Your website is often the first point of contact between your business and a potential client. As online competition heats up it’s becoming more important than ever to put your best digital foot forward online. Consumers have increasingly higher expectations of website quality and performance. You can ensure a great first impression by avoiding these common website design mistakes.
Mistake #1 – Websites That Are TOO MUCH
We’ve all stumbled onto headache-inducing, cluttered sites. These busy looking sites are jam-packed with images and text. There is just too much of everything going on at once, your eye isn’t sure where to focus.
Common contributing factors: Too many images. Big walls of text without paragraphs. Too many things flashing, moving, autoplaying… you get the picture.
Do the world a favor, don’t build an eyesore! Instead, learn to use white space generously to separate your text and other elements on the page. Embrace the idea that less is often more, your visitor’s eyes will thank you.
Here are some rules of thumb for streamlined web design that you can build by:
- Using more than two or three different fonts on a page is usually visually aggravating and distracting. As a general rule, you should choose one for heading text and one for body text and stick to them throughout your site.
- Don’t overuse wacky novelty fonts, they can distract from the substance of what the text is actually saying. Also, these trendy type of fonts don’t tend to age well, people get sick of them pretty quickly. Stick to the classic fonts with clean lines for timeless style and the best readability.
- Unless you are an old pro at color palettes, three or four colors for your palette is probably plenty. Don’t forget to include either white or another neutral to break things up visually on your page.
- Lack of contrast. A site that is too monotone can quickly render your text unreadable. Make sure your text stands out strong and clear against the background you have chosen.
Mistake #2 – Websites That Are Not Doing Enough
Remember when we said less is more? Well, that’s usually true unless your poor website visitors are stumbling around in the dark trying to figure out what your site is about.
Sure, edgy minimalism might be your aesthetic but consider that according to Statisticbrain.com the average person’s attention span is a paltry 8 seconds. If your site is an enigma wrapped in a riddle shrouded in mystery well… people may just leave without a second glance.
You can still build a minimalistic site, just make sure that the most important information that you want your visitors to see and know is immediately identifiable and easily digestible.
Mistake #3 – Botched Navigation Menus
Navigation menus can be a hotbed of design sins and poor user experience. On the one hand, you have very minimalist, non-descriptive menus that don’t tell the user anything much less offer any compelling reason to explore the other pages on a site. On the other hand, you see massive phonebook type menus that list every page of the site in alphabetical order and manage to be both overwhelming and less than useful for moving throughout the site.
The happy medium is to create descriptive menu items and group them in a relevant way, using categories and whitespace as needed for easier reading. So instead of this alphabetical kitchen sink list as a dropdown menu:
- Children’s Jackets
- Children’s Pants
- Children’s Shirts
- Men’s Jackets
- Men’s Pants
- Men’s Shirts
- Women’s Jackets
- Women’s Pants
- Women’s Shirts
- You’d have something like this:
Something else to keep in mind when considering your site’s navigation: keep the format simple; a fancy or quirky “non-traditional” menu might seem fun but if visitors find it confusing to use they may just click away to another site
Mistake #4 – Dropping the Ball on The CTA
A solid call to action (CTA) is usually the “end zone” of your webpage. It’s often the reason for your page to exist. The CTA is where you get the visitor to perform an action that benefits you such as opting in to your mailing list or clicking on that blessed buy button.
If you get just one thing right with your site, it has to be this yet too often the call to action is hidden, confusing or easily overlooked. Considering that your CTA might be directly related to the success of your website and/or business, this can become the most deadly of our common website design mistakes.
So how can you ensure that your call to action won’t go unanswered? Here are some guidelines:
- Your CTA should feature prominently on your page, it should be eye-catching and above the fold. When possible you should plan your page’s design around it. That usually works out better than to try to shoehorn a CTA into your existing (beautiful) design.
- Keep it simple! If a second grader can’t figure out what to do on the page then you’ve failed. Give clear instructions and use actionable language like Click here, go here, buy now.
- Make your buttons look like buttons! This applies to all of the UI web design elements on your page. People expect common elements like buttons, menus, and forms to work in predictable ways and look fairly standardized. Making UI elements easily identifiable leads to a better user experience every step of the way.
- Keep your forms short and sweet and don’t make your visitors jump through more than two hoops if you don’t want to risk losing them along the way. If the action you are calling them to take is too time-consuming, confusing or complex they may bail out mid-conversion.
Mistake #5 – Website Maintenance Neglect
It is absolutely scandalous how common it is to see signs of visible neglect on a website. This type of decay affects high dollar corporate websites just as readily as it affects smaller sites. It usually presents itself as broken links, outdated content, non-functional UI elements like contact forms and other scariness such as visible error messages. The signs of neglect are not just ugly, they can cost you money, traffic, and credibility.
So what leads to this and how can we combat it? Things break over time and your website is no exception. Perhaps your hosting provider does an update to their software that subsequently breaks the slider on your homepage. Or maybe the contact form plugin you are using is outdated and stops working. Murphy’s law tells us that if something can go wrong it will and so we must be prepared and vigilant.
The best way to ensure that your site stays beautiful and functional is to simply check it regularly. Scheduling a weekly or bi-monthly check up is smart. Set aside the time yourself or hire someone to regularly review each page of your site. Click each link, test each form, make sure the videos play, test any payment processes, etc. That way if there is a problem you are sure to catch it early.
Preventing and Correcting Common Website Design Mistakes
While it is simpler to avoid making these costly common website design mistakes while building a new website it is also possible to correct them on existing sites. One of the best ways to measure the quality of the user’s experience on your website is to ask users for feedback regularly. The people using your site are often the best possible experts to advise you on your web interface design.
If you talk to real visitors regularly, you’ll get insight into what may need to be updated or reworked so that your website always stays a cut above the rest.