10 Mistakes To Avoid When Designing a Website

Designing or redesigning a new website is exciting. Nothing is more fun to me than beginning a new project with a clean slate. Before you begin, it’s a good idea to try to figure out who your audience is and what they are looking for. Remember, rule number one is that you’re designing for your audience, not yourself.

Here’s a list of 10 common web design mistakes and some suggestions on how you can avoid them:

  1. Writing for the search engines – Search engine optimization (SEO) is hugely important when designing a new website, but you should always write for your audience first. Yes, basic on-page SEO should be taken care of, but don’t write your headlines or body copy with only SEO in mind. Put the user first!Google has gotten really good about detecting SEO tricks with their latest updates. Many of the tricks you’ve read about over the years no longer work. Writing for your audience should always be your #1 goal.
  1. Using bad stock images – Yes, we all depend on stock images from time to time for our websites. Hiring a photographer and getting the perfect shot is out of the reach of many companies. Using stock photography is ok; just make sure you’re picking the right images.

(We know these people don’t work at your office. And why are they all jumping?)

  1. Overuse of PDF files – Have you ever clicked on a link and unexpectedly opened a PDF file? It kind of kills the browsing experience. If you’re going to use PDFs, make sure you have a real reason that benefits your audience. Don’t use PDFs just because you have the content in that format and you’re too lazy to make it into a webpage.
  2. Opening new browser windows or tabs – As a general rule, never open a new browser window or tab unless you’re sending the user to another website that’s not your own.
  3. Poor readability – Your website is mostly about delivering your content in an easy-to-use manner. Make sure you have high contrast between your text and the background. Also, make sure your layout is uncluttered and distraction-free.
    People usually scan a website for a few seconds when first arriving. They make judgments in less than a second about whether or not they are going to stay on a site. Having a high-contrast website allows your visitor to scan easily and will lower your website bounce rate.
  1. Bad navigation – Nothing kills a website faster than poor navigation. If your user can’t figure out where to go within a second, chances are they are going to head for the back button. Just take a look at the Cal Tech It has four different navigations, and your eye bounces all over the page.Now check out the University of Nebraska website. It’s simple and clean. The navigation is easy to use and understand. Same industry, much better approach.

  1. No mobile optimization – This is a huge one and something I still see companies messing up on. Mobile accounts for 39% of all website visitors, and it’s STILL growing. If your website isn’t fully optimized for mobile, it’s time to fix the situation. There is no longer an excuse for your websites to not be mobile-optimized.
  2. Complicated forms – No one likes filling out forms—they are tedious and boring. Make sure to not add additional roadblocks. Every extra field you add to a form increases your drop-off rate. Do you really need to ask your visitor where they came from? You can’t discover that from your site stats? The more personal the questions, the bigger drop-off you’ll get.Check out this form from GoldKey Resorts. They ask things like your annual income and your marital status. Don’t you think that’s a little personal? Look, I understand that sometimes you want to qualify the lead so you’re not wasting your salesperson’s time, but this is too much too soon. Maybe you could at least split up the form into two pages and save the personal stuff for the second page. Better yet, figure out what’s REALLY important.
  3. No music please! – I see this on websites from time to time, and it’s annoying. Just because you can do something on a website doesn’t mean you should. Unless your name is Bono, please keep music off your site. If you really want to include the option, please don’t make it auto-play.Check out the website for Schloss Hotel (WARNING: AUTOPLAY SOUND) in Berlin. Nothing is better than secretly planning a romantic trip to a hotel for you and your wife while she’s asleep and having some loud music come on unexpectedly. It’s worse if you’re like me and keep 10 open tabs at a time and don’t know which one is playing the music.
  4. No way to get in touch – A study from SMB DigitalScape and BIA Kelsey found that 60% of all SMB websites have no contact information. Here are a few other amazing findings:
  • 60% didn’t include either a toll-free or local telephone number on their website.
  • Almost 75% were missing an email contact link.
  • Almost 66% were missing a contact form.
  • Just 20% of SMBs linked to their Facebook page and even fewer linked to Twitter or LinkedIn.I understand that they might not be able to list a phone number or want to give out their email address but not even a form… amazing! These days people expect immediate communication. Give them what they want.I hope you avoid these 10 mistakes on your next website or your current site’s redesign. Some might seem simple, but they are more common than you’d imagine.
Showing 8 comments
  • Duke Everhart

    Thanks for suggestions. Like some old school musicians and artists…its a slow learn curve techno wise. About to work on my first ever websites to promote music and yes..art. I know zilch about HTML. Too hard up for $$$ to afford a web designer so here goes….but My first music video has been viewed in 87 countries. That’s encouraging.

    • Rick Ramos

      Hey Duke, good to hear that your video is having some success. I think the best thing to do to learn web design is to view a lot of websites before you get started. If you need to learn about the fundamentals of good design, I would recommend you read “The Non-Designer’s Design Book” http://amzn.to/1FTvCwm

      It’s my favorite book on the subject. Good luck!

  • Reply

    Thanks for these excellent reminders! I think we lose objectivity of our own site. I hope mine is easy to navigate ! That’s what I was aiming for when I changed the home page but I have so much information on the site, it can be overwhelming for the first time visitor.
    What are your thoughts on the pop up email opt-in? I find it annoying b/c even if I’m already signed up on a site, it still pops up!

    • Rick Ramos

      Hey Lisa,

      Yea, pop-ups are a bit annoying but they do work. I’ve seen big brands use them, so you wouldn’t be in bad company.
      I’ll be using them on my site in the future. I did a redesign on my website earlier this year and just haven’t gotten around to adding them 😉

  • Brent Jones

    lol I love the point about music. It always baffles me when I visit a website and it plays music…

    • Rick Ramos

      The best is when your at the office and your speakers are accidentally on full blast 😉

  • Daniel

    Hi this is a good article, absolutely mobile design is key in this field and is growing rapidly. One other major mistake Ive noticed on many top end websites as well (which is surprising) is they often over complicate things and try to add to much jazz to a site to show of their skills. Sometime things can be shown in a professional manner but without the need to clutter and use every possible widget element under the sun.

    • Rick Ramos

      Agreed Daniel! All those things also slow down your site and effect your SEO

Leave a Comment

Say Hello

Always open to chat! Please no sales emails.

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt