Website Mistakes to Avoid

Website Design Mistakes to Avoid

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We consider our humble blog to be a source of education to our current and potential clients – as well as other digital marketing professionals looking for material for their own blog posts. So while the title of this week’s offering may seem as if you’re being taken to task, we ask you to accept it in the spirit of cautionary advice rather than being called to the principal’s office.

There are two main categories of website design mistakes: front of the house, and behind the scenes. The first includes elements that are visually off-putting and/or confusing to visitors; the second involves SEO and coding gaffs that aren’t always apparent, but have a negative effect on how search engines find and rank your pages – and, by extension, the number of visitors, leads and conversions your site generates.

Let’s begin.

Front of the house mistakes

Unclear navigation – Visitors to any website expect the navigation bar to be horizontal at the top of every page or vertical, on the left hand side of the page. Hiding the navigation bar intentionally, obscuring it with an overwhelming photo or video – or just getting too creative with it – frustrates visitors and quickly sends them to your competitors’ sites. Also, the name of each menu item should make it clear what the visitor will find – for example, About Us, rather than Who We Are, and Services, rather than Our Jam.

Home page carousel – This was popular several years ago, but has fallen out of favor. As Neil Patel writes, “Carousels aren’t always terrible on their own. They become a problem when they scroll automatically. These carousels are conversion killers because they induce banner blindness (they look like ads), reducing visibility. They distract and annoy your website visitors, moving their attention away from the one thing they should be focused on: conversion!”

Bad fonts – Many front of the house design mistakes stem from a poor understanding of design and layout, others from attempting to be overly creative. This one combines a bit of both. Helvetica, Arial and similar fonts may seem boring, but they’re visually clean. We’ve seen obscure fonts that rendered the text impossible to read. For professional reasons, we try to stick with it, but your visitors won’t. Add to this list too many fonts (stay with two or three) and fonts that clash with each other. Your goal is a smooth flow that your visitors will follow.

Related mistakes include poor kerning (the space between two typed characters), tracking (the spacing between words) and leading (the spaces between the lines of your text). Making it hard for your visitors to quickly get your message will send them elsewhere.

No clear call to action – Of course, you want visitors to your website to do something that will make you money, either immediately or ultimately as they go on the customer journey. Not including CTA buttons where needed is an all-too common mistake that small-to-medium-size businesses make. As Sonia Gregory, CEO and Creative Director of FreshSparks writes, “A call to action … will get visitors focused on what their next step is. It is a prompt that is written with a persuasive command attached to a link or button … Keep your call to action simple and succinct. Tell users exactly what to do!”

For example – Sign Up, Subscribe, Get Started, Add to Cart, Contact Us. As we covered in our blog post – “X Marks the Spot: Create Call-to-Action Buttons that Get Leads” – CTA buttons have a few basic characteristics:

  • They have a defined shape (which should be rectangular).
  • They have a different color from their surroundings.
  • They have text on them.


Because your business stands to lose conversions if you get the CTA wrong, we encourage you to read the entire post for all the details.

Non-responsive design – This mistake includes elements of front of the house and behind the scenes. Responsive design is now the most important feature for any website, allowing your site to be easily viewed and accessed from any mobile device. If your site is just designed for a desktop computer, it will suffer in appearance and functionality on a smartphone – which is how most people now search the web.

As we covered in our blog post – “What You Need to Know About Mobile-First Web Design” – websites that aren’t mobile responsive not only put off visitors and drive them away, they also reflect badly on your organization and wind up being penalized by Google. One of our team members visited the mobile website of a well-established professional firm. Only it couldn’t accurately be called “mobile,” as it displayed the same as the site displays on desktop. This visually translated as the desktop version in miniature, with impossible-to-read text, tiny photos and icons, and – of course – poor navigation. While there’s nothing wrong with your brand image being old-school, your web presence needs to keep up with the times.

Behind the scenes mistakes

Katya Bovykina – digital marketing manager at Resolver – wrote an informative article for Search Engine Journal about common web design mistakes that hurt SEO. Again, these are issues that your website visitors won’t always notice (although some – such as popups – do make themselves obvious), but Google will – with the result that your site may not get as many visitors to not notice the mistakes as it would have had the job been done right!

Her list includes the following.

Missing H1 tags (especially on the home page) – “The H1 tag is one of the first elements search engine crawlers will look at to determine what the page is about,” writes Bovykina. “Having this tag, and including your target keyword, improves your chances of ranking higher.”

Large images and media files – “Including large images and videos can negatively impact your site speed, which may result in lower rankings. Google rewards pages that load quickly.” To determine if you have large content on your website, use the Google PageSpeed Insights Test, which will tell you which images Google thinks are too large on the page. “Once you’ve identified those images, resize and/or compress them and re-upload to your website.”

Popups – Face it, users don’t like them, and find them intrusive, no matter what great offer you’re making. Google doesn’t like popups, either! As Bovykina notes, “User experience, especially on mobile devices, is quite important to Google. When creative or elaborate popups appear before your visitors can access main content, it can negatively impact UX, and therefore, your SEO.”

Text in images – Bovykina observes that this remains common practice, despite the fact that Google and other search engines can’t “read” text on images. “Essentially, it’s the equivalent to not including the text at all.” Instead, include a text layer over the image. In addition, adding alternative text (alt text) to website images not only identifies the subject matter of an image to visually impaired users using screen readers, but allows Google and other search engines to “see” the image, thereby helping SEO.

One additional serious website design mistake

What this has all been leading to is the fact that web design shouldn’t be left to amateurs or those who dabble in it on the side. Such people aren’t likely to be current on Google’s ever-evolving algorithms and/or advancements in web design to deliver a well-optimized website for your business. This is the time to call a pro.  

That’s what Virtual Stacks Systems is here for! Our SEO team can help you achieve your marketing goals. We also provide experienced web content writing, along with our web design, website redesign and pay-per-click services. 

Contact us to learn more! We’re ready to be your partner in success!


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