My Top 10 Brand Website Mistakes

My Top 10 Brand Website Mistakes

As an online brand aspiring to Lovemark status, your website is everything.

It’s the virtual equivalent of what would otherwise be your bricks and mortar business’ storefront, store, sales desk, product display area, sales staff and delivery room.

Hell, even the cleaner.

Think about how many tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of dollars offline businesses spend on these areas. That should give you some appreciation for the importance and sheer magnitude of what your humble website is trying to replace.

That’s not to say that you, too, should also be spending this kind of money. These days, you certainly don’t need to for your website to do it’s job well.

The point is, that if it’s important enough for your competitors (and role models) to be investing so much in their brand’s presence and operations, then it’s important enough for you to put in whatever time and energy it takes to get your website perfect.

Remember, it quite literally is your whole business.

Why Most New Brand Websites Suck

Having had the opportunity to review dozens of start-up and recently-established online clothing brand websites, I’ve pretty much seen every common mistake there is to make.

Many of them I see with mind-numbingly monotonous regularity.

In fact, it’s actually pretty rare for me to come across a website that doesn’t have numerous issues. Often pretty serious ones.

So, why is that?

The answer is pretty simple: low barrier to entry. Nowadays, every man and his cat can have their own brand website. They’re cheap and they’re easy to make.

What most people don’t realise however, is that designing and building a Lovemark website is the final 5%, and by far the easiest part, of establishing the brand.

Before even thinking about a website, important questions need to be asked, pondered, researched, discussed, thought about some more, researched further, and at some point – answered.

Questions such as:

  • Who is your brand targeting?
  • Who is your ideal customer?
  • Why is your brand targeting this market?
  • What is your brand’s identity?
  • What does your brand stand for?
  • What are your brand’s core values?
  • How would you like your brand to be perceived by the customer?
  • What makes your brand unique?
  • What does your brand bring to the market that no one else does?
  • What makes your brand authentic?
  • How will your brand earn credibility?
  • Who is your brand’s competition?
  • What are your competition’s strengths and weaknesses?
  • What are your brand’s strengths and weaknesses?

And so on, and so on. You get the picture.

Without having laid down the all-important foundations for the brand, the website will not only be seriously lacking, it will pretty much be a waste of time.

Garbage in, garbage out, as they say.

It will have no identity or the wrong identity. The wrong voice, the wrong vibe.

It can’t gel with the target audience if you don’t know who the target audience is, and even less so if you don’t know who your brand is.

Remember, first impressions count.

Imagine walking into a florist for some red roses on Valentines Day, and the place is decked out to look like an auto garage. Race car posters covering the walls. Used engine parts crafted into ornaments decorating the shelves.

What would you think?

What would you do?

Of course, this doesn’t typically happen in the physical world.

Because in the physical world, people think before handing over thousands of dollars on their brand’s image.

A lot.

They do their homework.

Like everyone, they don’t have money to flush down the toilet. And they can’t afford for their business to be confusing customers and scaring them away.

But online, things are different.

Setting up a business is cheap and easy. There’s no rent to pay.

People land on your website, take one look and roll their eyes, and leave. Without you being any the wiser.

Consequently, way too many people get excited about building a brand, jot down a few notes on paper, have a frenzied conversation or two with a friend over too many beers, and jump right into designing a website.

The outcome is inevitable – a dog’s breakfast.

So, with that out of the way, let’s take a look now at exactly how brands typically get their websites wrong. Below is my list of the Top 10 most common website mistakes that I see them make.

These are listed loosely in order of increasing seriousness. It really depends on the size of the infraction in each case though as to which is most damaging.

The first five mistakes involve the website design and presentation itself, and the final five on the all-important branding. The website design mistakes are bad enough, but the branding mistakes are inexcusable.

Bear in mind however that they ALL matter. They’re all important enough to have to get right. That means that your website should be suffering from exactly NONE of these issues.

1. Inconsistent or convoluted theme

Pretty much all of the websites I’ve seen whose theme is messy and inconsistent were that way because someone tried to do too much with them. They tried too hard to stand out, or to be too clever.

Headings too big, too many colours, too many different fonts and text sizes – it’s not a good look. It actually looks amateurish and undermines the credibility of the brand as a whole.

In my experience, simple website designs usually work the best. It’s hard to get them wrong.

Look at the biggest brands in the world – they have simple logos and are identifiable by just one or two colours. Coca Cola, IBM, Fed-Ex, Hertz – the list goes on.

Also, everything about your brand should be consistent. Choose one or two colours and one or two font types, and stick to them religiously. Everywhere your customers see anything about you – your logo, your social media, your ads and promotions, and of course most of all – your website.

It should all look the same.

Something simple repeated often is memorable. It becomes easily recognisable. And it’s the most effective way to build brand recognition.

2. Poor website functionality

There’s nothing quite as annoying as a website that doesn’t display or work correctly. This is a real amateur mistake.

It’s important to know that 59% of all website traffic comes from mobile devices, 39% from desktop computers, and 2% from tablets.

So you need to check your website on different devices for how it looks and functions. Even in different browsers – they can quite often render differently.

Nowadays virtually all websites are designed to be responsive, which means they automatically reconfigure themselves to suit the device and screen size they’re being viewed on. Make sure yours does that.

It also goes without saying that all functions on your website should be checked and re-checked periodically. Sometimes updates can lead to unexpected behaviour or even cause things to stop working.

Navigation should always be clear and simple, and of course the whole ordering and payment process should be smooth and seamless.

A great idea is to get a bunch of friends to try navigating your website and using all the functions, and get their feedback about the experience. Better still, watch them in the process and see first hand where the sticking points are.

3. Spelling and grammar mistakes

I’ve actually heard people have the audacity to suggest that the occasional spelling or grammatical mistake on a website actually comes across as more personal, and less “corporate”. It adds character.

Let me be perfectly clear. These kinds of mistakes NEVER look good. EVER. They make the site look and feel very unprofessional.

Remember, your objective here is to build a Lovemark brand that people will look up to, fall in love with, and walk through fire for. There’s absolutely nothing inspiring or endearing about a high-school dropout who can’t spell.

Most distressingly, typos betray laziness and a lack of care in the brand’s creators.

It’s not a good look, whichever way you slice it.

Do yourself a favour, use a spellchecker on everything. And better still, get everything proofread by a competent native speaker to make sure it reads well as well.

4. Boring, cliché-ridden copy

It’s important that all the copy on your website is engaging and compelling. This is really important, because it sets the tone for your brand. Avoid boring, predictable, generic copy that does nothing more than inform.

Copy like that screams, “I’m a boring, ‘me-too’ brand!”

It should tell a story. A riveting, engaging story. Your brand’s story.

Remember that words are the most powerful tool you have to win over visitors, pique their interest, and excite them. You need to clearly and concisely let them know what the brand is about and what it stands for.

Your passion for what you’re doing should be infectious through your words.

Above all, steer clear of cliché statements that everyone has heard a million times before. Things like, “Our apparel is the highest quality . . .” blah, blah, blah. That means absolutely nothing. It just sends the message that you have nothing to say.

If your products are indeed of a unique quality for certain reasons – the materials or manufacturing methods used – by all means describe that. That’s an important selling point.

But be specific. What’s so special about it?

Make it interesting and fascinating.

Remember that if your USP is that your products are cheaper and/or higher quality – if that’s all you’ve got – you don’t have a USP. There’s nothing in the least unique about that.

It’s also most likely a sign that you have given your brand absolutely zero thought.

5. Bad photos

The quality of the photos on your website, both in terms of image quality and content, have an enormous influence on how your website comes across.

Which means it has a direct impact on whether visitors choose to give up their valuable time to look more deeply into your brand and what it’s all about, or just go elsewhere instead.

Whenever I see a website with poor photos it just deflates me of any enthusiasm for the brand. It makes it look like that broken down little corner store whose owners gave up years ago and just don’t care anymore.

That’s no way to build a brand.

Images have the potential to make the difference between visitors really being drawn into what your brand has to offer, and to them just disinterestedly clicking off.

Nothing screams amateur and shoddy quite like poorly lit, poorly composed photos taken from a cell phone.

Remember how earlier I talked about the efforts that bricks and mortar business owners go to to make them look great? Well think about a clothing store with really hip, eye-catching graphics out front – a great facade that really draws you inside. Now compare that to a dirty, dilapidated building that people would much rather just pass by.

That’s the effect photos can have on your website.

I strongly recommend you enlist a professional photographer for all your website’s images. Stage and present your products impeccably, with great lighting. Think about how to showcase their best aspects, and make them look stunningly appealing.

The same for all the promotional photos. Make sure that they all pop.

Show lots of different models in your images that represent your target audience. It helps to draw visitors in and also adds social proof. You don’t need to use professional models – enlist the help of friends.

The main aim is to have your images look vivid, fun and inviting, and make your brand look interesting and alluring.

6. No identity

Your clothing brand website has two main purposes – to represent to your audience everything about your brand, and to make sales.

And for a young, upstart brand, the former is far more important.

Your website must clearly convey your brand’s identity to the visitor. To omit this is a huge mistake, and amazingly it’s one that I don’t find too uncommon in budding brands.

A brand without an identity isn’t a brand. It’s just a name.

A name that no one knows anything about. And therefore, one that no one cares about.

Customers don’t connect to a Lovemark because of its name. Or it’s logo. Or its catchy slogan.

They connect to it because of what it represents. What it stands for. What it’s values are. Maybe even its history.

In other words, its identity.

Who it is.

Too many people miss this point. They make the mistake of believing that just because they offer items of clothing with their logo on it, that people will have the slightest interest in buying it.

When a customer buys a product from a Lovemark they’re not just buying an item of clothing. Most importantly, they’re buying a piece of the brand. They’re buying into the brand.

No one buys into something they know nothing about.

So if you ever want anyone to buy anything from your brand, you must let them know in detail who that brands is. Once they get to know and hopefully love your brand, then they’ll start being inclined to buy.

Your website is the place to start.

A great addition on any brand’s website is the brand’s story. Where it came from. What it had to overcome. How it got to where it is. Who’s behind it. Where they came from. Why they started the brand.

A brand’s story add to its identity, its authenticity, and its relatability to the customer.

7. Inconsistent messaging

A website that sends out mixed messages about its brand’s identity, purpose and values betrays that brand’s lack of real identity.

It shows a brand that’s just clutching at straws, trying to win favour any way it can.

It reeks of desperation.

I’ve come across brand websites that convey one primary identity on the home page, something different on the About Us page (for example, that it’s heavily influenced by hip hop music culture), and yet something else in the footer (for example, that’s it’s a sustainable, socially responsible brand).

A brand may well be all of these things, however it needs to be spelled out clearly and in its entirety somewhere on the website. You can’t have visitors searching for clues like they’re in a treasure hunt.

It confuses people and has them wondering what the brand is actually all about.

Most importantly, the brand’s actions and messages must always be congruent with its stated identity.

Remember, your brand isn’t a sustainable, socially responsible brand just because you say so. You need to walk the walk. And you need to show people how you’re walking the walk.

What are your products made of?

How are they made, and by whom?

What organisations to you support and endorse?

How to you support the cause?

You get the idea. You can’t make random statements on your website because they sound good, and then not back up your claims.

That’s just paying lip service.

Your brand’s identity can by all means have several facets, but they all need to be clearly stated.

And people need to see your brand living up to its identity in everything it does. Otherwise they’re just left scratching their head, questioning its legitimacy.

8. Vague or no target market

It’s important to keep in mind that no one is browsing around the Internet looking for brands to connect with. On the contrary, it’s your website’s job to stop people in their tracks, in the middle of what they’re doing, and to reel them in.

To do that, your website needs to make it clear exactly who your brand is targeting. If a visitor needs to pause for even five seconds to ponder whether your brand is for them, you’ve failed.

The reaction you want to incite in someone seeing your website for the first time is, “Holy crap, this is definitely for me!” or “Holy crap, these are my peeps!”

It should be that clear cut.

Here are a few examples of clothing brand target markets that are clearly and unmistakably defined:

  • Left handed golfers
  • Christian gym-goers
  • Nurses
  • Heavy metal music fans
  • Female surfers
  • Abuse survivors
  • Pug owners

If you’re any one of these things, and you come across a related clothing brand’s website whose target market is clearly defined, you’ll have no doubt whatsoever that that brand exists for someone like you.

On the other side of the coin, here are a few examples of clothing brand target markets that I’ve actually come across, which are much too vague or so broad that they lose their significance:

  • Men (yes, all men)
  • People with a positive outlook on life
  • People interested in oceanic themes
  • Car enthusiasts
  • Lovers of urban culture

“People with a positive outlook on life” is very broad and very vague. Even to someone who fits the description, it doesn’t catch their attention because it’s too non-specific. It’s not clear exactly who the brand is intended for.

In reality, it probably covers a big part of the population.

A motivational brand whose mission is to bring positivity and hope to cancer sufferers, for example, is much more specific and clear, and would most likely connect to people far more effectively. Especially when you consider how emotionally attached people would be to this identity.

“People interested in oceanic themes” and “Lovers of urban culture” – we all know what these descriptions mean. But they’re confusing because they’re non-specific. In the context of a brand, they still beg the question, “What does that mean?”


Bear in mind however that even when your target market is well defined, it’s still possible to get it wrong.

Take “Left-handed golfers” for example. There’s no question who’s being targeted, that’s pretty clear. The problem is however that the market may be so small that the potential size of the brand is very limited.

“Nurses”, also a clear, well-defined market, is extremely broad. There are a lot of nurses in the world.

On the plus side though, there most likely aren’t a great number of clothing brands catering to them. So a clothing brand that targets nurses in a very unique way or with a very unique voice could well be highly successful.

What about “heavy metal music fans”? Also an extremely broad market.

And one already heavily targeted by clothing brands and band merchandising. This would make it a very tough market to break into, though not impossible.

“Car enthusiasts” is also very broad. Too broad, in fact, to appeal to anyone. Especially when you consider that different groups within this market love different type of cars – European sports cars, American muscle cars, historical cars, Formula 1 racing, electric cars, and so on.

They would be far more inclined to want to express their specific taste in cars rather than an interest in cars in general.

Put a lot of thought into your brand’s target market, make sure it’s clear and makes sense, and be sure to express it clearly to the visitor.

9. Missing ‘About Us’ page

Without a doubt one of the most exciting parts of starting up a new brand, if not the most exciting part, is getting the opportunity to tell the world about it. About your vision.

It’s like having a baby – you want the world to know.

You want the world to know your new brand’s name, its mission, its story, what it’s about, what it stands for, who it’s for, how it started, why it started, and so on.

It always blows my mind therefore, when I’m asked to review a new brand’s website, only to find that it has absolutely no ‘About Us’ page. When I encounter this it tells me immediately that the brand’s creator isn’t at all focused on building a brand.

Otherwise, they would be talking about it.

Rather, their focus is on selling stuff.

If that’s your focus then forget about branding. Just hit up a clothing wholesaler for a few boxes of blanks, get them printed somewhere, and head down to your local weekend markets.

Even Nike, a Lovemark that needs no introduction, has a comprehensive ‘About’ section on its website. It uses it to inform its followers about everything that’s happening with the brand.

For any aspiring Lovemark, the ‘About Us’ page really is the heart of its website. It should convey to the visitor everything about the brand, and it should do it with enthusiasm and passion. This is how deep connections with the customer are established.

10. Selling before branding

This typical mistake follows on from the previous one in that it involves the neglect of the brand’s identity and the brand’s connection with its customers. It applies far more to the brand’s social media however than to the website itself.

Although it may seem counterintuitive to the uninitiated, the fact is that a Lovemark’s first priority is not to make sales. A Lovemark’s first priority is to create and nurture its relationship with its customers.

Sales then follow as a natural consequence of this. And for a new brand, it happens in due time.

Brands that don’t understand this will generally use their social media purely as a sales tool to promote products, rather than using it as a tool for creating brand awareness, connecting to followers, and building a community.

This is quite a common mistake I see among new start-up brands.

As I talked about in earlier points, they will also build a website completely devoid of anything to do with the brand and its identity. It will simply showcase their clothing, branded with their logo, and expect people to buy.

That’s not going to happen.

It’s important to understand that as long as your online audience knows nothing about your brand, even if it has an interest in the area your brand targets (surfwear, for example), it won’t be the least bit inclined to rep your clothing.

Why would they?

Why would they endorse a brand by wearing its gear, when they know absolutely nothing about it?

Especially when there are other cool, established brands out there that they would be proud to associate with.

As far as social media goes, the majority of posts – eighty to ninety percent – should relate to the brand itself, its founders, its story, what the brand is doing, and so on. Only one or two posts in ten should be promoting products.

Connections before transactions – that’s the Lovemark way.

I like to illustrate it this way: imagine you’re going out with a girl for the first time. She’s not going to fall for you just because you’re a golfer. Or a surfer. Or because you believe in environmental conservation.

She’s going to want to know all about you and what makes you, you. What makes you unique, and what you stand for. She’s got to know you before she can like you.

It’s the same for a brand. First and foremost, you need your audience to fall for you.

This is why an identity is essential, and why it’s important to spread it via posts on social media. Lots of cool, shareable content. Lots of posts about the brand. And just occasional promotional posts.

As I said, think about making connections before making sales.

You’ll notice, however, that many established brands don’t always seem to follow this rule. Supreme, for example, posts almost exclusively to promote its products.

Understand that big Lovemarks like this grow the brand’s recognition in many other ways. They’re also so strong they no longer need to work hard on connecting with the customer through social media. They’ve already “made it”.

That’s certainly something that you can aspire to, however in the beginning every brand needs to earn its stripes the hard way.


Building a brand is one of the most challenging ventures anyone could ever attempt in business. You won’t always get it right from day one. It’s on ongoing process of constant corrections and improvements.

As I mentioned, none of the ten mistakes that I’ve listed above can be tolerated in your brand if you’re serious about achieving success.

Even once you’ve eliminated each one however, you can and should always continue to improve in each area.

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