5 Common web design mistakes

There's nothing quite as exciting as a beautifully designed website, one that uses modern fonts, beautiful pictures, creative icons and vibrant colours.

But all that hard work will result in a web presence failure if the usability and utility of the site has been  ignored. In fact, a study by Hubspot showed that 76% of users value usability over fancy design any day.

One of the most important tenets of good web design is loading speed. Too many large images and customised fonts will slow down the site, risking users leaving before they even see your message. But let's take a look at the design elements most ignored today.

Most common design mistakes

1. Ignoring mobile users

Comscore's 2016 U.S. Cross-Platform Future in Focus report says two out of every three minutes online are spent on mobile.

The simple key to a good mobile experience is responsive design, something that has become a necessity in today's mobile broswing and buying world.  

Interestingly, Matt Mullenweg revealed at WordCamp Europe that 28% of new WordPress websites don’t pick a mobile responsive theme, so filter before you decide.

Being responsive means users can access your content across devices, and, equally important, your site will be favoured by Google search.

2. Not being W3C compliant

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is the main international standards organisation for the information space that is the World Wide Web. It was founded by the inventor of the web.

The home of W3C, W3.org, provides a free service for validating Web pages against standard formats such as the HTML and CSS code for proper markup.

Some argue that it's not always necessary to be W3C compliant, but compliant code does make it easier for search engine crawlers to identify what the content on a webpage is, and what that content means.

3. Going for visual appeal above usability

Many brand marketers will insist on a visually stunning design, as a way to reflect what they believe their brand is about, without giving much thought to the user's journey through their website. 

This is a crucial mistake, especially if you think that some of the 'ugliest' websites out there (think Craigslist), attract millions of users each month because their single focus is providing useful content that is well laid-out and easy to find. 

Quality visuals certainly make an impact, but their main purpose must be to guide the user to the content or message you want to convey.  Key concepts are to keep your site clutter-free and aesthetically uncomplicated.

4. Poor navigation

Increasingly designers are using responsive navigation across digital platforms, primarily the space-saving three horizontal stripes that expand when the user interacts with it.

Effective navigation not only helps to increase pageviews, it also improves the user experience and can increase sales on e-commerce websites. And it's a vital part of your site's SEO.

Most navigation menus today list five to seven main content categories, with information sections such as About Us, Contact Us, Ts & Cs and social media icons placed at the bottom of the site or on a dropdown from the top. Keep your navigation items to a minimum by better grouping your content and thereby ensuring better usability. 

Kissmetrics reports on psychology studies that show that attention and retention are highest for things that appear at the beginning and at the end. It’s called the “serial position effect,” and it’s based on the principles of primacy and recency. This means putting your most important sections at the beginning or bottom of the navigation and the least important items in the middle.

Other navigation mistakes include not sticking to one, uniform style, and using labels that are too generic. Rather, give the user a better idea of the information behind the headings by accurately describing it.

5. Lack of a call to action

A well-placed call to action (CTA) is inherent to a website's marketing efforts. Every piece of content, from Contact Us to a product descriptions, should have a CTA.

CTAs include newsletter signups, demo requests, membership registrations, 'get started' prompts, join us invitations, buy here, etc. 

These should be present on every page and by giving them specific design treatment, will make them stand out from other text on the website. 

It's still surprising how many websites go to great lengths to publish content, and will add 'contact us for more information' without adding a link to the contact information, leaving the user to find it themselves. Make sure you always make it super easy for users to engage with the CTA. 

There are many other website design mistakes - too many to mention here - but if you ensure you have these right you are more than halfway to providing potential customers with a satisfying experience of your website, and turning them into a loyal audience.