With the average company devoting a mere $75,000 to their digital marketing budget, this can be a shoestring if you’re a growing business. Designing a great site for your new company can take a big bite out of that budget, so you need to figure out how to make it stretch. One of the best ways to waste your money is to bank it all on bad website design.
Bad website design is costly because you’ll have to do twice as much work. You’ll also spend money and energy getting visitors to a site that people want to abandon as soon as they arrive.
Here are eight tips to ensure you don’t fall into the common pitfalls of bad design.
1. No Way To Search
As every website is assumed to be an archive of information, your users will visit looking for a search box. Whether we’re talking about SEO rankings or the history of the internet, the goal of every site should be to connect to as many other sites as possible. It should offer lots of detailed information about your industry or your history.
If you’re not constantly adding to your site, you should have a blog that’s filled with writing about that people interested in products and services like yours will need.
Once you grow past a certain point, it’s impossible for you to predict what your visitors want from your site. You need to give them a way to get what they want. You can track the searches happening from within your site and get to know what your customers want more of.
Your search box is a foolproof insurance plan to keep you from having any vaguely interested visitors from bouncing. Integrating Google’s own Custom Search feature into your website gives you the ability to have a search function to crawl through your site. It fits snugly in the corner and gives visitors a familiar looking search engine to deal with.
A site without search functionality is opening up the potential for customers and clients to leave without finding what they’re looking for. Don’t leave yourself vulnerable to bounces.
2. Hard To Read
Designers love to find a unique font that can express things about their website or their online project. It folds users into the experience as they read through your interface. It can grab on to their attention and get them excited about what you’re offering them.
However, the wrong font can make your website hard to read and hard to navigate. If you want to share information with your visitors, you need them to be able to read and understand it. If you choose a font that displays incorrectly or is poorly sized for all screens, you could end up losing visitors quickly.
Just getting people to visit your site is hard work. If you’re sending them packing immediately, you’re doing yourself a disservice.
Don’t make reading a pain. Make scrolling through your site a pleasurable experience.
Look at the color schemes that are used by your competitors and sites that you admire. Notice how colors can help to improve readability by highlighting certain concepts and giving breathing room for focusing. Try out some color schemes with the Adobe Kuler tool.
Try out a Sans Serif type instead of a fancy Serif font on your site. Serifs might be good for your logo or title but could prove distracting for everyday reading.
3. Disorganized Content
The content on your site is what brings in your visitors. Once they get to your site, they need to be able to navigate and get to what they’re looking for. Most of your content won’t be read by viewers and visitors, so you need to make it obvious what your most important elements are and where to find them.
Think of each page as having plotted points of interest rather than blocks of content. Consider how much you actually read when you look at a web page. It’s likely you look for the menu, click the heading that means the most to you, and get what you need.
Use headings and keywords to organize larger blocks of content. Those keywords will attract the attention of your viewers and signify whether or not the content on display is valuable to them.
Use page titles that make sense so that you and your users know where everything is located. Name your pages so that search engines can find them too.
Remember that your visitors’ time is valuable, so only offer information that adds value to their visit. Giving outdated information or letting them know that a page is temporary or under construction isn’t important. You don’t have to give them access to this page if it’s not ready to be read yet.
Consider whitespace. Everyone needs room to breathe when they’re reading and if you’re crowding your visitors, they’re not going to have a relaxing experience and will bounce. Also, make sure you’re always updating and fixing your mistakes.
There’s such a thing as a “web gardener” who can go through your site and get rid of unnecessary content, free up visual space, and fix mistakes. As you change your site to fit more devices and display better, you’ll need to move a few things around.
4. Poor Navigation
Your menu is the roadmap that your visitors will use to get around your site and to get the most out of your content. If you hide your menu, your visitors will be easily frustrated. If your menu takes up too much space, you’ll struggle to keep viewers interested.
Your menu needs to be simple, intuitive, and easy to find. Abide by the three-click rule if all else fails. Users should be able to get what they want and see the content they need in just three clicks or else your menu is too complicated.
Keep your site simple and concise. If users want more information, they should be able to get it, but as most users will want to get in and out of your site, help streamline the process.
Don’t try to reinvent the wheel when it comes to changing the way users navigate around your site. That’s like trying to find a clever way to redesign a doorknob. You’ll leave your users outside, angry, and searching for another product or service that can meet their need.
Get rid of clutter as well. You don’t need a link on your homepage that links to your homepage. That’s confusing and wastes time.
Structure all of your navigation to fit within the theme of your site so that everything flows naturally. While a personal site can be a little more creative and complex, in general, every site should be using familiar visual language for clarity and efficiency.
5. Interfaces that Aren’t Consistent
Creativity is important in interface design. You want your users to have a unique and memorable experience when they visit your site. However, you can take your expression to a point of excess if you don’t consider that not every viewer will already be interested in your aesthetic.
When designers are trying to make a truly unique experience, they might eschew consistency entirely. While this can make for an interesting experience, it can also be annoying. If you’re just looking for a piece of information or to order a product, you want to know where you are without being confused.
Even the most attractive website should use some design standards that other websites use. They want to feel in control when they visit and taking that away from them will make it hard for them to enjoy their experience.
6. Poor Screen Resolutions
As we learn more about ourselves and our relationship to things on the web, we’re experimenting with familiarity and what we enjoy. That means that we’re trying out new things like horizontal scrolling. While this can be fun, it’s not great for modern web design on most screens.
With 1024 x 768 becoming the standard size for layouts, it’s important to stay within these vague limitations. Even 1200 x 800 resolutions will suffice in giving viewers something to work with.
As you probably know, every device is a little bit different, with no clear standard for screens. However, if you’re going to be designing in the modern era, you need to focus on mobile devices. Mobile device browsing has definitively surpassed the use of desktops and you need to be prepared for these changes.
Analytics services can give you a view on how you’re doing with visitors. They’ll be able to clue you in as to what kinds of devices your visitors are using when they see you. This can help you to take your users into consideration before they visit you.
Whether you’re designing your site for the first time or in the middle of a redesign, you need to consider the wide variety of screens and the rise of mobile. Don’t be left behind and be sure that you’re designing from a “mobile first” perspective rather than trying to make up for it near the end of your design. You’ll find it much harder to make a desktop site fit a mobile device than vice versa.
7. Complicated Forms
If you have registration forms on your site, making them user-friendly is a huge challenge. If you need a lot of information from your users, you might have to find a way to live with less than the ideal amount of information.
While some sites make registration mandatory for sharing content, that can be a turn off to a lot of users. Your visitors come to your site for information and don’t expect to be required to give anything in return.
One of the ways that some brands are getting around this is by using social media integration. Since so much of our social media life is public as it is, you can make this process of logging in and registering easier with a Facebook or Google widget.
Do some research on the kinds of registration forms that you don’t mind filling out and what makes them easier on the eyes. Pay attention to what works for you and apply some of that knowledge to what you offer to your users. You’ll find it will make life easier for everyone.
8. Too Many Images
One of the biggest factors in search engine optimization and how search engines rank your site is how fast your site loads. Load speed is a major factor in design and you need to take into consideration how loaded with images your pages are before serving them to visitors.
If you overload your site with images, your visitors can be aggravated and visiting your site could be more of a chore than a pleasure.
Images should be used to guide the viewer and to set a tone, but you don’t need to give them more than their little devices can handle. If they want to see a million pictures of you, your products, and your services, send them to Instagram.
Animation falls under the same category. Custom animation can be a strong selling point in getting your visitors to engage with your site and think of you as unique. However, if there’s too much on a page, it can get in the way.
A quick animation on a landing page or on your front page can be enough for visitors to get the gist. Keep it simple and allow your users to engage on their own terms.
Bad Website Design is Hard To Recover From
If you’re dealing with bad website design, you could find that your brand will be marked for years to come. The damage that a poorly designed site could do for your brand is massive if you don’t have anyone to help you improve it. Find a designer who you can communicate with easily so that you can ensure you don’t send your visitors to a site that they struggle with.
If you’re struggling to find ways to build up your brand with links, check out our guide for using inbound links.