Is your new website a gorgeous masterpiece or a horror show? The worst Web design mistakes made by novices using online website builders usually boil down to these common issues.
1. You’re using outdated design techniques
Trends fall in and out of fashion for a reason, and what may have been considered a gorgeous site in 1997 is now considered a travesty. Poorly designed websites are usually those that fail to keep up with the times by using elements that readers have shunned.
- Adobe Flash and Animations: Designers hate Flash. Besides the fact that it’s bad for security reasons, it’s terrible for search engine optimization (SEO) as search engines like Google can’t read Flash and therefor are not able to determine what your site is about and how to rank it. Flash is also bad for mobile navigation, as Apple devices will not be able to view it.
- Background Music: This practice, once considered cool, has gone the way of the dodo. Besides it being considered annoying today, the way users navigate has changed: Many people open several tabs at once. Being suddenly blasted with noise and then trying to find the little icon to close the right tab is a bad way to be remembered.
- PDFs: A PDF usually takes longer to load and is not mobile-friendly. In an increasingly mobile-driven world, having content that’s difficult for about half of your browsers to read is a bad idea.
- Animated Cursors, Bright Backgrounds, Buttons, and Drop Shadows: There are some things that should stay in the 1990s along with scrunchies and spandex, people.
2. You’re dumping important information where ads normally live.
Eye-tracking studies have uncovered what marketers refer to as banner blindness. In other words, readers online tend to not even look at display advertisements, usually in the top banner and side banners. Avoid placing your most important information in areas most often occupied by ads; the most poorly designed websites put many of their eggs into that never-looked-at basket. In an ideal world, you’ll be able to place your most important information accordingly by anticipating where one’s eyes will naturally land on the page first. Some A/B testing of different design theories may help with that, but one rule is certain: Don’t put information somewhere that people subconsciously and consistently avoid.
3. Your site is just plain ugly.
Sure, there’s a huge gradient between sleek, elegant, modern sites and sites so bad that they might cause seizures. Many of the most egregious design issues can be solved by just using a good website builder. But even with automated assistance, there are ways to fail.
- Bad Stock Photos: Stock photos online are sometimes like the equivalent to infomercials on TV: fake, uncomfortable, unpleasant, and often resulting in not as many sales as you’d think.
- Bad Color Scheme: You don’t need to take a course in web design to know that red font on an orange background is a bad idea.
- No Negative Space: Make sure the site doesn’t look cluttered by avoiding overloading people with too much information at once. There should be a good amount of blank space, or negative space, for the eye to move around.
4. No one can (or wants to) read your content.
It’s important to have not only words on the page but the right words, designed in a way that’s both legible and appealing. Good design makes your text worth reading.
- Mosaic-like Typography: Not all fonts belong on your website. Choose one or two fonts for your site and stick with those; 1,000 fonts make things hard to read. And unless you’re a daycare or elementary teacher, forget about comic sans.
- Small, Hard-to-Read Type: Test your design and font sizes on monitors with different resolutions as well as on mobile screens. Can you still read the page as easily on your iPhone as you could on your desktop?
- Big Blocks of Text: Web writing is very different from print writing. The text should be easy to quickly scan. Headings and subheadings can help break it up.
- Barely Any Text: People love negative space and artful photography so much so that they sometimes go too far in the opposite direction, barely including any text at all. Sure, we all love snappy copy like “change your business strategy overnight” or “master your time,” but that doesn’t tell anyone what the website is about.
- Unclear Voice/Purpose/Goals: Users should be able to answer the “who,” “what,” “when,” “where,” and “why” questions within a few seconds of clicking around and scanning. Who are you? What do you want from a visitor? Make it clear. At the very least, include “contact us” and “about us” pages.
5. It’s impossible to navigate.
Your site might be beautiful, trendy, well-organized, and full of great content, but if users can’t navigate it without thinking hard, it will fail. Keep it simple!
- No Breadcrumbs: “Breadcrumb trails” are secondary navigation schemes users need to move forward and backward in a site. Most website builders will recommend them.
- Inconsistent Interface: It’s fine (sometimes) for your homepage to be a little bit different-looking than your subpages, but your subpages shouldn’t differ from each other that much. Your navigation bar should stay largely the same across your website to avoid confusion.
- Difficult-to-Use Contact Forms: For many, the call to action (CTA) is the money-maker on the site and usually consists of some type of lead-generation form. One of the most costly web design mistakes is to make a hard-to-find or hard-to-use form.