Eight Common Web Design Mistakes

Web design is a tricky business if you’re fairly new to it, but with a reasonable amount of common sense it’s not hard to design something that’s quick, clear, and enjoyable to look at and use. Nowadays a website is as important as a storefront, if not more so – especially as traditional stores situated on main street continue to decline as the new millennium wears on. So with this new-found reliance on websites as the front end of a good company image, we’ve provided eight common web design mistakes for you to note down and avoid, should you wish to take on the task of designing your site yourself.

1. “Minimalism is the solution to everything.”

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There are websites so cluttered that it’s hard to understand how to use the site on anything that isn’t an IMAX screen. But at the other end of the scale are sites where there’s so little on the page that you begin to question the use of the real estate available to you. A home page shouldn’t look like a hoarder’s closet, but it should certainly have a menu, features, and generally feel populated. Try to find the line between “clean” and “barren” in your design approach – less isn’t always more.

2. “Plugins, widgets – must have more!”

Common Web Design Mistakes

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On the other end of the spectrum are those web designers who feel that the more plugins that offer useful features on any given page, the better. Now, plugins really can make a website a lot more useful for the user. Things like social sharing buttons, options to change font size or site theme, and even nice little chat widgets in the sidebar (unless the chat is dead for months at a time, which’ll look terrible to new visitors) can improve a site’s appeal. But stuffing the site with little feature-packed boxes and other additional functionality can not only begin to feel claustrophobic, but it can actually affect the site’s performance, which is the last thing you want to do.

3. “This site is for PCs – why bother with mobile?”

Common Web Design Mistakes

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So, so many sites are still not fully prepared for mobile browsing, and in 2013 that’s a cardinal sin. In addition to those sites which lose your page when switching between mobile and desktop views and ones who strip out so much content that the mobile version is pointless, there are sites with no mobile version at all, and when you compare an average 17″ PC screen with a 4.7″ smartphone screen, the problems are immediately evident. Even though optimising your design for mobile devices can come at a considerable expense, it’s worth considering when many visitors will see your site via their smartphones or tablets. Alternatively, take a look at responsive design for a good solution. Yes, responsive design. No idea? Read on.

Responsive designs are rapidly becoming the go-to modernisation method when it comes to proving a site’s worth to users with displays that vary wildly in size. Mobile versions of a site become less of a worry once your site actually realigns its entire design depending on the resolution you have allotted to it. It’s an incredible feature to watch in action, and while it makes the site design and construction process noticeably more complex and lengthy, the end result will place your site alongside those at the forefront of web design in 2013. If that’s not a selling point, nothing is.

4. “Contact? No thanks!”

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There’s nothing worse than having to deal with a ton of spam in a company in-box. However, the only thing that’s worse is refusing to offer contact details anywhere on your site because it’s more convenient for you, rather than for visitors who have a genuine enquiry. There are ways to avoid the spam and keep an email form on the site, however – try anything from Captcha codes to just phrasing your email as “marylou [at] website [dot] com” to make sure spam never gets flung your way and your visitors are still able to speak to you. Better yet, set up a good spam filter and have a dedicated staff member send replies if you’re getting that much incoming mail, that way you won’t have to frustrate visitors with a lack of a contact form or mailto link.

5. “A search form that works? Why bother?”

Common Web Design Mistakes

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Contrary to some people’s beliefs, it’s not actually a wise idea to have someone visit yoursite.com, and then have to reverse out of the site back to the search engine in order to find another page on that domain! It’s quite worrying just how many sites have broken internal search features, because they are vital if someone wants to see if you’ve covered a certain topic, and they’ll keep your bounce rate lower and average browsing time higher. There’s no reason for it to be broken, especially as it’s present on your site in the first place. It’s like owning a front door that knocking can’t penetrate, and assuming people are happy to peer through the windows to see if you’re in.

6. “The more colourful, the better!”

Common Web Design Mistakes

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Woah there, Dulux dog. You need to think carefully before you go all rainbow on your website. One or two colours, or varying shades of the same one (hey, Facebook, Twitter, and so on) are wise, but don’t start mixing two strong colours together, or worse, more. Your content needs to stand out, but if your website looks like you took a rocket launcher to the paint section of your local DIY store, then chances are people aren’t going to be able to focus on said content as easily. Let your stuff speak for itself, and allow colours to give the site a little personality, rather than define it completely.

7. “I’ll fix it soon – I can’t just do it myself.”

Common Web Design Mistakes

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If you’ve got a website design that you can’t personally maintain, there’s a serious flaw in your plan to dominate the web already. This is even more the case if the code behind the site isn’t of great quality, which you’ll likely find out once your paid-per-hour developer attempts to fix the code of someone long since vanished or now busy with another project and this new coder can’t make head nor tail of what’s letting the whole site down. Do your research and learn as much as you can – not just about code and fixing sites, but also about the people you’re about to hire, so you don’t end up working with someone who’ll do a horrible hack job and leave you with it; your blissful ignorance giving way to condemnation and despair once your front page breaks and your traffic drops.

8. “Social icons everywhere!”

Common Web Design Mistakes

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Whatever you do, do not put these things all over your page. The only place your social icons should go are in your header/footer, and at the bottom of each piece of content – nowhere else. While social media is a huge part of today’s school of web design, there’s no justifiable reason to start cramming them into every sidebar and pop-up (don’t use pop-ups, either, please!) you can find. Make them minimalistic, functional, and of course, free of clutter around them so someone who’s enjoyed your piece on German politics can instantly see how to show your site content to other people. Also, make sure they match the site! There’s nothing worse than a set of icons that are super cute on a modern, seriously-designed site, or ones that look very businesslike on a site that features nothing but Flash games for kids.

Web design is seriously important – just as important as your content, in some cases, and as if the site is an unnavigable mess, the chances are no one’s even going to see your content, let alone enjoy it. Putting a lot of time into the design yourself or investing in someone who knows what they’re doing and won’t make a mess is imperative. So use your common sense, make the effort, and whatever you do, don’t ever utter the above nine phrases.

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About the Author:
Reese Jones is a tech and gadget lover, a die-hard fan of iOS and console games. She started her writing venture recently and writes about everything from quick tech tips, to mobile-specific news from the likes of O2, to tech-related DIY. Find more about her and her work at Reese+ and tweet her @r_am_jones.

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