The Biggest Mistakes in Web Design

At Rouge me know that today, anyone can register a domain name and get a website up and running in minutes, but that doesn’t mean that everyone can create a great-looking website. The low barrier to entry is a blessing for hobbyists, club owners and small groups that want to share ideas online, but businesses should be wary of trying to cut corners and do things cheaply.

We also know that not everyone is a skilled designer, and while it is easy enough to get a WordPress or Joomla website up and running, using an out-of-the-box theme is not always a good idea for any business website as it could well damage the brand, in all cases business owners should want to make sure that their website is unique and that it matches their brand. This is something that takes more time and skill.

Creating Great-Looking Websites Isn’t Easy

It takes practice and skill to learn what makes a great web design. Let’s take a look at some of the most common mistakes that beginners make.

Auto-Loading Sound and Video

A lot of novice web designers are wowed by the idea of the ‘multimedia experience’. They want animation, sound, video and fancy sliders on their websites. This may be fine if your website relates to a video game, but it is not a good idea for most sites. Firstly, that auto-loading content will cost bandwidth, and if your users are browsing the web on a mobile phone using a connection which has a limited data allowance, you could annoy them. Using auto-loading sound and video can slow down the loading of your website too, so it is not a good idea.

In addition, if someone were browsing your website at work, they may not appreciate having an audio file play from their PC. Keep your site clean and simple so that people feel safe accessing it during their break times.

Requiring Plugins

Unless you are serving a highly specialised audience, and there is no way to convey the information on your website without using a particular plugin, do not use plugins on your site. A passing visitor is not going to be willing to download and install Silverlight, the Unity browser add-on or any other plugin, restart their browser and go back to your website. You will lose visitors if you require people to do this.

Search Engine Optimisation

Some websites are built purely to act as an online brochure and that is fine if that is all that is wanted. However, if you want your site to be found on the web via the Search Engines, you need to  plan your website well, taking care to build pages ‘around’ a subject / set of keywords and to have appropriate meta titles and descriptions, whilst keeping the site’s HTML clean. Sitemaps can help here, both those for the user and those for Google (this is normally in XML format and is submitted to Google via WebMasterTools.  These simple improvements to websites that will greatly improve their search-engine friendliness, and yet a lot of webmasters overlook them.

Including a sitemap in xml format will make it easier for Google to index your website, and the other improvements will make your site look better in the search results. There is no excuse for failing to make your site search-engine friendly.

Walls of Text

High-quality content is an essential part of any website. Many well-intentioned brand owners write how-tos, opinion pieces and detailed essays that are incredibly useful and informative, but often  they fall down by making those posts too long and too difficult to read. People interact with websites in a different way to how they interact with books and magazines, and they prefer content that they can scan easily.

The best way to present content on websites is to break it up into sections with clear headings so that people can scan through the content. In addition, keep your paragraphs short – ideally five or six sentences per paragraph at most. If your posts start to exceed more than 1000 words, consider breaking them up into parts and publishing them a few days apart. Not only will this please your readers by making your content easier to digest, but it will help with visitor retention too.

The opposite of the wall of text problem is the slideshow problem. A lot of low-quality clickbait websites publish content in slideshows so that they can generate a large number of page views. If each ’18 things you are doing wrong’ point in a clickbait post generates a new page view, that is a lot of potential ad impressions for the ‘Adsense website owner’. While this may seem like a great way to make money, it is also a great way to drive visitors away from your website. Don’t do it.

Serving Yourself, Not the User

Your website is a great marketing tool, and it is a great tool for engaging with your current customers and prospective customers, but at the end of the day its main purpose must be to serve those customers rather than to serve you. Make sure that everything your website does serves your target audience in some way.

Before you add a page, think about why you are adding it. Does this page add value to the site, or is it purely being added for the search engines? Does your website make it as easy as possible for people to find out everything they need to know about your business? Would you find something of value on the site if you were not planning on making a purchase immediately?

A good web design company (like us – ‘plug’) can make a website that is attractive, fun to use and a good tool for building relationships as well as making sales. Striking the balance between selling and helping is hard, but it is well worth working on for the long-term benefit of your brand.