicking around on your website. You want them to take some necessary next step - be it picking up the phone and giving you a call, or shopping your online catalog, or something of that nature. But they're not going to take that next step if they don't know what it is, which is why your CTA is hugely important.

In plain language, let people know what you want them to do and the chances are, they will. Don't be pushy or annoying, but be as clear as you can - you'd be shocked by what a big difference it can make.