A well-designed website is more than just a virtual storefront for small businesses. It’s a powerful gateway to success.
As technology continues to shape consumer behaviour and expectations, the significance of an effective online presence just can’t be ignored.
Whether you own a local bakery with the best vegan cupcakes around, are a financial planner in a big city putting together wealth portfolios that sparkle like gold, or you’re at the helm of a tech startup, your website serves as the digital face of your business, painting a picture of what you’re all about.
And yet, many websites are out there overtly flaunting design mistakes that make our graphic designers cringe with horror.
These errors, often springing forth from oversight or a need for speed, can seriously rain on the parade of potential growth and success that a well-crafted website promises.
Here’s a fun fact: 75 per cent of website credibility comes from design. That means three out of every four people visiting your website won’t take your product, service or cause as seriously as they should because of how the website is designed.
Let’s imagine you’re choosing between two restaurants. One has a welcoming entrance, clean tables and friendly staff. The other has a shabby exterior, cluttered tables and grumpy servers who seem to have forgotten how to smile. Which one would you trust more to serve you a delicious meal without any unwelcome surprises?
Yup. That’s what we thought.
From navigation menus that resemble a maze designed by a mischievous mouse to layouts so cluttered they look like the aftermath of a paper tornado, these missteps aren’t just speed bumps. They’re full-on roadblocks.
With that, let’s delve deeper into the top seven website design mistakes to avoid.
Mistake #1: Designing Without a Plan
Someone once said, “A website without a plan is like a ship without a captain; it drifts aimlessly.”
And it’s true! If you don’t take the time to plan your website, you’ll find yourself lost in a vast digital sea. Without a clear roadmap, your website may lack direction, purpose and cohesion. Know what that means? Users will struggle to navigate. And your message may get lost in the waves of confusion.
“Planning is an integral part of website development, regardless of the business or industry you work in,” explains Indeed. “Developing a detailed strategy can help you build a website that accomplishes your goals and increases customer retention and brand recognition.”
Start by defining your needs and objectives. What do you want to achieve? Whether it’s to inform, sell products, generate leads, or provide a platform for your community, knowing your goals is essential.
Clearly defined and measurable website goals are integral to the success of any company,” explains Clear Digital. “Too often, businesses push forward without having identified their specific website goals and objectives — only to run into trouble down the line when their site isn’t producing the results they expected.”
Equally crucial is gaining a deep understanding of your competitors’ strategies. Invest time in dissecting their approaches to pinpoint what resonates with their audience and identify areas that could be enhanced.
This will ultimately allow you to craft a website that stands out as distinct and competitive. Yes. It will take some work, but the insights you’ll gain are invaluable and will be well worth the effort.
We promise: analyzing the competition can unveil opportunities and provide a roadmap to outperforming them in the digital landscape. Here’s a checklist you can use as you do your online sleuthing:
- Analyze the Look and Feel
How does their website look? Is it attractive? Is it easy to find information?
- Check out Their Content
Do they provide useful information? Stuff that your customers would find interesting and useful? Is there a blog or news section?
- Look for Keywords
Can you spot any specific words or topics they talk about?
- Read Reviews
Are there customer reviews or testimonials? What are they saying? Look close enough and you’re going to find a TON of useful information here.
Mistake #2: Complex or Unclear Website Navigation Menus
“Good website navigation is an essential website feature,” explains Hubspot.
Should you fail to recognize its importance, a whole ton of things can go wrong. It’s like trying to assemble an IKEA bookshelf without the instructions.
There’s gonna be lots of confusion.
Tons of frustration.
And a pretty solid chance of your web visitors admitting defeat and just giving up halfway through.
And here’s why: people on your site expect to find the information they’re looking for quickly and easily. If your navigation menu is convoluted, confusing, or requires too many clicks to reach the pages they want to reach, users can become frustrated and impatient. This frustration can result in high bounce rates, where visitors leave your site without exploring further.
Just how impatient are we talking? Welp. Countless studies – and we mean countless – have indicated that folks these days are getting more and more antsy by the day. Just think about how being stuck in traffic for more than five minutes can leave you boiling like a teapot.
And you don’t want your website visitors red-faced and ranting when they’re on your site. Nope. Not a good thing. At all. ‘Cause if they can’t find what they’re looking for right away, you know where they’re gonna head?
Right on over to your competitors.
Think this is the only problem that comes with bad navigation menus? Think again!
You’re also looking at lost conversion opportunities. If your website’s navigation doesn’t guide users toward important calls to action (CTAs), such as signing up for a newsletter or making a purchase, you risk missing out on valuable conversion opportunities. A confusing menu structure might lead users away from conversion points, hurting your business goals.
Reduced engagement is another problem caused by poorly-planned navigation menus. Visitors are more likely to engage with your content if they can easily navigate to related pages, blog posts, products, or services. A complicated menu structure can hinder their ability to explore, reducing the time they spend on your site and decreasing the likelihood of them discovering valuable information. (In other words, the stuff and things that make them want to buy from you.)
Further, search engines like Google prioritize user experience. If visitors are leaving your site all the time because of navigation issues, search engines might interpret this behaviour as a sign of low-quality content or a poor user experience. And this means your website’s search engine rankings could suffer. This isn’t a good thing. It’s like setting up a lemonade stand in your dark and dank basement.
Nobody’s going to see you and you’ll be left with a whole lotta lemons.
So with that, we just know you’re going to want to know how to create a streamlined navigation structure.
Holly Hamilton, 1dea senior graphic designer, has some tips for you to keep in mind:
- When designing your website, it’s important to ensure your navigation (the menu) stands out from the page design. Avoid using white for your dropdown or mega menu if your background is primarily white. Instead, opt for colours that contrast against your page design, such as black or dark blue. If a white dropdown background is necessary, create contrast with an outline, drop shadow (this is like adding a virtual shadow to an object on a computer screen), or pattern.
- Ensure that your links are large and easy to click to make your navigation easier to use. Text links should be at least 16 pixels to meet accessibility standards, and links in dropdown menus benefit from a large hover state. In other words, make sure your links are big enough and simple to click on.
- When designing mobile menus, place the hamburger menu (three horizontal lines stacked on top of each other, resembling the layers of a hamburger) within a button or next to the word “Menu”. Some users may not know how to navigate the site without these contextual cues. Although a hamburger menu may suffice for most users, properly labelling your menu can help users complete their tasks more efficiently.
- When it comes to logo placement, it’s best to keep it in the left-hand corner of your navigation. While it may be tempting to experiment with different positions, sticking with a proven and effective placement is the best approach.
Avoid using a hamburger menu as the primary menu on your desktop site. While they’re helpful for users on mobile devices, they can slow down users and cause frustration on desktop/laptop breakpoints.
Mistake #3: A Cluttered and Chaotic Website Layout
We get it.
Your business? It’s top-notch.
And you’re bursting with information. Your business rocks this. It excels at that. It offers this service, and oh boy, that one too.
You want visuals.
The whole shebang. You’re aiming to create that jaw-dropping impact. To leave your visitors’ jaws hanging, to make ’em say, “Wow!”
But, here’s the kicker. When you cram way too much onto a webpage, guess what unfolds?
No, it’s not a standing ovation. Visitors won’t be blown away by your greatness. They’ll be more like… confused. Their eyes will be on an endless scavenger hunt. Where should they look? What’s the main deal here?
So, while the urge to dazzle is real, remember, less can truly be more. Instead of a cluttered circus, aim for a smooth, focused experience. Because, honestly, clarity and simplicity are the real head-turners.
Minimalist design is the way to go, explains Usability Geek. “Modern users tend to favour designs that focus on necessary components and eschew distracting bells and whistles. While it may sound counterintuitive, minimalist design can offer higher user engagement, better usability, and appeal that is more aesthetic.”
As a non-designer, you’re in all likelihood wondering what the heck “minimalist design” means.
As it happens, it’s exactly as it sounds.
Design that’s, well, minimal.
We’re talking things like:
- Lots of whitespace. Think of it as negative space, or breathing room, for your design. It’s the empty space around and between the elements on your page.
- Large images. They command attention and serve as a focal point.
- Bold typography. Typography is like choosing the right “outfit” for your words, making them not only readable but also adding style and personality to your message.
Even though minimalist design wields immense power, countless business owners still cling to the notion of “the more, the better.” But let us assure you, that’s not the golden rule. Pull the reins on that impulse. Pause and ponder what truly matters. Redirect the spotlight toward what’s essential.
Save the rest of the information for when you’ve secured that meeting. After all, you’ll have their undivided attention then, right?
It helps to establish a visual hierarchy. This essentially means arranging design elements in a way that guides the viewer’s eye through the content, emphasizing what’s most important and creating a structured flow of information.
Here’s Holly again with some of her super-helpful how-tos.
- When creating a website, it is crucial to prioritize the content that is relevant to the people who are going to be using your site. The design of the website can be utilized to tell a compelling story and direct the user toward the optimal solution for their concerns. However, many companies need help understanding what may be unclear to the user, especially aspects that are taken for granted within the industry. Each industry has its idiosyncrasies, and it can be difficult to explain concepts using plain language or determine which images would resonate with someone lacking prior knowledge or context. This is particularly evident in the navigation section of the website, where using industry jargon or links could discourage users from clicking on links, negatively impacting the website’s performance.
- Consistent typography can give the user clues about the most essential information. Good websites use six levels of headings. Big headings (H1–H3) are for important things, and smaller ones (H4–H6) are for less important details. This makes it easy for users to scan and find what they need on websites.
- For each section on the website, pick out the main point and emphasize it. This can be done by making it larger than the other elements in that section, more colourful, or using more colour contrast than the rest. Detailed elements such as illustrations, photos, or micro-interactions/animations can also be added to guide the user’s eyes to see the most important information first.
- At 1dea, we highly recommend using the AIDA marketing principles for conversion-focused website design. (We touch more on this in a bit). But for now, know this: the approach benefits your business and makes it easier for users to find what they’re looking for. To achieve the first step of this method (Attention), we suggest using captivating photos to pique user interest. It’s best to use real images of your product or service whenever possible. If that’s not an option, ensure that any stock photos you use appear genuine and accurately represent your message. According to studies by NNGroup, people tend to focus on images that convey important information and look authentic, while neglecting those that are stock photos added only for visual appeal. The key takeaway is to ensure that every image you utilize on your website serves a clear purpose beyond just looking visually appealing.
- To create clean and effective designs for your website, it’s best to limit the number of colours used. During the planning phase of your website build, we suggest defining a palette with two colours exclusively for calls to action and interactions, one for important conversion actions and one for general links. Additionally, you can add a primary site colour and roughly four secondary colours to the palette. By utilizing these selected colours, your website design will remain clean and uncluttered while enhancing the branding capabilities of the site.
Mistake #4: Making Poor Colour and Font Choices for Your Website
Let’s say you own a landscaping company.
Just as you wouldn’t plant bright red flowers in a serene, nature-inspired space, you’d also (likely) avoid using a colour like red as the dominant hue on your site. Bright red might evoke feelings of urgency or intensity, which doesn’t align with the chilled-out and natural vibe associated with landscaping.
Instead, you’d lean towards earthy, natural colours like various shades of green, brown and muted tones that mirror the colours of foliage, soil and stones. These colours resonate with your business’s essence. They connect with nature and create beautiful outdoor spaces.
Here’s what you need to know: colours can evoke major reactions from potential clients. In a big way.
Color selection can make a big impact on the reaction of your audience and how they feel about your product. It can provoke hunger, inspire trust or elicit a feeling of calm or excitement,” explains Rasmussen University.
Red, for example, is a colour of extremes. It can symbolize both love and passion as well as danger and urgency. It’s attention-grabbing and often associated with energy, power and excitement.
Blue, on the other hand, is known for its calming and trustworthy qualities. It’s often associated with stability, loyalty and professionalism. Many businesses choose blue as a central colour for their websites.
Naturally, the colour green is linked to nature, growth and freshness. It signifies health, vitality, and harmony. It’s a common choice for brands related to environment, health and well-being.
Yellow radiates positivity, optimism and happiness. It’s a colour that catches the eye and can create a sense of cheerfulness.
Gold is often linked to wealth, success and prestige. It’s a colour that adds a touch of luxury and sophistication, making your brand feel like the fanciest of fancy pants in the room.
The same thing applies when it comes to fonts.
Picture this: you’re designing a sign for your landscaping business. Would you choose a cursive font that resembles a handwritten script? Probably not. Cursive fonts might feel too delicate and ornate for a business centred around the outdoors and physical labour.
Instead, you’d opt for a font that’s more sturdy and straightforward. Fonts with clean lines and a touch of simplicity communicate professionalism and reliability. They’re easy to read and convey a sense of trust, something essential when potential clients are considering entrusting you with their outdoor spaces.
The colours and fonts for your website should be driven by your audience”, explains Media Training. “Who are they and what are they expecting from you? You need to create the right impression. These decisions and your overall brand will play a big part in whether your site visitors choose to purchase from you or not.”
Mistake #5: Too Much Website Text
You know that uncle you see at your family reunion? The one who wears socks with sandals and plaid shorts with suspenders, that just…
The one who drones on.. and on…and on about…well. You don’t know what.
‘Cause you tuned him out 10 minutes ago.
The same concept applies to the text, or what we call “copy” in the design world. Too much of it, and you’re going to lose the attention of your readers in a real hurry – just like ‘Uncle Rambling Shorts’ loses his audience when he starts his yearly monologue about the world’s most extensive collection of antique bottle caps.
Your website’s visitors will be clicking that metaphorical “exit” button if you overload them with paragraphs upon paragraphs of text.
So, take a lesson from family reunions. Keep it engaging, concise and focused. Your website visitors will thank you, and you won’t be left daydreaming about escaping to the potato salad either.
At 1dea, we write using the AIDA formula, which stands for:
And it’s a total powerhouse.
When you use this formula, you’ll capture readers’ attention, ignite their curiosity, stir their desire, and guide them toward taking the desired action, whether that’s booking a free demo, signing up for your newsletter or booking a seat for your next webinar.
As Trevor Trewartha, Strategic Director & CEO at 1dea explains,
When you use the AIDA model for copywriting and design on your website, you connect with your website visitor in a very powerful way. Start by grabbing their attention, that is, a motivation, desire or pain point. You then spend the bulk of your time on the page building up interest, and showing them how a product, service or solution is positioned to help them achieve their desired outcome. Tell a story that’s all about them; not about your business. Oh, and where does your business fit into this? Your website visitor can’t help but to understand that you’re the guide that can help achieve the transformation they desire. How could they not want to do business with you?”
Learn more about how to write website copy that sells, knowing that a website has less than 15 – count ‘em, 15 – seconds to grab your readers’ attention. You better use those seconds wisely.
Mistake #6: Thinking Website Speed Doesn’t Matter
These days, we’re all getting impatient.
And don’t say you’re not.
You know you’re impatient when it comes to being served pasta at your favourite restaurant because that garlic cooking in the kitchen smells soooooooo darn good.
You’re impatient when you’re waiting for the microwave to reheat last night’s fried chicken.
And you’re impatient when it comes to waiting for that sluggish elevator to finally arrive.
But take heart. You’re not alone.
The average attention span for humans is currently 8.25 seconds. Yep, that’s much less time than it takes to brew a cup of coffee.
So, it shouldn’t come as a shocker that when it comes to slow-loading websites, people bail.
According to BrowserStack, the answer to the burning question, “How fast should a website load?” is a resounding: ASAP.
And brace yourself – in the year 2023, the average desktop page loads in just 2.5 seconds, while the mobile version takes about 8.6 seconds. Yup, that’s quicker than you can say “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”
But what happens when your website is lagging like a tortoise in a race?
People don’t stick around for tea and biscuits. Nope, they hit the road, or in more relatable terms, they dash right over to your competitor’s website.
According to Website Builder Expert, load speed can make or break a website. It says:
1 in 4
visitors abandon a website that takes more than four – FOUR!!! – seconds to load.
46 per cent
of users don’t revisit poorly performing websites
If that isn’t enough to make you want to channel your inner Usain Bolt, we don’t know what will.
So what are some things you can do with your website design to ensure your website can keep pace?
- Image Optimization: In your quest for a lightning-fast website, one crucial design element to consider is image optimization. Reducing image file sizes can significantly improve load times and enhance the overall user experience.
Now, you might wonder how to tackle this challenge. Fortunately, there are user-friendly tools available that make it super-easy. One such tool is tinypng.com, a go-to resource for many web designers and developers. It simplifies the process of compressing your photos without compromising on image quality.
By optimizing your images and utilizing tools like TinyPNG, you’ll not only boost your website’s speed but also ensure that your visual content remains crisp and engaging. It’s a win-win solution for both design and performance.
- Avoid using too many photos on a page. While photos are excellent for telling a story, breaking up the content and engaging your audience visually, an overload of images can slow down your website’s loading speed and overwhelm your visitors. And we don’t want that for your website!
Try your best to choose images that directly relate to your content and convey a clear message. Each photo should have a purpose, whether it’s illustrating a point, evoking an emotion, or enhancing the user experience.
It’s equally important to maintain a consistent style and quality of images throughout your website. A harmonious visual identity not only looks professional but also ensures that your pages load consistently fast.
Another trick of the trade is to get lazy. But not literally, of course! In the design world, we call it “Lazy Loading.” This is a technique that ensures images are only loaded when they come into view. This can significantly improve initial page load times, especially for longer pages with multiple images.
- Avoid overly complex designs. This can enhance the user experience. Think of it like arranging furniture in a room: cluttered spaces confuse people, while well-organized layouts make it easy to find what they need. Similarly, on a website, complex designs with too many elements, colours and features can overwhelm visitors, making it challenging for them to navigate, understand, or take desired actions.
Now, we have to say that you can still have a beautiful website loaded with graphic treatments. A good designer knows how to balance great graphic treatments with optimization for speed, ensuring that your site not only looks stunning but also performs seamlessly.
Make sure you collaborate closely with your designer to strike that perfect balance between aesthetics and functionality. By doing so, you’ll create a website that not only captures attention with its visual appeal but also provides a smooth and enjoyable experience for your visitors, keeping them engaged and satisfied. Remember, in the digital world, beauty and speed can go hand in hand when expertly designed.
Mistake #7: Disregarding Website Design Accessibility
Website accessibility is becoming increasingly important in 2023,” explains Forbes. “It is crucial for websites to be accessible to all users, including those with disabilities of all kinds. It allows them access to the same information and services that are available to everyone and includes things like news articles, online shopping, online banking, government services and more. By making websites accessible, we are ensuring that everyone has equal access to online content.”
There’s a growing number of people with disabilities. According to the World Health Organization and the CDC, 16 per cent of the world’s population have a disability. That’s over one billion people worldwide.
In other words, that’s over one billion people who might not be able to access websites that are not designed with accessibility in mind.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are a collection of technical prerequisites designed to ensure that web content, such as websites and web-based applications, can be accessed by users of all abilities. This encompasses individuals with disabilities who rely on assistive technology. The overarching aim is to establish a universal and consistent worldwide benchmark for web accessibility.
The standards are based on four principles:
- Perceivable: This means web content should be designed in a way that can be perceived by all users, regardless of their sensory abilities. This means providing alternatives for non-text content like images and videos so that users who cannot see or hear them can still understand the information they convey. It also includes using text that’s easy to read and ensuring that content is distinguishable from the background.
- Operable: This is about ensuring that users can interact with and navigate through web content effectively.
- Understandable: This involves using plain language and avoiding jargon that might be confusing. Instructions, forms and user interfaces should be straightforward, allowing users to understand how they work and what’s expected of them
- Robust: Focuses on creating web content that can be reliably interpreted by a wide range of user agents, including different browsers and assistive technologies
Before you choose a website designer, double-check that they’re familiar with WCAG standards, so you can ensure your website is inclusive and accessible to all users, regardless of their abilities or disabilities.
In the meantime, you should take some time to learn more about web accessibility guidelines.
Navigating the Website Design Process: You’re Now Ready to Avoid Common Blunders and Embrace Excellence
How many of these blunders are creeping into your website? Just one? A couple? Perhaps all of them?
It’s alright. There’s no better time than the present to turn things around!
Armed with the insights you’ve gathered here, you’re equipped with knowledge and primed to take those crucial initial steps to rectify these all-too-common website design faux pas.