We all know good web design when we see it. It feels natural, effortless, and right.
Whether it’s a blog, sales page, or news site, we can easily separate the good design from the bad design.
But when it comes down to execution, it’s much more challenging to create a website that’s aesthetically pleasing and highly functional. For those without a web design background, knowing and doing are two totally different things.
The problem is that most people assume design intuition naturally leads to compelling web design creation (especially in a world of drag-and-drop website builders). This leads to costly mistakes that produce watered down messaging and suppressed conversion rates.
Left unaddressed, these mistakes can damage your brand beyond repair. Don’t let it get to that point!
Good web design is more than just pretty. Done well, it can produce a long list of benefits, including:
When your web design perfectly complements your brand’s larger goals and objections, everything falls into place. However, when web design falls short, you miss out on these benefits and the results can be catastrophic.
So much of the battle with good website design lies in the avoidance of mistakes. By avoiding certain mistakes, you can pave the way for increased visibility, greater engagement, and more conversions.
Having said that, here are some of the most common and costly website design mistakes we see:
In 2005, there was no such thing as a mobile version of a website – 99 percent of all sites were designed with desktop browsers in mind.
By 2010, however, the growth of smartphones had led to a surge in people using their mobile devices to access the internet. As a result, businesses that wanted to reach mobile users suddenly had to create separate mobile versions of their websites.
Fast forward to today’s marketplace, where smartphones are ubiquitous and the number of mobile-only internet users is higher than ever before, and responsive web design is the preferred option.
With most internet users now using a variety of devices – often within the same day – it no longer makes sense to have a desktop site and a mobile site. Instead, we’re at a point where responsive web design is the norm. And if you don’t have a responsive website, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.
With responsive website design, all content on all pages of your site is flexible. In other words, they’re able to scale and adapt to any browser or screen size, regardless of the device accessing it. This provides an optimal experience that’s consistent and user-friendly.
A lack of responsiveness doesn’t just hurt your website user experience (UX), it also negatively impacts search rankings. Responsive design is one of Google’s top ranking factors. If you’re locking in this area, you’ll find it hard to rank well.
The good news is that responsive design is now the gold standard. If you’re designing a new website or hiring a development team to revamp your site, this will almost certainly be part of the package. However, it never hurts to ask.
Aesthetics aren’t everything. Yes, you want your website to look good. But if your website is slow and clunky, you’re doing yourself a huge disservice. (Do some research on the correlation between page loading speed and conversions to see what we mean.)
Page loading speed can be impacted by any number of elements, but it often comes down to poorly optimized images and resource-intensive design elements.
For starters, consider your images. If you’re using full-sized images with no compression, simply optimizing these images could reduce page load size by up to 80 percent. (This can shed seconds off your loading speed).
If you’re interested in exploring more, I would suggest our blog post on how to get a perfect score on Google PageSpeed Insights.
Show us an underperforming website and we’ll show you a website that has a poor unique sales proposition (USP).
A USP, which is basically the single reason that customers should choose you over the competition, must be clear, obvious, and positioned front and center. It’s a simple phrase or sentence that articulates what makes you compelling to prospective clients. (It’s not a mission statement, which is boring, clunky, and internally facing).
Your USP should be featured prominently on your home page. Sometimes this all the text you need above the fold. It should complement the rest of your design and copy strategy, but it should also stand on its own merit.
We always suggest starting your website development project with wireframe mockups.
Your website is a valuable billboard for your business, but you must resist the temptation to fill every pixel with sales and marketing statements. A busy and cluttered look will render diminishing returns.
Simplicity is one of the defining metrics of good web design. Gone are the days of busy sites with lots of flashy and loud elements. Today, the best websites are clean and minimalist. They prioritize white space and do more with less.
Clean up your site and strip out anything that doesn’t directly correlate to your USP. Remember that images are worth 1,000 words. Try to limit the amount of copy you use and learn to show rather than tell.
Visuals are more important than ever before. And if you’re designing your website with lots of visuals, you’re ahead of the curve. Having said that, there’s one mistake you must avoid: Using generic stock photos.
While stock photos certainly have a place in web design, there’s an art to selecting the right images. Refrain from using cheesy and irrelevant images. Avoid using anything that misrepresents your brand or makes it lack authenticity.
Too much reliance on stock photography makes people wonder whether there’s anyone real behind the business. It makes you feel generic and possibly even “shady.”
Whenever possible, use your own images. Rather than showing a stock photo of a boardroom full of generic employees, show an actual picture of your team. Or instead of clip art, create branded graphics that are tailored to your business. Genuine images make a world of difference.
Typography is usually an afterthought. When designing a website, it’s common to choose the default option or randomly look for one that fits your eye. But we recommend giving more thought and intentionality to font selection.
Any font that’s unreadable (or difficult to read) lowers cognitive fluency and negatively impacts conversion rates. Choose something that’s easy to read and use it consistently throughout your site. You should have no more than one or two fonts.
In addition to font selection, consider the following:
These may seem like small details, but they have a significant impact on legibility and conversions. Don’t overlook them!
You might assume visitors want to see a unique and visually stimulating website, but the reality is that most people prefer predictability.
For example, internet users have been conditioned to expect the company’s logo in the upper left-hand corner of the page. Likewise, they anticipate seeing a “contact us” or “about us” button in the upper right-hand corner. This is not a time where reinventing the wheel pays off. Stick with conventional wisdom.
When it comes to blog posts, you have to respect the fact that attention spans are shorter than they’ve ever been. You can’t use a boring design/layout and expect people to engage with your content. You have to mix things up and keep people visually stimulated.
While long-form blog posts are considered a best practice, be mindful of how you’re designing your posts. Anything you can do to break up chunky paragraphs will serve you well. Good tools include frequent line breaks, subheadings, bullets, numbered lists, images and graphics, bolded words, italics, and pullout quotes.
Pop-ups are frustrating. And while we’re in the middle of a massive trend of exit-intent pop-ups (which admittedly produce high conversion rates), you have to be careful.
Too many pop-ups in situations where pop-ups are considered intrusive can cause frustration and lead to high bounce rates. Be mindful of when and where you use them. They should only be used when you’re certain someone is already on their way out.
Video is an excellent choice for your website, but be mindful of how you use it. We see brands mess up in a big way by leveraging video in all of the wrong places.
Just as video can capture a visitor’s attention, it can turn a visitor off. In order for it to be effective, video must have consent and expectation.
While auto-play videos can be useful on landing pages where it’s considered expected, it’s generally not a good best practice on a home page. Furthermore, you should never autoplay a video with sound. This is disrupting and highly frustrating. Always start a video on mute and give the user a chance to unmute.
Navigation is an integral component of good website design and development. And this is another area where simplicity wins the day.
Complicated navigation does nothing but confuse and frustrate visitors. Your navigation should be so simple that anyone can learn their way around your site using nothing more than intuition.
To put it another way, your navigation should do what people think it should do. If someone expects a particular button or menu item to help learn more, it should. If they anticipate clicking on a CTA will open up a contact form, it should. Don’t overthink this!
While most brands need more in-depth websites, there’s something to be said for the single-page with a blog. If you can fit everything onto one page, you minimize friction considerably.
You aren’t going to win any web design award with your 404 page. In fact, you hope that people rarely visit your 404 page in the first place. However, in case they do, it’s important to have something other than a generic error page that makes people feel frustrated and annoyed.
A good 404 page shows people that you care about their website experience. It can also win you some points in the creativity department.
If you can make someone smile, rather than roll their eyes, your 404 page is considered a success. Here are some good ideas for inspiration.
Now that we’ve explained the importance of web design, top mistakes you don’t want to make, and some powerful ways to avoid and overcome these issues, let’s address the 1,000-pound elephant in the room: How do you execute?
As stated at the beginning, you may have an intuitive understanding of what good website design is (and what it’s not), but how do you emphasize the former while avoiding the latter?
You ultimately have three options:
The option you choose will depend on your experience, time, and budget. Ultimately, it’s about making the decision that’s right for your brand’s growth.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with building your own website (if you know how) or using a drag-and-drop builder to create a simple site (if you’re willing to compromise functionality), but why bother?
If there’s one aspect of your digital footprint that you want to be exceptional, it’s your website. Everything else revolves around your website and depends on it as a strong foundation for the brand.
Make sure you do it right.
At DEV.co, we don’t just design websites. We design unrivaled digital experiences that leverage strategic innovation with beautiful interfaces that elevate brands to new heights.
Want to learn more about our process and how we can help you design a website that establishes trust, cultivates authority, and generates conversions?
Ryan is the VP of Operations for DEV.co. He brings over a decade of experience in managing custom website and software development projects for clients small and large, managing internal and external teams on meeting and exceeding client expectations–delivering projects on-time and within budget requirements. Ryan is based in El Paso, Texas.