This article has been contributed by Helga Moreno.
“While one person hesitates because he feels inferior, the other is busy making mistakes and becoming superior”.
– Henry C. Link
Even the most experienced professionals make mistakes. We are only human. Below you will find a list of some of the most common mistakes web designers make, as well as some friendly reminders on what makes a website successful.
Hopefully with this list, you can avoid the common pitfalls and really up your game as a web designer. Enjoy!
Most Frequent Web Design Mistakes
- Unorganized content layout. Everybody knows that a massy page prevents users from quick scanning. You should always keep in mind a clear hierarchy of your design and don’t place the users into a confusing position when they don’t know where to look first. Guide their eyes through the page and it will be a success.
- Poor navigation. It’s good practice when site visitors always know where they are at any given moment and have the possibility to travel through website pages freely and swiftly. Designers solve this issue different ways. Some include pagination into design, others prefer one page layouts. The availability of different filters that simplify customers’ search works well either.
- Poor readability & legibility. We know that good readability is basic, but some designers manage to neglect it in their burst of creativity.
- Bad use of color and contrast. It’s impossible to give instant advice to this issue. Each designer should know color theory and be able to apply its rules. If you can’t fully rely on your knowledge of color and contrast, there are plenty of online tools that will help you choose the optimal match.
- Complicated or no registration forms. Nobody will sweat filling out the multiple fields of your registration form, so it should be as short and simple as possible. Also try a tiered approach, loading questions in sequences rather than all at once.
- Use of heavy images, flash based graphics and animations. The heavier your website is, the slower it downloads, especially on mobile devices. Would like to increase your traffic? Make your website lightweight. And let flash finally RIP.
- Cluttered web pages. Leave enough white space for your content to breathe. Learn more about minimalism here. Or is it just a trend?
- Splash page. Think well if you really need a splash page… If you don’t provide access to pornography, alcohol or gambling, where certain age restrictions are required, why not give the users what they are looking for all at once.
- Irrelevant, out of date content or no content at all. Your website should provide current up-to-date information.
- Pop-up windows. This will inevitably lead to visitor’s disorienting experience. So, keep in mind that only one pop-up window should be accessible at a time or use lightboxes where all distraction is grayed out for better perception. And don’t forget that the user should have the possibility to close a pop-up clicking anywhere on the screen.
- Not testing a website on all devices or going live without testing. Most websites should be responsive by now and they should be tested across all popular devices and show optimized performance.
- No call-to-actions or improper use of them. Each website is created with a certain purpose. So, if there is no clear call-to-action on the page your chances to reach it are second to none.
- Broken links. Links leading nowhere are signs of unprofessionalism in web design. Such small details can ruin the general impression even if the design is splendid.
- No responsive website. If your website can’t adjust to all major screen resolutions, you will potentially lose a lot of visitors as their experience has not been optimized.
- Over-promising to the client and agreeing to unrealistic timelines. All of us lay ourselves out in order not to lose a single client. Some designers are ready to promise the moon to the customer, but then can’t meet the deadline or fail with other requirements. Under promise and over deliver.
- Not asking enough questions throughout the process. Design isn’t an easy process and it’s normal to ask questions on every step leading to finish. It’s important to have a design brief to work from as well.
- Failing to see when a project requires an extended deadline or more resources to meet a deadline. It’s better to foresee all possible delays and extra expenses. Every project is exposed to financial or other kind of risks. Assuming that things will go smoothly is a sure fire way to fail. Factor this in to your project management.
- Not updating their own personal website. Keep in mind that clients searching for an expert web designer, will study their company websites carefully. A up-to-date, user-friendly website is the face of your agency and your prospective customers will decide if they want to work with you depending on their impression.
- Ignoring search. A search bar should be present on nearly every site, in a very prominent place. It simplifies customers’ navigation greatly and saves their time.
- Over-engineering – trying to make your interface do everything for everyone. It’s a utopia to be loved by everybody. People’s tastes and needs differ, so you’d better focus on your targeted audience. Be extremely clear with yourself about who your 90% users are and ruthlessly drive the design with them in mind. You’ll have more chances to succeed. “A bird in the hand is better than two in the bush”.
- Designing before content is figured out. Understanding what media and subject matter is utterly important. This knowledge lets the designer think about “interactive” design, rather than simply graphic execution.
- Forgetting to make your website accessible and backwards compatible. Your website’s should be accessible by all and work on all devices, including screen readers.
- Causing excessive scrolling on mobile devices. The basics of responsive design is that horizontal grids can collapse into vertical lists. In some cases, this works great. In other cases, the horizontal grid makes for a very long vertical list. You should consider ways that shorten the page by grouping or reorganizing content.
- Including user interface elements that do not work well on mobile. A gigantic registration form is difficult to fill out on a mobile device. Turning the registration form into a responsive layout makes it marginally easier, but one has to wonder whether it is still a reasonable expectation for the user to fill out all of the information that you ask. Consider this: when one registers on the website from a mobile device, the website is intelligent enough to skip a few steps in filling out the profile, letting the user complete those steps on a desktop or laptop computer. Learn more about forms on mobile devices here.
- Jumping to problem solving, skipping the analysis. You can’t solve the problem until you know what the problem is. For that you need to analyze the problem, supporting the analysis with research as needed. Yet many UX folks begin a project by opening Photoshop or Axure. These aren’t problem-solving tools. Once a design is created, its author will tend to defend, but they’re defending their work, not a solution.
- Confusing phasing with project completion. Within the Agile development process particularly, UX professionals must learn to create experiences that also support a phased release schedule. Confusion over what constitutes a phase, often leads to incomplete ‘under construction’ releases that are merely part of an incomplete whole. Real phases are both individually complete and part of a greater whole. As such, an early phase may not resemble the final product at all, yet inevitable leads to it.
- Not ensuring that there is a primary action and secondary action on each and every screen. Screens are still often stuffed with too many actions to take (especially home pages and index pages), but content pages and lower functionality pages often leave users with no next action to take to continue their journey.
- Not being able to articulate a rationale for a particular design. Whether it’s to stakeholders, fellow designers, or in job interviews, too many UX designers (still) only talk about their work according to process and technique, rather than problem solving and design thinking. Be bolder and speak up for your thinking, not just your pixels.
- Making users register before showing value. Users have plenty of apps to choose from. There is no shortage. When you make a user share their information before communicating the value that your app has to offer, you risk losing them immediately.
- Not collaborating with the developers – communicating the hows and whys of the design early in the process is very important, and “they don’t really understand design” is never a good excuse for not trying hard enough.
- Too much attention to homepage. It’s difficult to argue that a home page makes the first impression on the user, so it should be marvelous. Though, the subpages are not less important as they also contain essential info, so they shouldn’t look like designer’s step daughters.
- Borrowing too often. Today plenty of features and functionalities are available online through open source codes, libraries, frameworks etc. Be careful in not trying to accomplish something that someone has already implemented. Write the code yourselves from time to time to improve your skills.
- No proper documentation. Bear in mind that you know your projects like a book because you developed them. Other people need detailed documentation to understand your train of thought.
- Buried new content. Unless the sites you’re designing are completely static, somehow showcasing new information is vital to good design. Returning visitors are likely going to be interested in what’s changed since they last visited. Generally, this is done automatically on blogs, with posts appearing in descending order based on date. But what about other types of websites? There are a few ways to approach this. You can devote an entire section to new content. This could be a page linking to the newest content. Or this could be a section within the home page or another page that links to the newest updates. Making this prominent is important. The goal is to make it easy for returning visitors to find it.
Never say, “oops.” Always say, “Ah, interesting.”
– Author Unknown.
Follow this principle, make mistakes, fix them, learn new things and strive for perfection. We believe that there is nothing shameful in making mistakes; only those who do nothing. We hope that our long list of the most frequent web design mistakes will help you to avoid them. Also see these Ten Mistakes to Avoid When Designing Your Website.
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Helga Moreno is a learning junkie, requiring a new dose of fresh information every day. She diligently puts down all her thoughts in order to share the most interesting of them with web community in general and TemplateMonster’s readers in particular. Visit her Google+ profile.