Web design is like cooking — it may look easy, but it’s easy to get wrong. No microwave can make you a chef. Similarly, DIY website builders let you make costly mistakes. So Base22 kindly provided this infographic of ten common website design mistakes, and I’ve added a few more points below.
Ten Common Website Design Mistakes
Whilst DIY web design often makes these mistakes, so do inexperienced web designers. That’s why experienced professional web design is a better business investment, even in affordable web design packages.
Poor User Experience
Whilst user experience is also affected by most of the points below, visual design plays a big part too. It’s not just a matter of making things look pretty, either. Art makes things pretty — design makes them work. Whilst personal sites don’t really need to work, business websites do.
Your website is a mission-critical user interface that works closely with your business systems to create the overall user experience. So business websites must put the needs of the end-user first. DIY design makes that harder, as personal preferences get in the way. Experienced web designers see lots of detailed stats from many websites, as well as industry studies, that tell us what really works.
Web designers also consider things like colour psychology, layout, whitespace, affordance, cognitive load and more. This is harder than it seems. That’s why professional UI/UX design specialists exist.
Incorrect Access Levels
Many websites provide a login ‘portal’ for various reasons. Often though, different types of user need different levels of access. So it can be easy — and dangerous — to get these wrong. Some access levels can break or irrevocably destroy a site, either by accident, malice or just a lack of training. Some may also have access to sensitive data. So user groups need to be identified, and only given the permissions they need.
Equally dangerous — yet more common — is failing to secure these access levels properly. Weak passwords and outdated software are among the biggest website security risks. Still, other technical aspects are essential too, like installing SSL certificates and blocking known malicious “bots” — without blocking search engines, of course.
Low Quality Website Content
One of the most famous phrases in marketing is, “content is king.” Online, good content attracts visitors, as well as backlinks from other sites, which improves search positioning that delivers more free visitors. That’s why I was happy to share Base22’s infographic and link it back to their site, for example.
Still, content needs to be indexable, too — search engines need to be able to interpret it. As yet, that still makes text content more powerful than images. Even video content really needs to be backed up by text to reach its full potential.
So, readability and text structure are important, as is word count — search engines tend to see anything under 300 words as “thin content”, making it less likely to rank well. We used to think that folks wouldn’t read long articles online, but years of watching website stats has taught us otherwise. Articles with thousands of words are more likely to contain something of value — and that’s the critical point.
If creating quality content seems like a lot of work — well, it is. Yet it’s critical to your success. That’s why I provide content marketing services.
Too Much or Too Little Design
Yes, you can have too much design. Inexperienced web designers often focus on “innovative” visuals instead of helping you to achieve your business goals. Whilst nice visuals do matter, visitors to business websites are trying to solve a problem. Too much innovation gets in the way of that, confusing, frustrating, and ultimately driving away your prospective customers.
“Too little design” doesn’t mean minimalism, either. Done well, minimal layouts can be very effective. That’s not the same as careless design. Unlike art, design is driven by goals, rules and constraints. Whilst design “rules” are more like guidelines, they exist for good reasons. It takes time to learn when and how it is safe to break them.
No Clear Call To Action
Your website visitors may be smart, but they’re also busy. Don’t make them think about what to do next, or you’ll lose them. Make your call-to-action (CTA) obvious. Usually, that means big, obvious buttons and forms. Even on more informational pages like this though, it helps to remind your readers to get in touch with any questions.
Hidden Contact Information
Whilst most sites include contact information, it isn’t always very visible from the visitor’s point of view. A contact form alone isn’t enough. Listing phone, email and address information reassures visitors. If it matches the info on your Google My Business and directory listings, it also confirms to search engines that your site is trustworthy.
You may know how to find things on your site, but your visitors don’t. Even search engines give up if you use too many levels of sub-page, and menu titles that run into multiple lines just make your site look broken. Put some thought into your site’s navigation, so that your most important pages are easy to find.
Images make a big difference, but they need to match your message, and to look professional. Whilst most phones now have pretty good cameras, poor lighting, focus, backgrounds and composition can still make many shots unusable. Photshop can do many things, but it can’t work the miracles you see in TV dramas. The fastest, cheapest way to fix a poor photo is often to take a better one — or invest in professional photography.
Not Mobile Friendly
Compared to desktops, mobile devices have limited screen space, connection speeds, bandwidth quotas an processing power. Yet so many rely on them for internet access that your site’s search positioning now depends on how well it works on mobile devices. So experienced web designers usually create “responsive” layouts that work on desktop and mobile. Not all DIY website builders do, and I still see amateurs and print designers creating sites that aren’t responsive at all.
Hard To Read Fonts
Headings and blocks of text give a page visual ‘weight’, so typography can make a surprising difference to a site. Most importantly though, fonts must be readable. Fancy script fonts often obscure headings and fine-line fonts can almost disappear on the wrong backgrounds, or small, low-contrast or low-resoution screens. As you can see from the infographic too, text in images gets unreadable when the images are resized (so click here for a bigger version).
Not Integrating Social Media
Modern websites rarely stand alone. They are marketing hubs that gather visitors from various channels, including social media. So make it easy for visitors to share your site on social media, and follow your other channels. An editable website can be a great way to generate content for your social media channels, too.
Visitors won’t wait for slow websites, especially on mobile connections. So search engines promote faster sites. Optimising images can go a long way towards improving site speeds and SEO, but many other, more technical, issues can slow down sites too.
Those are just ten of the most common website design mistakes — there are plenty more. That’s why, for business websites, amateur or DIY web design is often a false economy. You’re competing with people who engage experienced professionals. By the time you’ve learned to do that effectively, the cost of your time and missed opportunities will far exceed the apparent savings.