The 11 Worst Web Design Mistakes to Avoid

web design mistakes to avoid

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These are the worst web design mistakes to avoid handpicked by our experts…

These days, you need more than just a website – it also needs to look sleek and provide a slick user experience. Avoiding the most common web design mistakes should help you on the way to that success.

We’ll walk you through the worst web design mistakes that you need to avoid. We’ll also provide examples, plus killer tips to help you nail your web design and outshine the competition. Remember – don’t try any of these at home.

You can also consider using a web design company to curate your website.

1. Cluttering your website with a busy design

Your website should be clutter-free and clearly display important information, such as your brand message or ‘call to action’ button (more on that later). If your site’s too busy, you risk your visitors getting lost on the crowded page.

We’re not the only ones who think this is the number one web design mistake to avoid. In fact, 84.6% of web designers believe ‘crowded’ web design is the most common mistake made by small businesses, so don’t fall into the trap.

Three tips for clutter-free design

  1. Use plenty of whitespace
  2. Don’t overload the page with images
  3. Create an easily scannable menu
Cluttered website example
This website is so cluttered that it’s hard to focus on any particular area

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2. Not optimising for search engines

While not specifically related to the aesthetics of your design, SEO (search engine optimisation) should be taken seriously when building your website. By forsaking SEO, your site will be unlikely to attract new visitors simply because they can’t find it on search engines.

How do you avoid this web design mistake? For starters, make sure all the content on your website is kept up to date, and is strictly relevant to what your business does.

And remember to include keywords (popular words that users are searching for, and that relate to your business) in your posts. Both practices are very important in Google’s eyes.

Strong SEO will help ensure your website appears much higher up on the search engine results pages (SERPs), bringing more visitors and customers to your business.

Three tips for strong SEO design

  1. Use relevant keywords in your content
  2. Write regular, high-quality blog posts
  3. Avoid ‘keyword stuffing’ (using an unnatural number of keywords)

3. Using poor calls to action (or none at all)

A call to action (CTA) commands visitors to do something, whether it’s ‘click here’, ‘sign up’ or ‘buy now’. This button is usually what turns visitors into customers, so it’s crucial that you get it right. Despite this, it’s still one of the most common web design mistakes.

Without CTAs, your business is missing out on potential customers, clients, and contacts. However, you can’t just place any old button on your homepage and expect it to work – it needs to be clear, eye-catching, and trustworthy. Otherwise, visitors will likely avoid clicking on your ‘spammy’ CTA, or miss the button entirely.

Three tips for CTA buttons

  1. Keep the buttons short and clear
  2. Experiment with eye-catching colours
  3. Place the button somewhere that’s easy to spot
Bad CTA example
Can you spot the poorly-placed CTA? It took us a while...

4. Making contact information hard to find

In order for your business to be successful, customers and clients need to be able to contact you easily. Visitors that can’t find your contact information either won’t contact you, or worse – they’ll get frustrated and find a competitor. But don’t worry – this is one of the easiest web design mistakes to avoid.

Your contact information should be one click away from your homepage. Or, it should be displayed clearly at the bottom of every page. Either way, it cannot and should not be missed.

Three tips for contact information

  1. Add a ‘Contact Us’ tab on your navigation bar
  2. Offer as many contact methods as possible
  3. Don’t use salesy language
Contact information example website
Finding the contact information on this menu is very difficult

5. Not prioritising user navigation

Who enjoys using websites that are hard to navigate? No one. That’s exactly what you’d get by hiding your navigation bar, creating too many menu tabs, or using vague and misleading phrasing: an unpopular website.

Just like your contact information, this is an easy web design mistake to avoid if you take the right steps. Your navigation menu and search bar must be simple to find – and use. As for the website itself, you should consider categorising different pages to help streamline navigation for the user.

Think of your website like a shop. When it’s structured in a way that makes no sense, it’s hard to find what you’re looking for, meaning you’re far less likely to make a purchase or take an action.

When we spoke to Georgios Tsourapis, a web developer for digital marketing agency The Audit Lab, he shared our annoyances with poor navigation:

In web design, the user journey needs to be prioritised and simplified. Too many times, I see overloaded navigation bars with bad organisation, which leads to a confusing and frustrating user journey. Whenever you’re adding or removing pages, make sure to check the navigation bars and keep them tidy.

Three tips for navigation menus

  1. Categorise your pages for intuitive navigation
  2. Create dropdown menus if necessary to save space
  3. Add a search bar
Confusing navigation menu
With so many options to click, navigating this website seems quite daunting

6. Having a slow loading time

If your website loads slowly, you’ll lose visitors quickly. This is because internet users are more impatient than ever, with short attention spans and plenty of competitor pages to choose from.

In web design terms, ‘slow’ means anything that takes longer than a few seconds to load. Literally. According to Google, 53% of mobile users leave a website that takes longer than three seconds to load.

Slow page loading speed is also bad for SEO. Google prefers faster-loading pages because they’re more user-friendly, meaning quicker websites are likely outrank slower competitors. In the world of web design, fast-loading pages (i.e. under three seconds) usually mean quicker conversions, sales, and sign-ups. Hooray!

Three tips to reduce loading time

  1. Choose a web hosting service that focuses on performance
  2. Compress and optimise your images
  3. Minimise CSS, JavaScript, and HTML coding
Loading page screenshot
If you’re going to keep visitors waiting, at least make the loading icon fun to watch

7. Forgetting about mobile responsive design

73.1% of web designers – along with us at Expert Market – believe that non-responsive design is a top reason why visitors leave a website. Why so? It all comes down to the user’s experience.

Mobile-responsive design ensures your site reformats and displays a seamless experience when viewed on mobile devices. Alternatively, a non-responsive website is hard to navigate on a phone screen, and will likely suffer in the SERPs as a result. Mobile usage is on the rise, making non-responsive design a critical web design mistake to avoid.

Most DIY website builders offer mobile responsive templates, while any half-decent web designer should create one for you regardless.

Three tips for mobile responsive design

  1. Use a ‘hamburger’ icon for your navigation menu
  2. Consider a mobile-first approach to design
  3. Ensure buttons can be easily clicked on small screens
Poor mobile experience screenshot
This mobile website has far too much going on for the average fingertip to handle

8. Overloading your site with ads

With web design, you need to find the right balance between harmlessly monetising your website and annoying your visitors. But that’s tricky, especially when you use advertising to make money from your site. When used too frequently or positioned incorrectly, ads can be unbelievably frustrating.

That’s why we recommend regularly analysing your ads. Ask friends or relatives what they think about your site’s ads – if they find them even slightly annoying, then it’s safe to assume your website visitors definitely will, too.

To combat this, ensure your pop-ups are relatively small and easy to close, and that your display ads are relevant to your target audience.

Three tips for website ads

  1. Keep your ads above the fold (at the top of the page)
  2. Don’t distract your audience from your own content
  3. Never stop experimenting
Confusing pop up example
This pop-up is far too confusing to read – what does it want you to do?

9. Adding poorly designed or irrelevant images

Unlike adverts, images are strictly necessary when designing a stylish website. However, they pose the same risk. Poorly designed or irrelevant imagery can be harmful to your sales, sign-ups, and brand image.

These days, we’re seeing too many websites displaying low-quality images that put off visitors, with irrelevant content that confuses them. When used correctly, however, images are engaging devices that clearly communicate your brand message.

Three tips for adding images

  1. Don’t overload images and distract from your CTA
  2. Ensure your images are high resolution
  3. Make sure your images are relevant to your brand
Poor quality images on a website
Where to begin with these low-quality, untrustworthy images?

10. Owning an unsecure website

Perhaps the easiest web design mistake to avoid – and the riskiest to the visitor – is not having an SSL certificate. These certificates encrypt data sent between a site and its users, ensuring everything stays safe from cyber criminals. Without one, your visitors risk their money, address information, and credit card details being stolen.

If your site doesn’t have protection, then the web browser will inform users that it is ‘unsafe’. Unsecure websites are bad for SEO, too, with search engines preferring safe websites.

SSL certificates are easy to find. You can ask your web hosting provider for a recommendation, or use a DIY website builder that comes with security certificates built in.

Three tips for securing your website

  1. Regularly back up your website
  2. Ensure apps and plugins are up to date
  3. Don’t host multiple websites on one server
Non-secure website URL
This is the website example in #1 – it’s unsecure and unattractive

11. Issues with fonts and colour schemes

Jack Mace, a web designer at Tao Digital, told us about the importance of picking a Google-safe font, and using accessible colours:

If the fonts you use aren’t pre-approved by Google, your site could be slowed down as the unrecognised font would need to be retrieved, loaded and rendered.

Google pushes for accessible sites, and rewards those who abide by its guidelines. You can use this contrast checker to check if certain colours work together from an accessibility standpoint. If you use conflicting colours, Google could see this as a red flag and hurt your rankings.

Three tips for font size and colour schemes

  1. Check for Google-approved fonts
  2. Use the contrast checker to see how accessible your colours are
  3. Research colour psychology to see how different colours could affect your target audience
Bad colour scheme example
These colour schemes and fonts are painful to look at

Expert verdict

These are the worst web design mistakes to make because they provide the worst user experience. And that’s what web design is all about – the user. What you – the website owner – may find quirky or cool, your audience might find crass.

We want you to be inspired by these mistakes. Use that inspiration to create an aesthetically pleasing website that’s fun, engaging, and simple to use. Then, you’re off to a winning start!

Written by:
Dan’s a Senior Writer at Expert Market, specialising in digital marketing, web design, and photocopiers, amongst other topics.
Reviewed by:
Robyn Summers-Emler, Grow Online Editor, Profile Picture
Robyn started working on Expert Market in 2021 as a specialist in business websites and digital marketing. As the Grow Online Editor, she ideates, commissions and optimizes content on Expert Market that helps businesses thrive in online spaces and maximize their ecommerce potential. Covering everything from choosing a website builder to scaling a social media marketing strategy - Robyn uses her expertise to help startups, SMBs, and larger businesses realize digital growth in an increasingly competitive landscape.