In my work, I come across a lot of people who think website design is getting easier.

Platforms like WordPress and Squarespace are becoming more accessible, making building your own website easier than ever.

While it may seem to be more convenient to build a website yourself, it’s the same as designing your own logo, there is a greater chance you will make mistakes that could damage your brand.

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Imagine the time and money you spend building a website, especially if you have to learn how to do some of the more technical things, like adding in a slider, posting a video, or making it responsive. There are so many moving parts when it comes to a website — it’s not just about choosing nice images, or writing the content. When it comes to something as valuable and as key to your business as a website, and just like you’re branding, you don’t want to make mistakes.

In this post, I’ll show you how easy it is to avoid these “design-yourself” mistakes. My advice will help you increase the number of visitors coming to your site, and help you turn those visitors into paying customers.

No Visible Contact Details

Not listing your contact information is one of the most common website design mistakes. People hate digging around to find contact details. If I want to book a table at a restaurant in a strange city, or use my mobile to book on the go, the last thing I want to do is click around your website to try and find your phone number. So frustrating!

It makes sense to have your contact details, or, at the least, a link to your contact page visible. After all, your website is a sales tool and should be treated as such

The same thing goes for directions. Going back to the restaurant example, if I want to get to your restaurant, how do I do it? Where’s the nearest tube or bus stop to your establishment? Let me know! Show me a map.

This works well because:

  • I can decide if your location is suitable and fits in with my itinerary.
  • If I book a table, I’ll come back to your site later to find out where I’m going.
  • I can get directions from my hotel to your restaurant.

Homework Task

Are your contact details visible without having to scroll to find them? If not, is it easy to get to your “Contact” page? If your business relies on passing trade or face-to-face contact, make sure you add your contact details. Consider putting them in your header, footer or sidebar, or a combination of all three.

Lack of “Responsive Capabilities”

How many times have you had to “zoom in” on a website when browsing on your phone or tablet? And, how annoying is it when you have to do it on the go? Pinching to zoom in on a screen isn’t the easiest thing to do, especially on larger mobile devices.

What do I mean when talking about responsive web design and responsive capabilities?

There’s a way of building your website that allows it to be fluid and fit your content to any device. A responsive web design will present information in a readable way immediately, forgoing the need to pinch and zoom to see information clearly.

In early 2015, Google changed its search algorithm. This change encouraged users to make sure their website was responsive. Over time, it’s suspected that Google will start to decrease the rankings of websites that have not conformed, whilst increasing the rankings of those that have.

google

Homework Task

Test your website on a desktop computer, laptop, tablet, and mobile phone. Highlight the areas that don’t work or are difficult to read. From there, you have two choices:

1. Employ the services of a professional design agency or freelancer to either build a new website or work to redevelop your existing site into a responsive format.

2.Buy a responsive website template from a site such as Themeforest and apply it yourself.
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Hint: If you’re unsure how to choose a design agency to work with, here’s a handy blog post to help you decide.

Music and Videos That Play Automatically

If I land on a site that plays either music or a video as soon as I land, I hit the back button. This drives me nuts. I’m usually listening to something whilst browsing the web, so if something interrupts that, I’m out of there.

Here’s the deal:

When people visit your site, they don’t want to hear a soundtrack; they want a clean and simple website experience. Don’t overwhelm your customers!

The same goes for videos. With platforms such as Youtube and Vimeo, video has become more accessible on the web. But again, not everyone wants to see your latest promo or explainer video without asking for it.

But you should absolutely be doing video.

A better solution is to create a channel on a video hosting platform such as YouTube, then embed your video in a more elegant way.

Feel free to put your company video front and centre if you think that it will lead to a better customer experience. But don’t force people to watch it or have it start without them first requesting it.

Homework Task

Check if the media usage on your homepage is appropriate. If you have sound that automatically plays, get rid of it. Look at the biggest sites on the web like eBay, Amazon, and Apple. Are their sites loaded with auto-playing content? No! And yours shouldn’t be, either.

Get rid of anything that interrupts your visitor’s experience. Click around your site and see if anything distracts you. If it does, get rid of it.

Having a “Click Here to Enter” Page

The “Click Here to Enter” fad should have died years ago. When people land on your website, they don’t want to see “Click Here to Enter Our Website.” They’ve already clicked through from somewhere else, don’t force them to do it again.

In the olden days, people used “Click to Enter” pages (also known as a pre-loader) to allow Flash and other assets to load before accessing the main site. This prevented users from experiencing a broken website.

But, with the speed of the modern Internet and the progress of technology, pre-loaders are now a redundant practice. With HTML5 and CSS3, animation is now quicker and easier. And with faster internet speeds across the world, images load faster than ever.

The pre-loader is dead.

Homework Task

If there’s a pre-loader or “welcome page” on your website, get rid of it. If your website is using out-of-date technology like Flash, get ready for our next tip.

The Use of Flash

In the past, the only way to get interactive websites with animation and all sorts of other wacky interactive content was to build it using a programme called Flash. Adobe bought Flash from Macromedia and until ten years ago, it was still used frequently in web design.

Enter, Steve Jobs.

When Steve Jobs and Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007, Flash started its downward spiral. The platform and file type was not natively supported on the Apple device. To this day, Flash does not come bundled with Apple products.

As the popularity of smartphones and tablets around the world increased, websites using Flash started to see less traffic since they didn’t work on the new devices.

If your website is built on Flash, it’s time to give it up and hire a professional to redesign it. After all, you’ve worked hard to get a user through to your site; you certainly want it to work when they get there!

Homework Task

Check with your designer or website design agency if your current website is built on Flash. If it is, seek out some quotes and choose a new design agency to help develop a new website as soon as possible.

Hint: Redesigning your website can expensive. Seek quotes from comparable design agencies before pressing ahead with your project.

The “Welcome to Our Website” Message

When the internet was new, people felt the urge to welcome visitors to their website. They did this by writing “Welcome to Our Website” into the body copy of their homepage.

Oh, how times have changed!

Today, people don’t feel shunned or rejected if you don’t have a message welcoming them to your site. In fact, they’d probably feel it looked awkward if you did. Besides, they just want to get the information they desire and move on.

If your website is for a brick and mortar business such as a hotel or restaurant, you should save your welcome message for your “About Us” page. Your “About” page is a good place to begin a relationship with your customers using a more personal tone, while the messaging on your homepage should appear professional and to the point.

Homework Task

If your website features a welcome message, consider moving it to your ‘About’ page. Here, you can get into more detail about your company and reach out to potential customers on a more personal level.

Slow Load Times

As we mentioned earlier, the platform Flash declined rapidly because of Apple’s lack of support. Another reason for its decline is the fact that it takes forever to load. Flash sites were slow and often very laggy.

Here are some key website speed killers:

  • Images that aren’t optimised for the web
  • Animated file formats that could easily be created in HTML/CSS
  • Lots of background textures and background images
  • Too many Javascript, jQuery, or other fancy front end library files/li>

The list goes on.

Slow loading websites are a conversion killer. People will leave straight away if your website doesn’t give them what they want instantly. Work with your web designer to reduce the load time of your site.

Homework Task

You can use Online Marketer and Entrepreneur Neil Patel’s handy tool over at Quicksprout.com to check out his speed and load time optimisation recommendations.

No Logical Reading Order

Your website needs to have a clear and concise message. Underlining the goals of your website will help you pin down your hierarchy and reading order.

Many websites appear confused about what they’re trying to achieve. Some want sales, some are built for lead generation, and others try multiple approaches within one page which never works.

It’s great to try different strategies, but keep them separated. For example, if you want to collect email addresses, create a landing page specifically for that task. If sales are your goal, design dedicated sales pages that feature specialist sales copy and the products and services you offer.

Having a plan for each page on your website will help you to decide the layout and will ensure your messaging reflects your priorities as a brand.

For example:

If you’re trying to build brand awareness, having your email list subscription box and blog posts above your service or product on the homepage might be a better strategy than burying them towards the bottom of your site.

If your website is an eCommerce store, or even if you’re just selling a couple of products, you want to put them front and centre. That way, people can’t miss them.

You need to guide your users through your website. If you want them to see a product first, put it above the fold on the first page. You control how they experience your brand, so take them on a journey through your site.

Do you have a special offer you want them to see right after they’ve viewed your product? You have the power to make that happen.

These decisions are only possible if you have outlined your goals. Having these in place will allow you to make easier, more informed choices along the way.

Homework Task

Outline the goals of your website (get page-specific where possible). This plan will help you make decisions about what to keep on your site, what to remove, how to order your page, and more.

Designing Cluttered Pages with No Whitespace

This follows on from not having a visual hierarchy for your website.

Something else that causes people to click off your website is having too much information crammed into one page. Your website users don’t want to be overwhelmed and, as mentioned above, having a logical reading order and hierarchy will help guide them.

But here’s the kicker:

If you have the hierarchy right and still insist on cramming huge amounts of detail, images, and text in there, you’re still going to put people off.

If you look at websites like Amazon and eBay, their sites are busy, but not overwhelming.

Amazon is nicely spaced out and easy to read. There is a lot of space between items, and everything comes with an easily digestible title, or there’s a line break thrown in for good measure. Subtle use of space and graphics such as dividers can improve the user’s viewing experience.

Another thing to consider is your font selection and size. Pick fonts that are easy to read, and use a contrasting font for headings and body copy. Some people find it easier to read sans-serif fonts, or fonts without a slight projection at the end of the letter, while others prefer reading serif fonts.

Conversion XL did a great study about the effect of typography on a user experience and how it affects conversion rates.

When it comes to making difficult typographical choices on your website, the simplest answer is to test it and adjust the font according to the results.

Homework Task

Set up A/B testing on either Google Analytics or a platform such as Visual Website Optimizer. Begin testing your layouts, font choices, and more. Remember to optimise for user conversions rather than personal preference.

Overly Complicated Forms

This website design mistake happens frequently and can easily be avoided. It happens when a user is prompted to fill out a huge form on a “Register Now” or “Contact Us” page. Visitors take one look at the multiple fields requiring information and quickly hit the back button. This lengthy form is a sure-fire way to prevent users from converting.

A study on Unbounce states that:

If you want to increase form conversions, you must consider reducing the number of fields.

They also created a great infographic about optimising your contact forms for conversion rate. They stated that some companies had seen up to a 120% increase in conversions when they reduced their form fields from 11 down to 4.

Another form tip that I want to share with you is that using “ghost fields” (pre-populated form fields with example information) can help boost your conversions!

Homework Task

Head over to your “Contact” page and if you have an excessive number of form fields (5+),  cut out as many as you can. While you’re there, add ghost text/placeholder information into your form fields.

Bad Menu and Navigation Design

A website’s navigation menu should be easy to use. Users should be able to find their way around your site easily. If they can’t, you risk them clicking away.

Without a web standard or suggested method for website navigation, it becomes difficult when implementing menus. Many sites opt for a horizontal menu across the top right with the logo in the top left; others go centred, and some choose vertical.

Website navigation on a mobile phone can be even trickier. I’m a big fan of the responsive burger icon for a menu on a phone or tablet device. Others prefer a button labelled “Menu”. Both tend to drop down or slide out from the side of a website.

There are many different approaches to designing your website’s navigation using buttons and tabs, but as long as it’s clean, easy to find and easy to read, you shouldn’t go far wrong.

Homework Task

Try to simplify your menu structure by reducing lengthy navigation labels and stripping back your menu to the essentials. If you have navigational items that could confuse your visitor, remove them.

Orphan Pages

Bad navigation can often lead to orphaned pages on your website.

What is an orphan page?

An orphan page is a page on your website that has no easy way to navigate back to the rest of your site.

It’s commonly suggested by SEO experts that to optimise a landing page for conversions you should remove as many links as possible. However, I wouldn’t suggest that anyone remove their main navigation.

With the advent of CMS platforms such as WordPress, orphan pages are far less common than before.

If you’ve done the hard work and people visit your site, it would be a shame for them to disappear simply because there is nowhere for them to go.

Google will also take a dim view of your site if their crawler can’t navigate around it with ease. That alone should be reason enough to fix your orphan pages.

Homework Task

Head over to Google and type in site: www.yoursite.com. From there, check your site’s indexed pages and make sure they all have a navigation menu in place. If not, add one.

If you are using a minimal landing page approach, consider reducing your links rather than removing them altogether. If this all sounds far too complicated, it’s not too late to hire a professional, especially if you have a lot of indexed pages or a huge site that needs an audit.

No Search Box

If your website has more than 10-20 pages, it’s probably worth adding a search box. By 10-20 pages, I mean regular pages, blog posts, products, and every other page that you have online. If you run an eCommerce site, then search functionality is a must.

Again, look at the top eCommerce sites:

Amazon and eBay both feature a search box at the top of their homepage, immediately catching the first glance of each visitor.

Why?

Because it makes the website so much easier to use. You don’t have to click through irrelevant pages to get to something that interests you. You just type it in the box and in less than 5 seconds, you can be looking at things directly related to your search term.

If you run a brick and mortar business such as a restaurant or hotel, think about your average customer.

If you don’t have your opening times clearly displayed on your site, they’re quite likely to want to search for them. If you don’t have room rates and information front and centre, again, people are likely to look for a search box before digging around your site.

Websites can get large quickly, and a search field lets users get their desired information within seconds.

Homework Task

If you don’t have a search box, consider whether adding one to your website would be a useful feature for your users. Why not run a survey on your existing customers? While you’re there, you could also ask their opinion on the rest of your website.

If you don’t want to hire a design agency to implement your search box, you can get started quickly with Google Custom Search.

Not Providing an Email Opt-In Form

When designing your website, you must give your customers a way to engage with your brand by providing an email opt-in form. This form is a crucial part of the website design process that is often overlooked.

If people love your site and want to be in touch with you and your brand, give them an easy way to do it!

Mailing lists are a great way to keep in touch with your customers. You can use a service such as Convertkit, Mailchimp or Aweber to create signup forms which you can then place into your website design.

One of the key reasons that having a mailing list is so important is that you can always take that data with you.

Google rankings may drop, social media follower count may drop, Google and other search engines may cease to exist, but, if you start a mailing list, you have it forever.

One of my favourite digital marketers, Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income, had this to say about email newsletters:

An email list will never die. In other words, if you have an email list, you will always have a way to communicate with your audience. Blogs and websites can die. RSS readers and feed subscription services can vanish. But those email addresses will never change, and you can always keep your audience informed of what you’re up to, even if you go completely off the radar; it’s where the money is.

If it’s good enough for Pat and other high profile digital marketers, it’s good enough for me! In fact, you can join the Canny email list right here.

Homework Task

Get signed up with an email marketing provider such as Infusionsoft is another company that provides a higher end service. Once you’re signed up, get creative with your signup forms. Also, have a read of Brian Dean’s article, The Content Upgrade.

Not Testing Your Website

Not testing your website is a big mistake often made by people eager to get their page up and running.

There are several reasons to test your website.

A test is needed to find out if a new page works and whether it matches the style of the rest of your site. Perhaps you want to test how users are engaging with your site by testing your user feedback options. Or maybe you want proof that version A of the page converts higher than version B.

Whatever the reason, the point is this: always test your site.

If something isn’t working, it’s going to turn users and search engines off. If something isn’t converting, then something isn’t working.

That’s why it’s so important to always test your site! Again, this step can get quite complicated if you have a lot of moving parts on your site. Testing your website is an important step and should not be rushed.

Homework Task

This task is twofold:

  1. Get familiar with the principles of A/B testing and sign up to Visual Website Optimiser.
  2. Give your website a good once-over and check that all your pages are working; your links are linking and nothing appears out of place.

And that’s it: the top 15 website design mistakes and how to fix them.

Remember, if youre looking for a design agency to help with your website, then get in touch.

Amy Aitman is the owner of 8menCan, a content agency based in Toronto, Canada. She works to create content strategies and digital marketing plans for businesses around the world. Away from the office, Amy takes her team out for chicken tacos and martins, extra dirty, extra olives of course.

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