10 Website Design Mistakes That Hurt Your Business And Brand
A picture speaks a thousand words, and nowhere has that truism ever applied more strongly than in web design.
First impressions matter too much to ignore in the digital era, where page loading speed alone can deter visitors.
Still, web design spans across too many principles for one to get everything right.
As regards simple visual identity, consider logo design and visual choices, visual identity consistency, and so on.
On the technical side, consider Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) adherence, mobile-friendliness, Core Web Vitals and Page Experience, and more.
Consider the User Experience (UX) and the customer journey, Call to Action (CTA) placement, and others from a marketing standpoint.
It is simply too much to always keep an eye on.
Oversights will inevitably slip through and pile up into website design mistakes that hurt your business and brand.
To help you identify them, let us explore the most common and substantive among them, contextualise them, and offer solutions.
Qualities of great website design
First, let us briefly discuss web design qualities that enhance a website. To do so, we’ll consolidate qualities high-converting websites exhibit and then use them to extrapolate website design mistakes.
#1 Speed and responsiveness
Before visitors even lay eyes on a website, its loading speed has already made an impression on them.
The average user expects 3 seconds or fewer loading times and won’t wait much longer than that. Indeed, Google’s research finds that slower speeds strongly correlate with higher bounce rates:
This expectation doesn’t diminish once visitors reach a website either; they expect responsiveness throughout their experience. Google’s Web Core Vitals delves into this metric substantially, as we’ll cover next.
#2 Visual appeal
Such qualities aside, visual appeal, from effective logos to overall style, plays a fundamental role in satisfying and courting visitors.
This will, of course, differ among industries, brands, ideal customer segments, and more, but it warrants attention as a quality nonetheless.
Elements that inform immediate visual appeal include, among others:
- Logo design. The spearhead of branding, the logo is a fundamental element of a brand’s visual identity. Few elements will diminish visitors’ trust in conducting business with a brand as swiftly as an unprofessional logo.
- Headers. The zigzag, “Z”, and “F” eye patterns share a common element; the human eye starts at the top. A lean and clear header will first welcome your visitors’ eyes and help make an excellent first impression.
- Style and tone. Various other elements fold into what we colloquially call “style,” which resonates differently with different visitors. Colour choices, contrast, alignment, font colour and size, shapes, textures, and proximity all blend to allure the viewer – if successful.
There are, of course, other design choices across pages and content that also deserve consideration, as we’ll cover below.
Past visuals, a high-performing website must offer exceptional ease-of-use.
Consider drop-down menus, HTML sitemaps, search bars with keyboard focus, and similar elements as components of this quality.
Yet, some of the most common website design mistakes revolve around overlooking this simple polish.
Beyond basic UX enhancements, ease-of-use overlaps with such elements as mobile-friendliness – a crucial metric when mobile traffic exceeds desktop traffic.
Achieving it also entails design simplicity, which helps with visual appeal and responsiveness.
Finally, ease-of-use also shares another curious relationship with visual appeal; the aesthetic-usability effect. Citing the case study of Fitbit, Nielsen Norman Group explains:
“The aesthetic-usability effect refers to users’ tendency to perceive attractive products as more usable. People tend to believe that things that look better will work better — even if they aren’t more effective or efficient”.
On to content, products, and the context of both, ample design choices also affect perceived page and site value.
Human visitors and Google sincerely appreciate immediate reassurance of value through its SEO ranking factors.
Among elements that ensure this quality, consider the following:
- Quality visuals. Stock images can certainly help break down long content but only serve that purpose. Quality, relevant visuals such as infographics enrich UX – and present SEO opportunities via keyword use.
- Product descriptions. Similarly, product descriptions should offer accuracy with minimal fluff and keyword stuffing. Design-wise too, both placement and access across product variations will directly affect UX.
- Social proof. Finally, reviews, testimonials, and similar social proof serve as excellent endorsements – almost as valuable as ones from your visitors’ peers. Featuring them prominently will directly affect sales, and content marketers can even use extensive ones to produce more content.
Naturally, different customer segments will deduce value in different ways. Therefore, to avoid potential website design mistakes, consulting your analytics should always come before any adjustments in this area.
#5 Marketing effectiveness
Finally, all successful websites design around maximising marketing effectiveness. This most certainly begins with performance, visual appeal, usability, and value demonstrations but ultimately needs to end with conversions.
A simple way to explain this lies in the customer journey and how web design augments it.
A fundamental tenet of content marketing holds that content structure must facilitate a desirable customer journey, nudging the user down the sales funnel while offering value in the process.
This must inform site architecture, internal links, breadcrumbs, and more, ensuring a pleasant visitor experience bears fruit for the business.
This kind of perspective fuels UX and fosters deep relationships beyond an initial website visit.
As Don Norman, co-founder of the Nielsen Norman Group, explains, “UX is everything” – including the journey a website offers:
10 Website design mistakes that hurt your business and brand
With this cursory, but hopefully sufficient, introduction, we should now have established those universal qualities that make good websites tick.
So, which website design mistakes most typically or most substantially sabotage them?
In no particular order, spanning all 5 of said qualities, let us present our ten picks.
#1 Sluggish speeds and unresponsive pages
As we’ve established above, informing your users’ first impression and loading speeds are crucial.
Responsiveness also drastically affects UX, as unresponsive designs can frustrate visitors into leaving too early.
Not very coincidentally, these qualities, along with visual instability, make up Google’s aforementioned Core Web Vital metrics as well:
Granted, it seems Google is currently working on replacing FID – but its replacement too will gauge responsiveness.
Typical oversights in this regard include the following:
- Heavy themes and plugins. In pursuit of functionality and visual perfection, web admins may hamper their loading speeds through such heavy assets. To avoid this, carefully gauge each theme’s and plugin’s benefit against its performance cost before committing to it.
- Unoptimised images. Similarly, large image files will visibly affect loading speed and responsiveness. In this regard, remember to compress image files to under 100kB according to SEO without compromising quality.
- Overlooking caching. Finally, dynamically generating lots of content can strain your server and reduce loading times. To bypass this, consider serving visitors cached pages where possible.
#2 An unimpressive logo
Past loading hurdles lacklustre logos are among the worst website design mistakes that hurt your business.
The impact of a brand logo cannot be overstated; it encapsulates your brand identity before all else.
Logo design is, of course, such a broad subject that it requires many articles to cover. In this one’s context, then, we may highlight the most common mistakes in this area:
- Colour and shape choices. These two elements essentially compose every logo’s element, and each carries its own connotations. Consider the psychology of colours, your audiences’ sensibilities, and how the two align toward your intended brand identity.
- Readability. Logos typically include text as well, and its readability is paramount. Consider contrast, font, and placement to ensure this quality.
- DIY blunders. Finally, many emerging businesses try to tackle this issue by themselves. While undoubtedly possible with enough in-house designer talent, DIY very often leads to oversights and mistakes.
Should you need more information on this subject, you may consult our aforelinked articles on it. For a digestible colour psychology map, we may cite the following by FabrikBrands:
#3 Lack of contact information
A much more manageable issue to tackle, albeit still quite common, lies in the simple lack of accessible contact information.
Visitors must always have the option to contact you, from your main page to subsequent pages of interest.
First, examine your header – as your visitors will correct this oversight. If it doesn’t feature your Contact Us page, that’s a lost opportunity for communication.
Next, examine your footer; it features your Name, Address, and Phone number (NAP) information? Your visitors will often seek your sitemap there so that you may leverage this as well.
Finally, remember to have your content link to it whenever appropriate. Product pages, informative blog content, and even landing pages might serve this purpose well to augment the customer journey.
#4 Intrusive pop-ups
Next, you may examine your pop-ups. These aren’t just notoriously annoying for your visitors, but Google frowns upon them as well.
Ample research proves the former, even if they do still work marketing-wise. As regards the latter, consider how intrusive interstitials inform page experience, right next to Core Web Vitals:
That said, both abandoning them entirely and leaning on them firmly are common website design mistakes that hurt your business. The former will reduce your engagement, while the latter will hamper UX and incur ranking penalties.
The critical adjective here is “intrusive”; consider such elements as:
- Timing. Consult your analytics to determine the best timing for your visitors.
- Size. Examine how much they interrupt your users’ browsing experience.
- Value. Evaluate what they offer and whether it makes sense in the page’s context.
#5 Busy designs
Briefly returning to the basics, one of the most common web design mistakes is busy, overbearing designs. Yes, some audiences will prefer more visual stimulation than others, but overly busy designs actively sabotage your website.
For one, visual overstimulation reduces readability. This neither offers value to your reader nor does it highlight your intended customer journey.
Moreover, it often denotes unprofessionalism. Any website that seeks to inspire trust should offer clean messaging and minimal visual clutter to do so.
To avoid this, you may begin by adopting a more minimalist design philosophy overall. Mobile-first design, in particular, embraces this, as it accounts for less screen real estate.
You may also use heat maps to gauge visitor behaviour for more accurate insights. If you suspect this element drives them away, A/B test simpler designs and adjust accordingly.
For a visual example of this type of web design, we may present the following:
#6 Counter-productive or cheap visuals
On the subject of visuals, here we may compile some relevant website design mistakes that hurt your business and brand. To explain this choice, these all largely fall under the umbrella of visual use and quality.
- Stock images. While sometimes helpful toward readability, stock images don’t offer value beyond that. If you can produce them, strongly consider using such valuable visuals as infographics instead.
- Image distribution. Even as regards enhancing readability, you should smoothly set images apart. Distributing images across pages will serve much better than piling many close together.
- Image relevance. Abstract images and illustrations should ideally be highly relevant to their contextual content. Wherever possible, establish your visuals’ purpose and use them appropriately beyond visual filler.
Finally, another appropriate oversight regarding visuals comes with CTA-adjacent clutter, as we will cover in its section below.
#7 Poor content readability
Before we do, let us conclude with content readability as its own entry. As we’ve established, content readability is a quality worth striving for, for both UX and marketing effectiveness.
Those above aside, you may examine your layout choices for such elements as:
- Font size and contrast. Your website should offer a highly readable font that contrasts nicely with its background. SEO suggests that this alone will immensely enhance readability if you produce longer content.
- Scannability. Regardless of length, all but truly bite-sized content should be highly scannable. Break up long sections with h2s and h3s that accurately convey their content, and use bullet lists where appropriate.
- White space. To enhance both, examine both micro and macro white space to make your content easier on the eyes. The former describes the space between lines and paragraphs, and the latter between major layout elements.
The very article you’re reading may serve well as an example of both types of white space.
Next, we may return to website architecture from content navigation to website navigation. Understandably, a logical, concise website structure will ease navigation and please your visitors.
Of course, the foundation toward this lies in your overall website architecture, how each category and subcategory logically connects to the next.
In the article above, Alexa offers a simple illustration of this:
In addition, you may offer your visitors an HTML sitemap in your footer, as highlighted above. Offering breadcrumbs can also enhance navigation, as they will let them know where they are within your website.
Finally, you may ensure all pages are linked to other relevant pages.
- For SEO, this will help ensure that no pages are left orphaned.
- For your visitors, it will offer them more contextual value.
- For you, it will help guide them down your intended path and toward conversion.
#9 Misplaced or ineffective CTAs
Should your efforts thus far bear fruit, your CTAs will finally attempt to convert your visitors. Perhaps unsurprisingly, here lie some of the most crucial website design mistakes that hurt your business and brand.
CTA optimisation too warrants its own articles to cover, so here we may cover three among the primary oversights:
- Copy. Weak copy can severely diminish the effectiveness of CTAs. Keep them brief and straightforward, ensure proper contrast, and use action verbs to incite action.
- Value. Compelling CTAs swiftly demonstrate your value’s offer. Examine how they present it, which pain points they address, and how well their surrounding content frames them.
- Placement. Visual clutter can draw visitors’ attention away from CTAs. Use heat maps and other analytics tools to deduce if your CTAs need more space to breathe.
In particular, a common suggestion regarding page placement is to present CTAs early. While generally applicable, consider Joshua Turk’s suggestion to have offer complexity inform it as well:
#10 Brand identity inconsistencies
Finally, an overarching website design mistake may occur when one expands their online presence or attempts to rebrand.
Successful branding requires nothing short of perfect visual consistency to consolidate a brand’s identity.
To prevent this issue, scout every platform with an online presence. Examine your logos, visual and stylistic choices, and even your copy and tone – and align them to the letter.
As you do, you may want to examine your NAP, opening and closing hours, and other crucial information. Inconsistencies in this regard can only damage your business.
While not strictly a design oversight alone, this oversight too can prove very costly. If you’ve put in the effort to address all else thus far, this too should warrant close inspection.
In summary, web design is so expansive that website design mistakes that hurt your business and brand are almost inevitable.
They may span across technical issues, hampering your website’s speed and responsiveness – and your visitors’ UX in the process.
They may dissatisfy on a strictly visual level through busy designs and poor content readability. They may even sabotage your marketing efforts through suboptimal CTAs and brand identity inconsistencies.
Thankfully, most such issues have simple enough solutions for the inquisitive eye, and proactive measures can help avoid most.
Others will somewhat hinge on your unique audiences and needs, so your analytics will advise you best.
While by no means exhaustive, this article hopefully helped you identify some early and tackle them effectively.
Should you need additional assistance with your web design endeavours, please don’t hesitate to contact us and request a quote.