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Web Design and Joomla: Mistakes of the Beginner

We all make mistakes. But looking back to the early days when starting out in web design and Joomla, it always makes me smile when I think of some of the ridiculous beginners mistakes I made!

Here I present a list of such mistakes. If you have any comments, or have anything you’d like to add to the list, please post your own comments and we will regularly update the list.


1. Using fonts in your design without checking if it's a valid web font

It can be quite embarrassing when a client approves your design mockup, only for you to later have to tell him that he can’t have it. Imagine this: you send your design to the client. He loves it. He loves everything about it. The layout, the colour scheme, the fonts. He’s just in awe of your design.

Then your font gets blocked when attempting to set it up as a web font, and you have to tell your client that he has to use a different font. Avoid this by making sure your font is a valid web font before you start your design.

Related post: Using Custom Fonts in your Website


2. Forgetting to change the admin email to the customer’s email

You’ve finished the website and the client is happy for it to launch. You’ve moved on to other projects and don’t hear from the previous client. Everything’s running smoothly, until one day you receive an email from one of the client’s customers.

Why am I receiving this? More than likely you’ve set up the website with your email address as the admin email, which in turn sets the ‘From email’ in Joomla’s Global Configuration. When someone receives an email through the website, the ‘From email’ displays as the ‘Reply to’ within the email.

So when your client’s customer receives an email through the website and clicks reply, he will inadvertently send the message to you, rather than your client, the intended recipient.

It’s an easy mistake to make but try telling that to your client!


3. Worse yet, forgetting to test contact forms

This is a bad one, but if you’re rushing to get the site launched then testing that the contact forms are working can often be neglected.

There’s no excuse for it though! The focal point of most websites is to entice the user with your product or services, and then get them to contact you via phone or email.

You may remember to do this once the site has gone live, or you may just forget about it completely, only for the customer to wonder why he’s not had any email enquiries, tests the form and realises it’s not working. How do you explain this to him?


4. Not testing the checkout on an ecommerce website

Similar to not testing contact forms, but there’s definitely no excuse for this one! Make sure you test the checkout process of your ecommerce website all the way through to making a payment.

Also test the shipping prices, tax calculations, discounts, and everything else related to purchasing products through the website. It sounds obvious, but it’s amazing how frequently people build ecommerce websites without actually testing them.

It’s a patient process, but that’s one of the reasons why you charge more to develop an ecommerce website.


5. Designing something painful to code

Have you ever designed something that the client loves, only to later realise that you’ve given yourself a massive coding task?

It’s a common mistake to start the design process without any consideration to how you will actually build it. Often you will design something that is visually stunning, but really difficult to code up. Worse yet, you could end up designing something that is beyond your coding capabilities.

So rather than giving yourself that headache, make sure that you design to your ability!


6. Using pirated templates and extensions

Not only is this illegal, but if you use pirated software for Joomla templates or extensions then you’re putting your website at great risk of getting hacked.

Think about it. Why would the pirate run the risk of imprisonment just to give you a free template or extension? There’s usually an underlying reason for pirated material. In Joomla’s case this is usually to insert backlinks into the template’s code or to insert scripts that gives them backdoor access to your site.


7. Forgetting to update the robots.txt file when uploading the site to a development server

You’re in the process of building a website, and you’ve uploaded your site to your development server, but not taken the care to change your robots.txt file. What happens? Your website gets crawled by Google and starts appearing on the search engines, along with all your Lorem Ipsum placeholder text!

I don’t think this is an absolutely detrimental mistake, but if you’re still developing your website, not only is it not optimised, it is also not ready for the public to view.

So when you upload your site to a development server, make sure you block Google from crawling it by deleting everything but the following:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /


8. Forgetting to update the robots.txt file when going live

The reverse of the previous example, but this is more crucial. After you’ve blocked Google from crawling your website during the development process, you obviously need to unblock it when the time comes to launching the website.

So always remember to reupload a fresh robots.txt file to your server, overwriting your development version. This is crucial, unless you want to keep your website private from the public.


9. Accidentally Downloading a Webmaster Tools Verification File Twice and Wondering Why it Won’t Verify

If you have multiple clients, you will more than likely have run into this minor issue. Every time you launch a website, you submit it to Google Webmaster Tools and upload a site map to speed up the indexing process.  

Each time I put a site live, I submit the site to my Webmaster Tools account, download the verification file, and upload it to the root directory of the server to verify that I have access to the site.

When you download the verification file, it sits in your Downloads folder (Mac). The file name is always the same, but unique for each Webmaster Tools account as it contains your account number.

So unless you delete the file from your Downloads folder the first time you use it, you will download it the second time and it will rename the file as a duplicate, meaning that Google won’t be able to verify it.

It’s a harmless error but it’s always worth checking if your having issues verifying a site in Webmaster Tools.


10. Not optimising images

Along with CSS and Javascript files, images are the biggest cause of slow page loading time. It’s always important to optimise your images to web standards because it will make your pages load faster, which in turn improves SEO and decreases bounce rate.

It’s amazing the amount of times I’ve built a website for a client, only for them to come back to me some time later to ask why the pages they’ve built are considerably slower than the original ones I built. The reason is always the same: they’re uploading images directly from a camera without optimising them.

Related post: Improving the Speed of your Website


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