10 Fatal and 10 Serious Mistakes in Web Design*

* by Elijah Lovkoff, Founder of Web Engine, Web Design and Hosting company

Not all mistakes in web design are equal: there are some that may or may not have an impact on a website’s success, but others act as website and traffic killers. This article is about 10 fatal and 10 serious mistakes in web design that you have to be aware of.

Having been in web design for many years, we’ve heard numerous “horror” stories from business owners about losing their business due to their website crash. Actually, we are getting requests to fix broken websites almost as many times as to build new ones!

If you are ready to create a website, you must know about several fatal mistakes in web design that can kill your site in the future. Avoiding these pitfalls is a crucial step in ensuring your site always stays healthy.

If you are already a website owner, to get it audited is an excellent idea (sometimes, it is the idea of vital importance).

If your website means business for you and you don’t want to worry that you’ll suddenly hit a brick wall, the only way to ensure its health is keeping it under control. So, better safe than sorry.

1. Using free platforms (themes, templates) and plugins

We all like freebies, but it’s not the case. Most FREE pre-designed WordPress themes and Content Management Systems (CMS) do NOT offer updates and support. Unfortunately, some of them are poorly developed.

The same statement applies to FREE plugins. A plugin is a small software program that gives additional functionality or a specific feature to an existing website code. No knowledge of coding is required to install it; you just can “plug in” it in a few clicks. When a program supports plug-ins, it enables customization.

2. Not being careful with “paperwork”

Let’s consider a common scenario of hiring a web designer: you’ve shopped around, you’ve found one you liked, you’ve agreed about the terms and price, and the work started. Now, you need to buy a website domain name and reliable hosting (that have to be renewed on a regular basis). You know that free WordPress themes and plugins are not good, so you ask your web designer to buy everything that your website requires. He or she doesn’t see any problems with that and does it. The question is which name they put while making all these legal purchases – yours or theirs? If yours then everything belongs to you if theirs – to them.

Imagine all of a sudden your web designer has gone to Mars. If all legal work was done on their names you are in trouble, a big one. You actually lost your site. And what if your web designer demands lots of money from you in return for giving all the legal rights to you?

Bottom line: register everything on your name and keep records of what you bought including all essential information: name of the institutions and where to login, username, passwords, account number, invoices and etc.

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3. Not hiring an administrator for website maintenance and support

To keep your flowers alive and blooming you have to water them and water properly: not too much, not too little, not too often … just right. The same way you have to look after your website. But in reality, website owners don’t think that their websites need constant care. They were designed and hosted, what else?

No way, Jose! You cannot just make a website and let it go adrift and hope for the best. There is a lot of behind-the-scenes technical stuff that you don’t know about, or don’t want to worry about. Hiring a website administrator is a must. It might be your web designer or a professional system admin.

Website maintenance and support usually include the following:
• Monitoring your site performance to assure it is in compliance with search engines and website standards
• Doing all software updates (core, themes, and plugins)
• Making site backups on a regular basis
• Providing disaster recovery from backups
• Keeping your website secure
• Establishing a working relationship with hardware engineers, hosting customer support, and other affiliate service entities to resolve urgent website issues and ensure that the web servers, hardware, and software are operating correctly
• Providing you with monthly reports
• Providing consultation service, guidance and training on website content management system and optimization (if required by a client and often for an extra charge)

In other words, a web admin is responsible for your site functionality, security, and user experience.

However, lots of website owners realize it too late. Usually, they think that if the website is built and hosted, it continues to function as well as the day it was launched forever. They have no idea that a website is like a car: it needs gas, an oil change, the air in its tires, windshield liquid and many other things. If you got a red and shiny Ferrari, will you be driving it for years and miles without any maintenance?

Without a web admin, you are on your own: you are responsible for software updates, backups, security and all other things.

4. Important information below the page fold

Can you retrieve in your memory how an old good newspaper looked like? Yes, they were folded, and an important news story or photograph was located above the fold, in the upper half of the front page. Thus, an item that is “above the fold” may be one that the editors feel will entice people to buy the paper.

“Above the fold” is also used in website design (along with “above the scroll”) to refer to the portion of the webpage that is visible without scrolling. This means you have only a few seconds to make an impression on your visitors to decide whether your website is worth their time or not.

The page fold is the single most crucial aspect of the page layout that you and your web designer must take very seriously. All important information must be above the fold. If not, say goodbye to your potential customer.

5. Too much customization

Customization gives control over your website to a person who designs it, not to you. If for any reasons you stop your business relationships with your web designer, you are on your own. If something gets wrong, what will you do? Ask another web designer to fix it? But how will they know what exactly has been done to your website? How many “strange” web designers will be able and willing to get deeply into the existing site code and re-code it? How much money will it cost you (if your site is fixable)? And what if you’ll have to change your “new” web designer again?

Hundreds of businessmen lost their websites due to such situations and had no chance but to start all over again or abandon their sites.

Why does it happen?
• The main reason is that many website owners (meaning normal business people) simply don’t know anything (or know a little) about the dangers of customization. Webdesign is not their core activity (if it were, they wouldn’t need to hire a professional in the first place).
• Being in the web design industry for a long time, we can’t help mentioning that most web designers create websites precisely in accordance with the client requirements. They don’t care. They don’t advise.
• Sometimes, web designers don’t have enough knowledge and skills.
• But often, it’s made intentionally: web designers want their clients to be their cash cow and be bound with them forever.

6. Slow loading

Slow page loading really affects a lot of things – to name a few:
a. User experience.
Nowadays, people have pretty short attention span when it comes to internet experience. If the page loads slowly then there is a big chance user will simply go away.
b. Marketing implications
You will pay more for marketing campaigns done through Google if your pages load slow
c. SEO implications
Google ranking system gives preference to pages that are loading faster

Your website loading time must be 3 seconds or less, otherwise, you will lose almost half of your visitors.

7. Not mobile friendly

In summer 2015, Google announced a major mobile algorithm update that penalizes websites that aren’t mobile-friendly. These changes are made to improve the web browsing experience for mobile users.

Today, all web designers use the responsive design that has automatic image compression and other features to make your site mobile friendly. You don’t need to worry about it. But it won’t hurt to make a double check.

8. No Privacy Policy

Like in many countries around the world, having a Privacy Policy for Canadian websites is required by law. All firms must follow the rules of Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). If you live in Canada’s jurisdiction, or if you collect information from Canadian citizens, your site must have the Privacy Policy that explains how you collect, use and disclose personal information.

Personal information includes details about individuals such as age, name, telephone numbers, addresses, email addresses, income levels, ethnic origin, comments, and etc.

In the age of rampant spam, we all want to be sure that our private information is protected it carefully.

9. No clear understanding of search engines

It’s a myth that all web designers understand search engines. Most of them don’t! Sometimes, web designers like what search engines hate: frames, a sophisticated navigation system, excessive heavy animation effects, some even use antiquated flash animations and blocks, some use uneven spacing that heavily affects readability, and so on, the list is very long and only proves that finding quality web designer is a daunting task.

This makes it very hard for businessmen when they hire a web developer. And if they don’t want to waste their hard earned money and valuable time, they have to know what sorts of questions to ask to figure out whether they do understand how search engines work.

And if you don’t want to bother with SEO and invest lots of money in your websites that will turn out to be invisible for search engines, what are you gonna do?

10. Not keeping a website updated

While the digital era has brought us amazing new technological advances, it has also opened up risks of hacking disasters. Malware (viruses, Trojan horses, worms, spyware, and adware) is written specifically to harm and infect the host systems, websites and computers. Cybersecurity is of growing importance due to increasing reliance on computer systems. Due to its complexity, both in terms of politics and technology, it is also one of the major challenges of the contemporary world. That’s why keeping themes and plugins fully updated is essential in modern times; it ensures that every possible entry point is protected.

10 Not fatal but very serious mistakes in web design


1. Poor Readability

Readability is one of the most important elements of your website design. If bizarre font styles and sizes are used, visitors won’t suffer reading it, they just leave. At the end of the day, you lose not them. Making your website easy to read improves the users’ reading experience.

While creating your site, you have to always keep in mind that visitors scan, not read, online. Make it easy for people to pick out information of interest from your site:
• Avoid large, uninterrupted blocks of text. Even if the information you provide is literally worth gold, most visitors will not bother finding it out.
• Include headings: they provide topical divisions and give readers an overview without forcing them to read the entire content. Headings are also very useful for SEO.
• Use bulleted lists and short paragraphs.
• Use images and other visual elements to visually break long texts because nobody likes an all-text experience.
• Remember that left-aligned text is easier to read than right-aligned text.
• Use white background with black body text wherever possible
• Keep in mind that whitespace is vital for text readability.

2. Poor navigation

Okay, people land on your site. Now what? Do they know what to do? Where to go? What their next steps should be? Make your site navigation simple and clear, easy for users to find what they are looking for. If your navigation bar is poorly arranged, too small to read, too big to fit one line, or anything else that isn’t easy or convenient, then it needs to be fixed.

3. Unclear Call to Action

Your website serves a purpose. And visitors come to your site for that purpose, not to admire the site design. It needs to have clear call-to-action that tells visitors what to do. No one is going to take action (e.g. sign-up for a mailing list, make a purchase, request a quote, or simply call you) if you don’t ask them to do so.

4. Too many popups

People hate them. Too many web popups are a pain in the neck for anyone. Now, even Google punishes sites that use annoying pop-ups. According to Google, any popup that hides the main content on the website and that navigates the user to a page different from the search results will be penalized.
If you’re going to use pop-ups do it right, use them in moderation.

5. Not having a sitemap

You cannot overestimate the importance of sitemaps. There are two major types of sitemaps:
1. Human-visible sitemaps which present a systematic view, typically hierarchical, of the site
2. Sitemaps intended for web crawlers such as search engines

The second type of sitemaps is of utmost importance for your site, it’s what makes it visible for search engines. The Sitemap contains URLs to all pages so that web crawlers can find them. Google introduced the Sitemaps protocol so web developers can publish lists of links from across their sites. Bing, Google, Yahoo and Ask now jointly support the Sitemaps protocol.

6. Focusing too much on trends

Focusing too much on the latest trends in web design without really considering their purpose can actually have a detrimental impact on the design. No doubt, staying current is important. However, a website that looks sleek and modern today could look outdated and cheesy in just a few months. You want to ensure that your design will look great for several years.

A beautiful site is great unless the design is so data-heavy that it takes too long to download. Visitors don’t like to be kept waiting. Even worse, with the Google Speed Update that went into effect in July 2018, Google has begun prioritizing rankings for sites that load faster than others.

Unless the purpose of your website is the get an award for the best design, focus on flat design, clean and minimalistic. Flat design helps a site fulfill a lot of the speed requirements that search engines are starting to require.

What is the use of a pair of beautiful shoes if they are too tight?

7. Missing Search Box

A search box is essential for any website, no matter whether it is big or small. It helps people find what they want if it is hidden within the website and not obvious at first glance.

8. Having auto-played multimedia content

Majority of us enjoy a silent browsing experience. When we are started bombarded with your theme song or a talking head on a video for which we didn’t press “play”, what do you think we are going to do? What would you do (especially if you can’t find the stop button)? At the very least, set your autoplay videos on mute and let your visitors choose to unmute them or not. No background music, please!

9. Having a Captcha

If you don’t want a feedback from your visitors, install a Captcha in your contact form. Do you really think that people will spend on average 10 seconds to solve a typical captcha? [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CAPTCHA] Do you think that guessing the letters of a distorted image, sometimes with the addition of an obscured sequence of letters or digits that appears on the screen, is fun? Then you’ll have to think again.

10. Having a contact form only, no any additional written information

“Contact us” or “Send us an email” forms are actually lead generation killers. Especially when they are opened in a separate “Outlook” window, and the additional “yes-no” questions appear. It’s not only terribly generic, but it also doesn’t indicate whether or not the website managers actually want to get feedback from you. Let people get in touch with you via email, the phone, and social media, and make that information written on your website.

And now, let’s finish considering all these serious matters with a joke: Nobody likes rats which belong to rodents. But beautiful squirrels with fluffy tails and cute striped chipmunks are rodents too. Porcupines are also rodents with sharp spines … It’s all about design and marketing.

* Should you be interested in talking to us or learning how we can help to advance your online business, please contact us here or simply call us at 416 871 0741

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Author: AllOntario Team

AllOntario.ca is an information resource for Ontario residents and a marketplace for Ontario businesses. It’s all about living and doing business in Ontario. All in one site.