8 Mistakes Designers Make When Creating a WordPress Site for a Small Business

Most web design and development projects are essentially pretty similar. There are always some specific goals and requirements, and the final product – the website – has to be attractive enough for the client to consider opening their wallet.

Nothing new so far, right? However, WordPress is not exactly built with small businesses in mind. So designers have to be a little creative to adapt a WordPress site to small business. And that’s where some problems often arise.

Here’s a list of 8 common mistakes designers make when creating a WordPress site for a small business, and how to fix them.

1. No support/tutorials/training

Small businesses are usually not that savvy clients when it comes to website management and working with WordPress. The things that are obvious to you will surely not be so obvious to your client.

Adding a new article, publishing a new page, uploading a file, tweaking the basic settings, these things are simple, but they are not easy.

Working with WordPress for the first time is not that intuitive, and that’s where some proper training materials come into play.

From my experience, what works best are videos (screencasts, to be more precise). You can find some nice training videos on YouTube or record them yourself, and send them to your small business client along with the final version of the site.

2. No installation

People new to the whole concept of owning a website don’t usually realize all the backend things that have to be taken care of when launching a site.

Things like registering a domain name and getting a hosting account, for example.

I know that you are probably ready to do this for your clients too, but the approach I’m advising here is to offer these services right from the get-go, instead of waiting for your clients to ask you about them.

That way you can also rest assured that the hosting you’ve chosen with your client can handle a WordPress site. Besides, every hosting provider offers an affiliate program, so you can make some extra money that way too.

3. Designing the site from the ground up

Let me be honest with you, I’m not an enemy of designing something from the ground up, starting with a blank canvas in Photoshop. However, there’s no point in doing so with a site for a small business.

Even though every business is different I’m sure there’s nothing that unique that has to appear on the site that you can’t do it with a nice theme and some plugins.

One more thing. Themes get updated every now and then by their authors (so they can work with the newest features in WordPress and such). Your own custom design won’t get updated by anybody. This means that if when WordPress introduces some significant changes in its structure you’ll have to update the design yourself.

4. Using wrong themes

Not every theme is optimal for a small business site, and choosing the wrong one can be the biggest mistake on this list.

The design process should always start with setting goals and requirements and making sure what the client’s vision for working with the site is. Will they publish content regularly? Or maybe they just want a site to present a couple of key services?

Chances are that most small businesses don’t want to launch an online publishing house… They just need a place to showcase a small range of products or services.

Therefore, here are some examples of themes that don’t work well with most small business sites (even though clients might like them visually): traditional blog themes, photo-blog themes, video-blog themes, magazine themes, corporate style themes. However, check the responsive ones!

The biggest problem with the above themes is that they either focus on providing the possibility to publish a very big amount of content or content of the wrong type.

5. Solutions that won’t ever be used

This is a somewhat similar problem to the previous one. It’s all a matter of goals and requirements.

For instance, just because you have some free space in the sidebar, doesn’t mean that you should populate it with 10 different widgets.

It’s not that widgets are bad, the problem is that your clients will rarely even use them. What’s the point of having a popular posts widget if new content gets published every 3 months?

You also have to be careful with other solutions, like email newsletters, or live chat icons, and so on. There’s no point in including them on the site if your client says that “they might use them someday.” In most cases, they won’t.

6. Too much social media

I know that social media is THE thing these days. But not for everyone. There’s really no point in focusing so much attention on social media buttons on a small business site.

Small businesses rarely have more than 10 shares on individual postings. And this low number can negatively impact the business’s perceived credibility.

In most cases, one Like button on the homepage is enough. You don’t need it anywhere else.

And please don’t include a Twitter widget if your client posts less than 1 tweet per day.

7. Footers that are too large

Large footers have been a trend for a couple of years now. Essentially, they are great for big sites with lots of content. They make it easier for people to navigate around the site, and for search engines to find all the important links.

However, when we’re dealing with a small business site there’s probably not that many subpages. In the majority of cases, a simple, one-line footer works much better than a big box-styled footer.

Remember, the point here is to use the footer to feature what’s relevant, not to feature everything.

8. Not going for business-specific solutions

Implementing some business-specific solutions is where the real value of a small business site lies.

For example, a site for a dentist’s office could feature an appointment calendar; a site for a restaurant could feature the current menu, and maybe even an online reservation functionality, and so on.

Such business-specific solutions are what your clients really like to pay for because they can see the value of their investment immediately.

And you don’t even have to spend time coding stuff. Even though these solutions are specific they are not uncommon. For most of this stuff, you can either find a theme that has these features already built in, or a plugin that takes care of them.

In the end, creating a site for a small business doesn’t have to be difficult, but it does require some creativity and individual approach. However, this is what creates good relations with your clients, so it’s surely an investment that’s bound to pay off.

Just to end this post on a high note let me list a handful of themes that work great with small business sites:

What’s your take on building small business sites on WordPress? Do you have any questions you’d like answered?

there are 16 comments added

  1. foobarph 3rd July 2012

    its been a while since I've read a good article about setting up a website, especially for SMEs. great read. :)

  2. Wpfix 3rd July 2012

    Karol you forgot to mention envision. Even envision works great for building small business.

    • Karol K 12th July 2012

      Good point. Thanks for mentioning this.

  3. kweku 4th July 2012

    great Article, could not have been written @ a much better time.

  4. Lisa Keyes Scott 5th July 2012

    Great tips! I completely agree with your comment on not needing to build a site from the ground up for small businesses.

    • Karol K 12th July 2012

      The only difficult part is to explain this to our clients :)

  5. Nathan Corbier 5th July 2012

    Personally, I think the rush to "build a site from scratch" comes from clients who see a crap template on a random website, and assume all templates are crap. They therefore put in their "requirements," which is usually just some stream of consciousness ranting, that they want a "custom website" and "no cookie-cutter web sight people apply." If a client wants a completely custom design, I ask them why. Even before I get to the price point, I ask them why they want one that's completely custom. Rarely do I get a good answer, and honestly, 3 to 5 minutes of plugging in their logo and some ipsum text into a ThemeForest template turns out "that's what I want! A custom website, is great!" Its also not custom.

    • Karol K 12th July 2012

      This makes sense. Templates and ready-made themes have a bit of bad publicity. But it's nothing we can't fight with good planning and some talking.

  6. littlebriar 5th July 2012

    Nice tips. Thanks for the info. I think nowadays it's important to use a responsive theme for just about all sites created. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like any of the themes you have highlighted are responsive.

    • Karol K 12th July 2012

      Can you clarify what do you mean by responsive? Thanks for commenting.

  7. jonsweaver 5th July 2012

    Excellent points - I work with a lot of small businesses and nonprofits, and this article addresses common issues that both the designer/developer have. I would add one more though - Realistic Self-assessment - there are a lot of 'shoulds' about the amount of traffic, social media posting, being on top of Google, etc that are completely unrealistic for most small businesses. And so they wind up disappointed even when you've put these issues in perspective. Managing these expectations is a challenge.

    • Karol K 12th July 2012

      Sure, it seems counterintuitive for people that their site will most likely require some work after the launch. But it's our job to educate them about this fact.

  8. Cleo 5th July 2012

    Great article with some excellent points, but I think #1 is so important it is worth stressing. I'm amazed at how often I hear people talking about how great WordPress is because it is so easy to use. No doubt, WordPress is incredible. But for my very small business clients, it is absolutely NOT easy to use! Thanks for mentioning this - I hope more writers have the courage to say this so that future WordPress updates can focus on some real small business usability issues like media management! Thank you!

    • Karol K 12th July 2012

      Thanks. This is exactly my point of view as well. WordPress is easy, but only for people who have been working with it for a while.

  9. online business 14th January 2013

    I am really loving the theme/design of your blog. Do you ever run into any internet browser compatibility issues? A couple of my blog visitors have complained about my blog not working correctly in Explorer but looks great in Safari. Do you have any solutions to help fix this issue?

  10. Naina bright 15th May 2015

    I’ve always wanted to have a podcast on my blog but I wasn’t quite sure what plugin would work. This would make a great tool for bloggers!

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