How Bad Website Design Can Ruin Your Business

Bad website design can ruin your business or brand’s online marketing efforts.

In the same way a great website can catapult your business to success, bad website design can drastically hold you back.

As people would rather spend time on social media, getting your website design right is now more important than effort.

If you’re lucky enough to have driven traffic to your site, then you owe your visitors a positive experience.

Nobody stays on a website with a bad design. They’ll hit that back button before you know it.

What effect does bad website design have on your business? And how can it be avoided?

Let’s dive in.

Bad Website Design Can Harm Search Engine Optimisation

A lot of people put all of their eggs into the “SEO” basket rather than a larger digital marketing plan.

The same people think it’s funny when you suggest their bad website design can be impacting their search engine performance.

But it’s true.

The primary way that your bad website design can harm your SEO, is through your bounce rate.

If your website design is ugly, unattractive, or just plain unusable, you’ll have people hitting that back button as soon as they land on your site.

This is what’s called a “bounce” and the lower your bounce rate the better.

So you need to do everything you can to get people off the page they land on, and into your highly targeted, relevant content.

To make sure that search engines can properly read your content, you also need to structure your site properly.

This means using:

  • Clear and concise navigation
  • Cross linking between posts and pages on your website
  • Using tags correctly within your content

By nailing your website’s structure and architecture you give yourself the best chance of search engine success.

Bad Website Design Can Affect Conversions

As I’ve already outlined, nobody is going to progress through your website if your website design is bad.

They’ll hit that back button and you’ll never see them again.

The other way that bad website design can affect your conversions, is by destroying trust with your visitors.

Your website needs to look professional and function well in order to drive sales or leads for your business.

If the first thought that people have when they land on your site is “Wow, this website looks spammy and untrustworthy” – then you’ve lost them straight away.

Nobody is going to enter their credit card details, or even their email address, into a website that they don’t trust.

Another thing you need to consider, is giving your users a logical route through your site.

If they land on your homepage, where do you want them to go next? This is your website funnel.

At Canny, we’ve decided on a pretty basic website funnel:

  1. View one of our projects
  2. Head over to a relevant service page
  3. Hit the “Start Your Project” button
  4. Fill out the form and end up on our Thank You page

That’s a simple four step conversion funnel.

What does your funnel look like?

Poorly designed websites destroy trust, and don’t have a well defined conversion funnel, meaning you’re missing out on golden opportunities.

Bad Website Design Harms Your Brand Reputation

Finally, bad website design can destroy the reputation of your brand.

Here’s the deal:

If your website looks bad, or untrustworthy, then your visitors will have no faith or trust in your company.

This then spills from your digital presence out into the real world.

Every negative experience someone has with your business compounds, and eventually, you’ll have lost their faith altogether.

It’s like the drastic opposite effect of brand touchpoints.

Imagine having a great experience with a brand in-store. Then, you visit their website to purchase more of their great products.

But you’re let down. You start saying things to your friends like:

“This new shop I found is great, but their website is rubbish, so make sure to visit them in-store!”

You want your customer’s experience to be consistent across each of your touchpoints.

Another thing to consider is this:

Your website should have the basics, for the industry that you’re in.

If you run a restaurant for example, then your restaurant’s website, should:

  • Show your menu (with nutritional information)
  • Have the ability to take bookings
  • Show great customer reviews

There’s nothing worse than visiting a website, to find it lacks the basic functionality expected of the industry.

If you sell physical products, then make sure you have an ecommerce website.

You want to double down on the opportunity to make sales.

Make sure your brand is taken seriously by ensuring your website is in good shape.

The Top Contributors to Bad Website Design

There are several key contributors to bad website design.

We’re going to explore each of them in more detail:


We all know what popups are.

We’ve all been the unsuspecting victim in this scenario:

You’re midway through reading a blog post, and all of a sudden, your screen freezes and you’re met with a massive popup.

Then you have to hunt round to cross it off. It’s easier to just hit the back button and find a different article.

The only popup that I think works, is the exit intent popup.

Just as you’re reaching for the cross or back button, you’re met with the offer of a free ebook or webinar session.

If a visitor is leaving your website anway, I don’t see a problem in trying to convert them at the last second.

Splash Pages and Loading Pages

Splash pages and landing pages are the page between you clicking to visit a website in the organic listings and actually getting through to the website.

It’s an “inbetween page” that tells you the site is currently loading. Or says something quirky like:

“Hold for awesomeness.”

In this day and age, we don’t need splash pages and loading pages.

They were popular when Flash was popular. But thanks to Apple, Flash is now dead in the water.

That said, I still see splash and loading pages dotted around the web.

If you have one, get rid of it. Nobody wants to wait for your content to load.


Frames are used a lot to show or pull information from another website.

The issue with using frames to display other website’s data is twofold:

You have no control over the other website, and if something should happen to it, that’ll negative affect your website too
Google won’t crawl the frame, meaning you’re losing out on search engine rank juice

If you really want to pull in information or data from another website, look into APIs and how you might use them to achieve the same thing.

Large Images Files

Large image files kill the speed of your website.

And going back to our point on loading, nobody wants to wait for your content to load.

Image sizes and saving files for web is probably a post in it’s own right.


You can make sure your images are at a better file size by manually resizing them in a tool like Photoshop, or use Tinypanda if you’re looking for a free online option.

Text as Images

When you embed text in an image, Google can’t read it.

You should use images for pictures only, and always use HTML to construct your typography.

That way, Google can read it, and it loads faster! Win win.

Bad or Unclear Navigation

Navigation is the number one culprit of bad website design.

First of all, don’t hide all of your navigation away. Make sure the important bits can be found easily!

Then, make sure each of your navigation labels are clear. Don’t use clever puns or “inside jokes.”

Your Contact Us link should not be “Send a Raven.”

Blog should not be “Stuff.”

Sure, be creative and if it works with your brand, then go for it. But on the whole, it pays to stick to tried and tested page names.

Anything That Autoplays

Nobody wants to be blasted with sound as soon as they land on your website.

Just stop it.

Examples of Bad Website Design

We try not to pull other work apart here at Canny, because you never truly know the constraints and restrictions anyone has been working with.

That said, we thought it was our duty to come up with some truly terrible examples of bad website design.

Here are several examples of websites that we think could be improved, and how we would improve them.

Newspaper Websites

In Newcastle, we have The Evening Chronicle and The Journal. They’re Tyneside’s favourite newspapers.

But if you’re trying to use their website, you’re in for a world of pain.

First of all, they take forever to load.

Then, when they do, you have to provide an answer to a quiz to read an article.

If the article has a video somewhere in it, it’ll start to autoplay, and follow you down the page. But only after 30 seconds or so of advertising.

On top of that, you have:

  • A cookie warning
  • Horrible advertising down both sides of the screen
  • A sticky bar at the top of the page that hogs the majority of your screen
  • And adverts. Everywhere!

We’ve seen several newspaper websites around the country using a very similar template or system, so our guess is that it’s built on a popular platform for newspapers.

But it’s just not good.

And in fact, as a result, I’ve stopped trying to read articles on there altogether and prefer to get my news from alternative sources (basically, Twitter.)

Cinema Websites

I love the cinema. My friends love the cinema.

But the one constant we have when talking about the cinema experience?

It’s not the film (or movie), no, it’s the poor ticket booking experience!

From Odeon, to Vue, to Cineworld, booking cinema tickets online is a complete chore. Especially when using offer codes and various other deals and discounts.

Each cinema chain does it differently, and the websites are so clunky that it’s actually painful trying to secure your seats.

Odeon’s site glitches and freezes at inopportune times. Thanks to cookies, it then “holds” your reserved seats for an extended period of time, meaning you can’t rebook them instantly.

Vue’s site defaults to 2 child tickets and 1 adult ticket. It also changes completely when you enter a discount code.

Vue’s site also shows a mini-map of the cinema, but not until you click in to book, can you actually see which seats are occupied.

The list of problems cinema websites face is as long as the end credits. Yawn.

Car Sales Websites

Websites like AutoTrader and Arnold Clarke also come with their own set of problems.

The problem with car sales websites usually lies in the “filtering” options that they give you.

First of all, I’d suspect most users only want to see car listings, when there’s an actual photo included. So defaulting to “all cars” (even ones without photos) seems like an odd choice.

Then, you have to choose between 3, 4, or 5 door cars.

Some people class the boot (trunk) as a door, others don’t. Therefore, cars get muddled up into all sorts of different categories.

As a result, you spend hours trawling through cars online.

Then, you get sick and go to the garage as a result.

I can’t decide whether that’s to pressure sell you a car while you’re there, or genuinely they don’t know how to sort out their clunky website experience, but either way, it’s not positive.

How to Avoid Having a Bad Website Design

So how do you avoid having a bad website designed?

Easy. Have a good website designed!

No, but really. Here are our five top tips to avoiding bad website design.

Put Your Visitors First

When it comes to your website, you absolutely must put your customers and their needs first.

Your customers must come before:

  • Your own personal opinions
  • Your need to make money
  • Your search engine optimisation efforts

It sounds strange to say it, but you absolutely must cast your own ideas to one side, and let your customers guide you.

To do that, you can survey them using a tool like SurveyMonkey.

To get them to take the survey, offer up a discount code, free consultation, competition prize, or similar in exchange for their feedback.

As well as running surveys, you could use a tool like Hotjar to watch and monitor how people use your site.

Recently, we’ve been setting up Hotjar on all of our website design projects.

The data collected from Hotjar then informs experiments and further site changes that we can make to build a positive customer experience.

Get Your Structure Right

Getting the structure of your website right helps drive a positive customer experience. It also helps you to convert visitors into leads or customers.

But how do you make sure you’re structure is right?

Well, you need to create a simple website conversion funnel that allows you to push users through your website.

Think about the actions you want your visitors to take in an effort to convert them.

As a top level tip, blog posts should link to:

  • Other related blog posts
  • Service or product pages
  • Free resources or ebooks

However, once you’ve gotten someone off your blog post and into a service or product page, you don’t want them to leave without converting.

So don’t link backwards. Once they’re onto your service or product pages, don’t link them back out to another blog post.

Show them information that answers objections, and link to further details, or a page that attempts to make the conversion.

If you’re linking from service or product pages back to blog posts, you’re going against your sales funnel.

And you don’t want that!

As well as getting your internal links right, you should be using semantic code to give yourself the best chance of search engine success.

If you think of each page like a newspaper’s front cover, it will help you work out the logical reading order.

And because you’re putting customers first, the code will follow a logical reading pattern, which search engines like!

Make It Easy On the Eye and Easy to Use

One thing we’ve not actually talked about in a post about bad website design, is design itself.

We’ve talked about features and things to avoid, but not what good design actually looks like.

The first thing to get right, is your navigation. As I mentioned above, don’t be clever with it. Follow good practice, and make your navigation as clear as possible.

People want ease and convenience, so make sure your website design has that in abundance.

Clear navigation and search functionality go a long way to helping that.

Then, the rest of your website needs to be attractive and on-brand.

Don’t cram information into your pages for the sake of it.

Think logically about what you want to say, and have your pages designed around that. Don’t have text for the sake of it!

Make every word count.

So, what does good website design look like?

  • Brand consistent design (make sure your colours match your stationery design and other branded collateral)
  • Make good use of space
  • A logical reading order
  • Attractive imagery
  • A creative approach

Websites aren’t new anymore.

You need to make sure you’re on-brand, making good use of space, and serve your content in a logical reading order.

On top of that, getting creative and using attractive imagery will help your website stand out from the swathe of badly designed websites and off the shelf WordPress themes.

Avoid the DIY Approach

DIY page builders have been on the rise for the last decade or so.

There’s GoDaddy, Wix, 1&1, Squarespace, the list goes on…

Sure, they might produce average looking websites these days. But it’s not the same as working with a professional website design agency.

If you’re curious, our lead developer Will recently posted about the use of DIY site builders.

By building your website yourself, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Site builders have a track record of negative SEO performance.

They also have a limited number of templates, so undoubtedly, your site will be the same as many others out there.

Working with a professional design agency is always the right choice.

And sure, you might need to invest more into your website budget earlier, but you’ll reap the rewards later on.

Follow Our Top Website Design Tips

If you already have your business’ website designed and up and running, that’s fantastic!

All I can suggest in that case, is reviewing our top website design tips. They should help you move the needle with your site.

There are hundreds of design tips out there, but try to focus on driving business results, than focusing on the nitpicky “move the logo left a bit, no right a bit.”

Your website is a marketing tool that your business should be able to lean on.

If you’re not generating regular leads or sales from your website, the chances are, you don’t have your website design right.

You might even have a bad website! And you want to avoid that at all costs.

Check your Analytics, and make sure you’re receiving enough traffic to make a judgement call.

If you’re getting a lot of traffic but still failing to make any headway, you need to revisit your website design with a professional designer or agency.

Conclusion: How Bad Website Design Can Ruin Your Business

Bad website design is the spawn of the devil. And it’s easy to fall into the trap of never fixing it.

Whether you’re failing to keep visitors engaged, failing to attract visitors, or failing to convert visitors, you need to do everything you can to improve those issues.

Like I said earlier, nobody stays on a badly designed website. It’s too easy for them to jump ship!

If you’re experiencing any of the problems above, it’s worth exploring your options with a website design agency.

Design is tricky. It should always be handled by the professionals.

Have you found your website design is negatively impacting your business? What did you do to fix it? Let us know in the comments below.


reading time: 16 minutes


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