In developing a website, there’s plenty of room for creativity and innovation. There are a few things, however, that are backed so strongly by industry research that there’s no room for debate.

Here are five of the biggest mistakes businesses (and small businesses in particular) make when it comes to their web designs -- and how you can avoid the same ones:

1. Underestimating the Importance of the Mobile Experience

If you’ve heard this one before, it’s because it really can’t be said enough. Mobile usage is growing rapidly, and mobile users tend to feel that businesses whose sites aren’t mobile-friendly don’t care about them. The biggest trend is using responsive design to cater to visitors on all devices, rather than a separate mobile URL, but either is acceptable as long as you’re prioritizing the mobile user experience.

2. Focusing on Looks to the Detriment of the Site's Backbone

Any web designer can make a website that looks nice. But a company website needs to have a clean back end, too -- that’s the framework that makes the site what it is, even if visitors never see it. Clean coding enhances search engine optimization, facilitates function, and ensures that any kinks can be recognized early and quickly ironed out. It’s best to hire web developers who really understand site structure, even if they don’t code sites from scratch each time.

3. Prioritizing Graphics Over Meaningful Content

There’s no doubt that looks matter when it comes to web design, and well-informed graphic design choices can drive sales. But an over-emphasis on looks can be detrimental even when it comes to the front end of a site. Producing clean, compelling copy based on your unique selling principles and effective calls to action is what can truly establish your business. (And if you were contemplating stuffing a few extra keywords into your website copy at the expense of its readability, you should remember that the future of SEO is in content marketing, too, so putting your end user first serves both purposes.)

4. Assuming Their Personal Tastes Represent All Consumers

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that your customers like the same things you do. Marketing choices need to be based on your target demographic -- that’s why it’s so important to define a target audience and research what they want. If you don’t already have a solid marketing plan in place that includes this information, having a new website designed should precipitate that step.

5. Not Having a Plan for Ongoing Web Support

When businesses choose ultra-low-cost web designers, they often sacrifice ongoing support. Don’t settle for a designer or company that will throw up a site over a few days and then leave you on your own to figure out the rest. Content management systems, which allow you to update your site without knowing coding languages, are great tools; they don’t, however, completely replace expert support.

What other mistakes is it easy for small businesses to make in the web development process? Share your thoughts in the comments.

By: Karleanne Matthews