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Eight ways to avoid common website mistakes

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This article has been contributed by John K Taylor*.


Everyone has a website these days, but not every website is equal. As the online environment becomes ever more crowded, you don’t just need to have a website, you need to have an outstanding website. In pursuit of the perfect page, here are some of the top web design mistakes to avoid.

1. Make the purpose of the website clear immediately

The internet is a very fast-paced environment in which millions of companies are competing for the attention of your potential customers. One of the biggest mistakes you can make in your web design is to prepare a site which does not clearly outline the nature of your business and the services that are available online. This information needs to be obvious and should appear on the first page of the website that browsers are likely to encounter. If you make your website too difficult to understand your potential customers will move on within seconds.

2. Use colour in moderation

Another common mistake that can be made in web design, particularly by the inexperienced, is the use of loud and conflicting colour schemes. Certainly contemporary web design does allow for the use of a myriad of colours and background patterns, but that doesn’t mean you need to use seven different themes on each page. Pick two or three colours that evoke the mood of your business and are not so harsh that your customers will need to wear sunglasses to browse through the site! Use colour in moderation.

3. Make your content readable

Just as with colour, current trends in web design offer a huge array of possible font styles, sizes and animations. However, the one style of lettering that will always be in style is one that is easy on the eyes. Some font types to avoid are fancy fonts that are almost illegible, small fonts and blinking text. You want to make your customers’ time on your website as enjoyable as possible and this intent must be reflected in all areas of your web design.

4. Make content quick and easy to digest

Take a look at this article – note how each point is numbered and broken down into smaller paragraphs with bold subheadings. This kind of lay-out is perfect for websites because it allows visitors to quickly scan each page for the information they seek. In your web design, it’s a good idea to use bullet points, small paragraphs, bold headings and subheadings to make text easily accessible.

5. Respect user privacy

No one likes being spammed, especially if they are unaware of having provided their contact details. Your website design must include an outline of your privacy policy for preserving your customer’s confidential information, as well as obvious information regarding anything you plan to use it for. Customers must be cued to consent to any subscriptions or storage of their personal information and should be given the option to unsubscribe at any time.

6. Make searching simple

The internet is powered by search engines and our main reason for logging on is to seek out information on a particular topic. Your customers need to be able to do the same thing on your web site on a smaller scale. Your website will potentially end up comprising hundreds of pages and archives so it’s important that your customers have a method to sort all that information. Not providing a search function on your website is definitely a web design mistake to avoid.

7. Don’t open every page in a new window

This point doesn’t need too much explanation – no doubt we’ve all logged on to a website that is an example of this mistake. A functional web design should not include extensive links that each open a new window because it makes browsing slower, more confusing, and is unlikely to operate correctly on mobile platforms.

8. Don’t forget the basics

This may sound like common sense, but don’t forget to include the all the basic information about your business on your website. It’s surprising, but some websites fail to include a map of their location, business hours and full list of contact details. Your web design should make this information clear and prominent.

Have any web design tips / mistakes to add? Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments.

More Web Design Resources

*John K Taylor is working as a freelance writer for Infinite IT Solutions, a web design company in Melbourne that been providing custom web design, development, online marketing related solutions to their clients in Melbourne and Sydney for a decade now. You can follow Infinite IT Solutions on TwitterFacebook here.

Photo: Shutterstock



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53 JUST™ Creative Comments

  • Andrea Reply

    point #2 “Use Color in Moderation”
    I get what you’re saying about not having a rainbow of distracting colors–thank God that trend seems to be waning. On the other hand having a vibrant, well-orchestrated color scheme can really add life, personality and positive emotion to certain sites.

    Thanks for the post. :)

    • Titan Web Design Reply

      I agree.

      I’m surprised how many websites don’t add a call-to-action button on their website.

      Even adding a contact form in the sidebar can dramatically improve their conversion rates.
      However, it is difficult sometimes to get the client to even understand that their logo doesn’t have to be the size of the screen.

  • Web Design Kansas City Reply

    The advice here is excellent. One of the biggest mistakes I see concerns readability. Many designers try to use type over art, or even color, while paying little attention to whether it can be read or not.

  • Glenn Taylor Reply

    I’ll agree with #2 to a point. I mean when you’re designing a website for a clown, subtle just isn’t going to cut it…. http://www.jellybeanblossom.com

    But that said, I agree wholeheartedly with Jason on the whole thing. Well done!

  • Peter Bosch Reply

    Great post Jacob, such timeless reminders.

    These may be fairly basic, but I too am often amazed at how many professional and amazingly designed websites forget to make the purpose of the website clear, and many of the other mistakes.

    There are many more of course, but one I find particularly amusing is the 53,800,000 results in Google for ‘Untitled Document’. Almost all of these pages are not on this topic at all.

    The biggest overall mistake though would simply be – not answering your audience questions. Website users are looking for information or an answer to a question. So everything you design and add to a website must further this end.
    You may the worlds most amazing designer, but if that cool graphic, flash animation, or creative navigation does not further/hinders the goals of the website in any way – you may want to reconsider using it.

    Thanks Jacob=)

  • Tina Ta Nguyen Reply

    Great post! I have to keep reminding myself “readable, readable!” everytime designing a new project.

  • anon Reply

    seriously, I can appreciate people wanting to write, but this is nothing new. Write about something constructive.

  • paper cup making machine Reply

    I get a very awesome response from you………….This topic is much more important
    for designer.

    I hope all the designers follow to these instruction specially me…

  • tiago Reply

    9th mistake: Sying your post is about mistakes, and then put positive advices in the mistakes headlines…
    People will scan, not read, so they will think you are saying that those are mistakes…

  • Logic Design Reply

    We have a few designers here, some are from print backgrounds. Website have diffrent rules to brochure layouts all designers must understand this!

  • Shavanna Reply

    I definitely agree about No. 8. There are a lot of “scam” websites out there and one way I determine if the business is legit, is whether or not they provide an address. It adds to their credibility and gives me more to do research on.

  • Dan Scanlon Reply

    This be called something to the tune of “Eight ways to avoid common website mistakes,” because the title suggests that these eight bullets are mistakes when rather they are good practices.

  • Dan Scanlon Reply

    This should* be called…

    Look at me — talking all smartly

  • Evan Wilson Reply

    Having just set a dense 400+ page book in type and compared its screen version to the other books in its niche I’m even more convinced now that the old rules of typography apply in spades to digitaL text too, where readability is already significantly compromised by the medium itself. To my way of thinking, the old rule that trumps all others is “type size expressed in points should not be noticeably smaller than one-half line length expressed in picas.” Subsumption of this “rule” as if it were your own may not make you the hero of your creative cohort, but you’ll receive quizzical inquiries from your customers or clients why your message is so easy to read and digest. Good typography is immutable and has been for a long time.

  • Ronnie Saini Design Reply

    I loved the way you put it \your customers shouldn’t need to put sunglasses to read your website\ lolz

    Very good points, thanks for sharing!

  • Website Design Telford Reply

    Readability is a must. All good points. Dan

  • khairul Reply

    nice tips.. i love this article

  • Web Design Sheffield Reply

    I would agree with number 8. There are some sites I’ve been that have incomplete information. However could I contact them or go to their office if they have no phone number or they have forgotten the address.

  • David Christian-Woodruff Reply

    There have been a lot of people commenting on the fact that this post is nothing new or isn’t a list of errors but positives to consider. Well yes, but at the same time, this is vital information for any web designer to consider when building a site and therefore important to flag up. It’s not like every site designed today is perfect and sticks to these points…

    As a web designer myself, it is, and always has been, pivotal for me to ensure that every single one of these points is implemented in my designs.

    Perhaps more so than any other point, the issue regarding the colour scheme is something which cannot be highlighted enough. So many sites are covered with an array of colours that confuse and complicate a site, and to say that we need to restrict or reign in the colour schemes is an understatement. Some of the best looking sites today have limited their sites to a single colour, or indeed, hardly any colour at all!

    Before even considering the legibility of the text or general layout of the site, a carefully selected colour scheme is something which I personally feel can make or break a site.

  • Darren Reply

    Hey great article man.

    I found this cool post about the worst websites on the internet. Check it out: http://goo.gl/57hn6! Good laugh!

  • Peter Radovski Reply

    The list is quite good and an example to follow for all newbies!

  • Brad Reply

    @Darren – Those sites rule. I can’t believe 3 of mine are listed…..JK….Thanks for the laugh..

  • Renee Reply

    7. Don’t open every page in a new window
    I find it very irritating to search my way back to the main website, where I was and prefer a link to open in a new page.
    I aske people what they do as a new page opens, most close that page and go back to the original website.

  • Heather Reply

    Very well summed up Jacob. Thanks for the post. Many people forget about couple of the points you’ve mentioned and their pages are very hard to go through even though they look quite good. I often come across ones where searching is not working properly even though they are very complex and it is the only way how to find what you need.

  • Jacob Cass Reply

    Tiago, Dan,
    Thanks, good points. I updated the title.

    Just a reminder, that this article was written by John, and not myself.

  • Fraser Boag Reply

    Couldn’t agree more. Such simple tips but ones which are so often forgotten.

  • vincekao Reply

    I interest with no 4. Make content quick and easy to digest…

    Is any relation with SEO? or only for user friendly..

  • Commercial printing west palm Reply

    Many designers try to use type over art or even color while paying little attention to whether it can be read or not.

  • Web Design Agency India Reply

    I get what you’re saying about not having a rainbow of distracting colors–thank God that trend seems to be waning. On the other hand having a vibrant, well-orchestrated color scheme can really add life, personality and positive emotion to certain sites

  • Ann Reply

    Great tips thanks again

  • Sumit Khaneja Reply

    Nice informative article. A must for beginners.

  • Web Design Perth Reply

    Opening new browser windows for every page on the site is quite annoying. Instead, new windows should only be used for links that take the user off to an external site.

  • Web Design York Reply

    Brilliantly simple article!

    If you are looking for more detail on things to avoid when designing a website then I personally like the usability advice from Jakob Neilsen and the design advice from “Save The Pixel” by Ben Hunt. Both are well worth checking out.

  • website designer uk Reply

    It’s very great post. This is really helpful for me.Thanks for shearing it.

  • Adam, Lemon Head Design Reply

    Nice Article. Even though it is nothing new I think they are great points to review.

  • Replica Designer Ties Reply

    You’ve done a great job, thanks for sharing your ideas for us, and I am looking forward to dropping by frequently and I look forward to reading your next post when I do.

  • i2space Reply

    Good article about the common mistakes this makes the designer to be out of these mistakes. Good effort to make designers as professional designers.

  • Faraz-web development developer Reply

    great post…..i learnt a lot from this article.
    I personally believes that the first point mention is to make the objective of the website clear is the most important part of creating and maintaining a website.

  • Daniel Nolan Reply

    These are some great point that all web designers should try and avoid. Especially point #3 and #4, loads of websites out there have unreadable fonts or fonts over images that make them harder to read. This blog demonstrate one way of ensure your content is clear to read. Another method I use as a web designer at Creare Communications is to use bullet pointed links. It is simple, easy to read and if the reader wishes to know more information on that topic all they have to do is click on the link that goes through to another page devoted to that bullet point.

  • Web Designer Reply

    Great work man! I really impressed by your fantastic work. The Eight ways to avoid common website mistakes are really nice. I sure that this will help me to build a quality website.
    Thanks!

  • Web Design Stafford Reply

    I think that conveying what exactly the website/business is, is something which I find many website owners actually overlook. Some great tips in general. I think one thing which you have overlooked is the importance of search engine optimisation for websites. Many websites are not even set up with the basics.

  • Sheena Reply

    The article is a brilliant report of what most website designers fail at. It is very true that in simple terms the LOOK, READ & FEEL must be perfect. A clutter free website, in soothing, fresh and pleasant colors, with content that makes for easy and relevant read, along with an easy user friendly navigation and search options makes a website a success. Also a good website needs good SEO techniques to increase its brand visibility, website traffic and in turn page ranking.

  • Morgan and Me Creative Reply

    Great piece of writing. One issue we often see or even face from clients are over the top written content, it’s often too log, dry, boring and filled with details most consumers aren’t interested in. Great web content should be written for the consumer in mind, not your competitors.

  • web design Reply

    As a web designer myself I would say that these tips are very accurate and these should be taught in school so we can get great designs.

  • WCR SEO Perth Reply

    The main issue that we find with our seo clients are that we get presented with websites to optimise that lack in structure and insufficiently organised content in regards to trying to satifsfy Google for their need of having a clear information architecture. We hope that as the industry moves along more and more clients will see the value in employing a specialist provider in the field of online market research and content strategy rather than using a web-developer to do everything. Thanks, Kat

  • Adam White Reply

    Great Tips. Thank you for sharing the awesome information with us all.

  • SEO Glasgow Reply

    There are a lot of very basic and simple rules I would hope that any web designer/developer would follow. I particularly would stress point 7, absolute must there.

  • Gaurang Reply

    Awesome advice. These mistakes are so silly, but can be avoided easily.

  • AKS Websoft Reply

    Great points, I want to add some more:
    1) Contact information should be easy to find
    2) Flashing images, scrolling text and blinking buttons are simply annoying to user
    3) SEO optimization of texts, Images and Videos.

  • Edward Reply

    Don’t make reading your content more difficult than it has to be. Do your readers a favor and make the text on your site easily readable.

  • Nikita : Web Design Junction Reply

    These are great common sense tips. Some additional ones are:-

    - Don’t blindly follow trends like huge background images
    - Where possible consider using Responsive Web Design for mobile devices
    - Be consistent, and ensure that you have tune up your Front-end performance by improving the UX
    - Test the website load speed using Google Page Speed or a similar tool.

  • Arafath Reply

    Live the post that includes essential things to watch when developing websites. All the eight points are must to follow in order to make your website like professional.

  • samsung galaxy s cases Reply

    As a web designer myself I would say that these tips are very accurate and these should be taught in school so we can get great designs.

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