Fixing common web design mistakes


It's crucial for today's small businesses to have websites that convert relevant traffic into loyal customers. It's easier to achieve than you may think, but you'd be surprised how many mistakes are made during the website design process that prevent conversions and send customers directly into the arms of your competitors.

As you read through the below list, if you notice that your website is making some of these mistakes – don’t worry! Some of these areas can be fixed relatively quickly for little to no additional investment, if you put a little time in and prefer to go the DIY route. But if after reading you feel like your website is making all of these mistakes, it may be time to start thinking about a full website redesign and hiring a web design and development agency to help see you through. We have some important tips for you to consider when hiring a web design company.

Here are some of the most common mistakes to avoid with your small business website design.

1. Not using enough white space

As with most things in life, the "less is more" mantra is even more relevant in the world of web design. Potential customers are visiting your website to quickly figure out if you can help them solve the problem they are having, and if the layout of your website isn’t clean and organized they’ll get frustrated and move on.

Dividing each page into relevant sections with purposeful, relevant content that is easy to read will help your audience easily get a gist of what your business is about. When used correctly, white space creates a more organized, readable, and less stressful design. If your current website seems crowded or disorganized, using white space correctly in addition to applying some or all of the other tips in this article will help improve your website drastically.

A well-organized and cleanly-designed website also says something about your business, because let’s face it: first impressions matter more than ever online.

Your logo is one of the most important tools in your marketing toolbox. A company’s logo should convey one or more of the following ideas:

  • What your business is
  • What your business does / offers
  • What your brand’s voice is

Your logo should be clear, crisp, and legible in all forms of media. Your logo needs a design refresh if one or more of these is true:

  • Your logo has a drop shadow applied (cringe!)
  • Your logo uses clipart, in any form
  • Your logo uses hard-to-read fonts
  • Your logo makes sense to you but not to your customers
  • Your logo works in print but not on the web
  • Your logo has more than 3 colors
  • Your logo isn’t a unique design

A company’s logo is directly indicative of their brand voice, so the two should be complementary. In some instances, your company may need a highly complex logo, and that’s perfectly fine. Just make sure your designer provides multiple versions for use in different mediums (e.g. a simplified version for your website and online use, and a fully-detailed version for your print ads). Here are a few logos we’ve done for our clients that follow simple logo design principles:

Examples of good logo design - Humble Meteor

3. Too many fonts, or bad font choices

Since we are designers, we have a lot of opinions about what makes a good font choice – but we also have even more opinions about what makes a bad font choice! There are several examples of font choice no-no’s that we would be happy to talk you out of using (we are looking at you, Comic Sans and Curlz), but an experienced designer can help guide you towards modern, easy-to-read fonts for use on your website (including fonts used with your logo).

Typically, you want to stick to no more than three different (complementary) fonts per website, but ideally if you can get away with just one or two, that’s even better. Any more than three and you’re jeopardizing your website’s load time (more on that later), which will aggravate users and force them to abandon your website. Your developer can help advise on best practices and modern font loading techniques.

Your designer can help recommend fonts that have multiple weights available (a bolder weight for headings, a regular weight for page copy, etc.) so you’re only using one font throughout your website. Typically, you’ll want to select two different fonts that have different (but complementary) characteristics to help you mold your brand’s voice and accent your design.

Typography makes up a huge percentage of design, and can have a greater impact than the layout or images you choose. Take the time (and if necessary, the money) to pick out the right font combinations to give your website the edge your competitors lack.

4. Unclear IA

Information Architecture or IA (in our context) is a fancy phrase that refers to website navigation. Being able to clearly navigate a website and find what you’re looking for is the key to keeping customers engaged and converting leads. To figure out how to improve your website’s IA, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do my navigation links work? (Make sure they all lead somewhere)
  • Do my navigation links make sense? (Make sure they are named semantically, and make sure the pages lead to related and relevant content)
  • Can I consolidate/remove any links? (Prevent confused customers and negative SEO by making sure you’re not duplicating content)
  • Does my navigation, as a whole, flow smoothly? (A coherent path and organized theme improves the user experience)

Don’t give customers a reason to move on from your website just because they can’t find your operating hours, location, or contact information.

5. Poor user experience (popups, sites that aren’t mobile friendly)

This is a biggie, and probably the most difficult and time-consuming to fix. It’s also the most important, because a website with bad UX, also called User Experience, is leaving money on the table and costing you customers. First let’s define what UX actually is:

“User experience encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.” — Don Norman

By that definition, User Experience doesn’t refer to just one specific interaction, but rather all aspects of interaction with your company—whether it’s online, in person, or after the product or service has been performed.

If your web designer or web developer is well-versed in web design best practices, UX should have been taken into consideration early on in the project. There are many, many issues that can contribute to bad UX in web design, but here are a few major ones to watch out for:

Inaccessible on mobile

If your website hasn’t been updated recently it’s quite possible it’s not built to be mobile responsive, meaning that it doesn’t load correctly (or at all) on mobile devices.

With mobile usage showing no signs of stopping, your visitors are likely looking you up on the go. If your page doesn’t load quickly, or if they can’t find the information they need right away, they will abandon your site and find a competitor instead.

Besides losing out on potential new customers and revenue, Google now penalizes websites that aren’t mobile-ready. We touch on this subject in our article 4 Signs It’s Time for a Website Redesign.

Next to addressing a website’s user experience, fixing a non-responsive website is probably the most costly (but also the best use of your marketing budget) item on this list because it requires a complete redesign and HTML/CSS code rewrite.

Poor page loading time

Page Speed Results - Humble Meteor

See how fast your page loads with Google’s PageSpeed test. You want to aim for a score in the 90+ range here for both desktop and mobile. It’s also a great way to tell if your web designer is coding your site correctly and focusing on loading speed during their workflow.

Popups, offers, annoying ads

Popups, ads, offers, forced interactions with full-screen modals are the most notorious offenders of poor website UX out there. If you’re annoyed by these features and (sometimes black hat) marketing tricks, imagine how your users feel.

In addition to being super annoying (in our opinion), these features also slow down your page loading speed.

If your web designer recommends the use of anything that blocks users from accessing your website, it’s likely there are several other issues that also need to be addressed. Reorganizing your content with clear calls to action can accomplish the same goals but keep users engaged.

6. Lack of Digital Performance Metrics

A straight forward, and often over-looked area to keep in mind is tracking website engagement. A simple way to try to figure out why your website isn’t converting is by looking at the data. A quick piece of code added to the backend of your website can relay interesting and helpful information about how users interact with your website, where they came from, what they did, where they dropped off and more. There are tons of different tools out there, but one that we pre-load into all of our client websites is Google Analytics.

Google Analytics is a free tool! Yep, you read that right, no additional investment needed but this one tool can make a huge impact on your bottom line if you aren’t viewing the data. This handy little PDF gives a nice overview of why this tool is so important and how it can help improve your ROI. Once the code is on your website, you have access to so much information about how your customers engage with your brand to let you know what tactics and channels are working and what isn’t. You can also dig deeper into Conversions/Leads that you are tracking through your website, like e-newsletter signups, contact forms or e-commerce purchases. You can see where your conversions are coming from, potential bottlenecks or where users are getting stuck in the process, or just dropping off completely. Taking a little bit of time (or working with a digital marketing agency) to review the metrics can really help a small business identify key areas that need to be addressed on their website or with their digital marketing efforts. But, it all starts with having the tracking code installed on your website.

Wrapping it All Up

If after reading through this post, you recognize that your small business website may be making one or two of these mistakes – don’t worry! Depending on the topic, you may be able to quickly address yourself or with some quick help (i.e. digital tracking, font choice). Some other areas, such as website IA or poor user experience may take a bit more strategy, time and some help from a professional or agency partner to refine what you have to make it more usable. The most important thing to remember is that all of these issues are fixable and once addressed, can help improve your brand’s performance to drive stronger ROI and convert more users online.

A web design blog post by Krista Becker

About the author

As Humble Meteor’s Director of Digital Marketing, Krista helps connect audiences with helpful brands and their killer websites. With more than 13 years of inbound marketing and paid media experience, she never shies away from investigating a new digital marketing innovation to help bring a client’s brand to the next level. When she isn’t knee-deep in researching and writing blog articles, optimizing campaigns or conducting social media audits — she loves to bake all things yummy and hang out with her family.

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