The Biggest Mistake I Ever Made with My Web Site

By Alyssa Gregory

I was looking through the history of my web sites on the Wayback Machine recently. After having a good laugh, I started thinking about some things I could have done or could still do better with my current sites. One of the biggest mistakes I ever made, although it has been rectified, still haunts me.

My Biggest Mistake Was…

It’s a little embarrassing to admit that I just recently started providing a free download to site visitors as a way to share knowledge, gauge interest and request names and addresses for future communication.It’s arguably more of a lost opportunity than an obvious mistake, but is still something that makes it on my “should have known better” list. Especially when you consider that I regularly advise my own clients on the value of providing downloads and capturing email addresses of interested parties. Oops.

tip: Back to the Future

If you haven’t checked out the timeline of your sites lately, I highly recommend it. Not only is it great comic relief, but you can review your progress, see what’s changed, learn from your mistakes, and brainstorm new ways to continue moving forward.

Of course, I have made (and still make) my share of mistakes — on my web site, in my business and in life. In fact, some of the other web site-related mistakes I’ve made include skimping on SEO, not bothering to validate the site after major overhauls, and not checking links as often as I should. Ahh…live and learn, right?

Your Turn

Okay, now it’s time for you to share your biggest web site mistake so we can spread around the shame and regret. What’s tops your list or gives you the biggest laugh when you look back?Image credit: eyebiz

  • Kaje

    Not proof reading the material (text) a client gives you for their website, can make a huge impact on people viewing the site for the first time. Take the time to spell check or make critical grammar checks, if not by your web designer (because that is not really their job) have the client hire a copywriter.

  • Lis

    My biggest mistake was hands down NOT having a method to contact me (form, etc) on my site. As an indie you would think I’d want people to go to my site, see my work, like what the see, then give me business. Can’t really give me business if they can’t get in touch with me. DOH!

  • mahen23

    My codes were all vulnerable to sql injections. Fortunately:

    1. It was in the back office
    2. The website has very little hits
    3. Am not paid enough to do it.

  • http://www.aplossystems.co.uk AplosSystems

    I would have to agree with Kaje, that is one of my biggest mistakes. Forgot to proof read some material I was given, site went up live and there was a lot of grammar and spelling mistakes.

  • Gtipete

    One of my biggest mistakes is coding websites for people who know what they are doing. Needless to say, clients get up to some outrageous and down right idiotic things once websites are handed over…

    WYSIWYG editors dont help, but you would think that any sensible person would avoid setting font sizes at microscopic levels…. Nope.

  • Meginoz

    My very first website – build in FrontPage, with text copy-pasted from Word. But I learned fast – after rebuilding the whole site 3 times.

  • Anonymous

    The biggest mistake I’ve ever made with my own personal website is to put it on the back-burner for other projects. Every web designer should have his own tree fort and unfortunately, my financial situations determined that projects constituted higher priority.

    Fortunately, my financial situations are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. :.)

  • praetor

    I’ll trade your biggest mistakes with mine. Mine were: spending too much time developing (around 9 months) and trying to please everybody.

  • http://www.deanclatworthy.com Dean C

    I’m a programmer. My worst mistakes have been coding errors :)

  • http://www.keithics.com keithics

    mine was that I forgot to check it with IE. The site was a total mess in IE6.

  • http://www.avertua.com Alyssa Gregory

    Some good ones here! And yep, I’ve made 1 or 2 (or 5) of these myself. Thanks for sharing, everyone. Sharing the pain definitely helps alleviate some of my shame and embarrassment! :-)

  • http://www.myspace.com/pas_non pas_non

    ha! my learning process was littered with them. here’s the WYSIWYG-specific ones: not explaining the WYSIWYG enough (for example, stressing they NEVER paste from Word EVER! ;), not limiting styles available in the editor (bright yellow Comic Sans, anyone?), and not planning out code around the editable portion well (ex. figuring out the best way to preserve positioning of a large area while letting them update freely – without needing to use divs or tables in the editor – this can be a disaster and huge waste of time if left unchecked!)

  • mattymcg

    My biggest mistake was massively, massively underestimating a project, and then having to work ridiculous hours and go with zero sleep for three weeks to get it even remotely close to being done. I got there in the end, but my health suffered for a while!

    • borreztuff

      This was my mistake/nightmare as well. Only difference it felt like working for free for months, my worst experience ever saying “I’ll stop working on your site till you say it’s perfect” that’s the first and last time I’ll ever pronounce those words again.

  • rossnaumov

    My biggest thing was not doing a x browser check! *(agree with keithics post) but I’m still learning and making mistakes. Every client is different which means there’s always something you’re not prepared for which in turn can turn a simple, straight forward project into a nightmare… just when you think you’ve conquered all :)

  • Matt

    Wow. Was not providing a free download to you visitors really your “biggest mistake?” That’s pathetic.

    When I created my (personal) website back in ’97, I knew very little about web design. How little? Well, let me put it this way. It was a few years before I discovered the table tag. I had white text on a black background. And did I mention I used frames? Needless to say, the first few versions of my site were awful.

    Yet I was able to attract a fair amount of visitors to the site, including the interest of a writer for the Washington Post.

    • Anonymous

      Ha, I’m sorry to say Alyssa, but I’d have to agree that your “biggest mistake” was a bit of a let down. Some good ones in the comments though. I’d say my biggest mistake was thinking I could count on Facebook to deliver a reliable API. Wrong!

  • arts-multimedia

    My own portfolio site in 1998 was completely over-designed with illustrations. I wanted to show off my skills as an illustrator in those days and looking back on it, it was a horrible amateurish job, yet I remember I felt proud at the time. I think that is even worse ;-)
    My art site was OK. Not too much irrelevant stuff, it got over 10 web awards, which was a way to get lots of traffic in those days. A lot of traffic for me was 1.000 visitors a month. Kind of sad, really. Oh, and I had a hit counter!
    A shame the waybackmachine doesn’t show background images, though. I used loads of them. ;-)

  • ahallicks

    I noticed yesterday that my whole commenting system didn’t work, and hasn’t worked for a while. I did wonder why I hadn’t got any comments for a while, it turns out that (thanks to an E-Mail from my contact form) an update I had made to my javascript had prevented being able to submit the comment form!


  • langsor

    I think my biggest mistake was doing web site projects for friends of the family on the cheap. Which dovetails into my real biggest mistake being *not charging enough for my work*.

    My second biggest mistake would be reinventing the wheel when it comes to back end coding.

    * of course I’ve done the beveled buttons, Flash intros, inaccessible JavaScript features, cliche magnifying glass, and all that, having been building sites since ’98.

  • Sal

    Two mistakes come to mind…

    1. Back in 1999, I forgot to close a tag, and didn’t bother to check in NetSCRAPE. In that browser, nothing showed up due to the missing tag.

    2. In 2001, I got too cute with iconography as navigation. It backfired. Most people didn’t “get it”.

  • Stevie D

    My biggest mistakes were a couple of sites I made at university (about 11 years ago), when I used frames to get a snazzy fade down the side and across the top of the page. At the time, I thought it was the bees’ knees and the dogs’ wotsits, and it was only afterwards that I realised what an awful design it was. And that’s before you get to the use of tags to apply all the styling, mark up headings, etc….

  • Lee R.

    My biggest mistake was with my personal website. I had a form on my contact page with the standard text fields: name, email, and message. Yet, forgot to have the name and email information sent to me. So, I would just get messages and have no way to return them since I had no idea of who sent it and what their email address was. Needless to say I’m currently redesigning my personal site now – with Joomla this time! :-)

  • serge@derhy.com

    My biggest mistake was to do it myself !

  • http://www.lunadesign.org awasson

    I’ve made a few mistakes with our website…
    1) One of our earlier sites was vulnerable to SQL injection. Fortunately before anything happened, someone here at SitePoint let me know and it was a simple fix.

    2) We moved servers and broke a secondary contact page when our site was bigger. Eventually someone let me know and I fixed it.

    3) More recently, I had been ignoring SEO and the need for fresh content in our news article feed that populates the front page. This resulted in our site slipping from #1 or #2 on certain search terms down to about #20. Since then, I’ve made some changes and added some content so we’re slowly moving back up but it’s taken a few weeks to move from the middle of page 3 to the top of page 2. My goal of course is to be back on top of page 1.

    I think those are the top 3 items.

    The 4th is not redesigning the site for many, many years.



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