Designing a website can be an exciting undertaking, especially if you are creating one for your business. Thanks to tools and platforms like WordPress, Wix, and SquareSpace, creating a website is now possible for almost anyone, even if they have very little technical website development experience.
However, while tools have the ability to eliminate the need to code a website, they still haven’t figured out the design part. Design being a subjective concept, there is a good chance that technology will take a lot of time to perfect it. Till then, the design of your website is in your hands.
A well-designed website has the potential to delight visitors, intrigue skimmers, convert prospects, and help with establishing and growing a positive brand image. Of course, the design elements and functionalities need to be backed up by code but they’ve got tools to take care of that part.
As a website design and development beginner, you essentially have absolute control over the two most important user/customer-facing aspects of your website- content and design. In this article, we will be talking about the common design mistakes that beginners make with their website, their influence over the user-experience, and how such mistakes can be fixed or avoided.
Before we begin, let’s be clear about what you can and cannot expect after implementing the tips shared in this article. These tips may or may not help you generate more leads through your website, they will not help you make more sales, or help you rank higher for relevant keywords (you can use a website checker for that).
However, these tips will help you communicate professionalism to the user. They will help you deliver a delightful experience to anyone visiting your website. They will help you create an intuitively designed website that is aligned with your business goals.
In other words, the website design tips shared in this article are aimed at making your website more user friendly.
However, before we begin, let us do a quick recap of what website design is, for those who are reading about the subject for the very first time:
What Is Website Design? Why Is It Important?
Web design is strategizing and conceptualizing the layout of the visual elements of the website. In most cases, website design is more focused on the functionality and aesthetic aspects of a website. This means, good website design has only one focus, to create a delightful experience for the user.
In most cases, this is done by creating a layout that is both user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing.
Website design is important for all the reasons it is important for a user to delight their customers. If your website is going to be used to generate fresh businesses for your company, you need to deliver a delightful experience in order to convert prospects into paying customers.
If, on the other hand, you are simply creating a blog, you will still need to be proactive about website design and user experience if you wish to build an audience.
In short, if you have a website, regardless of the purpose of the website, getting website design right is critical to ensuring any kind of success.
Now that we have understood the importance of website design, let’s jump right into the most common website design mistakes and how you can avoid them.
Website Design Mistake #1: Not Employing The Design-Thinking Approach
The design thinking approach is all about creating experiences that customers not only love, but are compelled to keep engaging with them. Design thinking focuses on understanding the needs and motivations of your customer or audience to create delightful products, including websites. The scope of design thinking is quite wide and the process can be applied to designing most kinds of products.
On the other hand, when you don’t employ a design thinking approach, you are committing one of the most common mistakes committed by new website owners- creating a website that they love. Just because you love a feature or a colour palette, does not imply that your customers will also love it or even find it relevant.
Understanding user requirements and motivations allows designers to create relevant features, identify relevant goals, and gauge the feasibility of the solutions they are designing. Design thinking is an empathetic approach to web design.
When you zero in on customer problems and actively take steps or facilitate features that address them, your customers will have all the more reason to stay loyal to your brand.
Pro Tip: If you are working with a website design company and they are not asking you a variety of questions about your target audience, chances are that they are not familiar with or interested in using a design thinking approach for your website. Treat this as a red flag and switch to a web design company that cares about your customers just as much as you do.
Solution: The solution to this one is quite straightforward. If you are creating your website using DIY tools or with your own team, make sure you and your team are informed about the processes associated with design thinking. If, on the other hand, you are working with
Website Design Mistake #2: Complex Or Unclear Navigation
Navigation is the area where a lot of new websites go wrong. This is because one, creating navigation paths can be a complex job, and two, because there are a variety of things that can go wrong with navigation planning and implementation. Let’s look at them one by one.
- Too Many Navigation Options: Clutter of any kind within your website is bad. However, when your navigation menu is cluttered, things can go seriously wrong very quickly.
This is true because the human brain gets confused very easily. When presented with too many options, it gets so confused that it doesn’t pick any of them. When this happens with your website navigation menu, the user feels overwhelmed and bounces.
Even if we overlook the ‘getting confused’ aspect of things, too many options in your navigation menu reduce the possibility of the user finding what they are looking for, even if it is present on your website.
55% of all page views on the web get less than 15 seconds of attention. Think about whether your users can find anything they may want to find in your navigation menu within that span of time.
If the answer is no, it is advisable to get rid of some of the options in your navigation menu. What these options are, usually depends on your industry, your niche, your business objectives, and most importantly, the preferences of your target audience.
- Not Having All The Important Navigation Options: On the other extreme, some websites don’t have enough navigation options available on them. When designing your navigation hierarchy and options, keep in mind that your target audience also interacts with other websites. As a result of the same, they are used to finding some common information in specific areas of all websites. When they don’t find the information they are looking for, they leave.
Having hidden menus, or content present in “unique” locations on your website, or placing important information and content behind too many clicks will make it difficult for your users to find what they are looking for.
With that said, deciding which information should be prioritised in your website’s navigation should not be too difficult if you have done your user research. If you understand what most of your users will be looking for when they visit your website, you can make it more easily accessible than other aspects of your website.
- Lack Of Lateral Navigation Options: When designing your website, keep in mind that the objective of the design and content elements of your website is to simply keep a user from leaving your website.
Now, you may be thinking, if a user has found the information they were looking for, why would they want to keep browsing your website. This is a logical line of thought and the user will definitely leave after finding what they came for, unless you give them a reason to stay.
On websites, this reason is usually presented in the form of lateral navigation options, also known as similar or related pages on your website.
From ecommerce websites offering links to similar products to blogs offering relevant reading materials at the end of a blog post, lateral navigation is used by all kinds of websites, and with great effect.
Without lateral navigation, you are basically telling your website visitors that after they have found the information they are looking for, your website has nothing to offer. By not giving them a reason to hang around, you are actually giving them a reason to leave from your website.
Solving all sorts of navigation issues boils down to a single solution- being careful about choosing navigation options. The only way to do this right is to make sure you are not committing the first mistake discussed in this article and are employing a user-first approach while designing your website.
Website Design Mistake #3: Unoptimized 404 Pages
The 404 error is perhaps the most well-known error on the web. On a website it represents a dead end and is usually used in the case of broken links or content that has been removed.
Over time, it will become next to impossible to ensure your website has no 404 pages. However, you can design your 404 pages to deliver a delightful experience to your website visitors.
There are two ways to do it and you can implement both on your website.
Solution: The first method is for the cases where an older piece of content has been removed and you have another piece of content on your website with updated information on the same subject. In this case, you can place a 301 redirect between your old webpage and your new webpage.
A 301 redirect automatically sends users to the updated piece of content when they click on the link for the older piece of content that has been removed.
The second method to optimize 404 pages involves actual 404 pages, when there is no replacement available for the removed information or content. In this case, a lot of websites simply present users with some iteration of a “sorry this has been removed” message. Some websites accompany the message with a link to their homepage.
If you are doing something similar, you are letting go of some great opportunities to encourage your website visitors to explore more of your website.
On every 404 page, add an option for the users to laterally navigate to a similar piece of content that they may have been searching for when they ran into the 404 error.
Website Design Mistake #4: Hidden Contact Information
Surprisingly enough, not displaying the contact information of the website owner is a common mistake made by beginners. This mistake can be especially detrimental on business websites.
Think about it. A potential customer lands on your website and loves your content so much that they find themselves almost convinced to purchase your product or service. They just have a few unique questions that they want to ask you before they give you their hard earned money.
In such a scenario, if the prospect does not find your contact information readily available on your website, they might find it easier to look for your competitor’s contact information instead of digging through your website.
Solution: The solution here is quite simple. If your website is dedicated to selling your service or product, make your contact information, including your business phone number, visible in the header and the footer of your website.
It is also a great idea to dedicate a page to enable prospects and customers to contact you. Even if you already have displayed your number on your home page and given a special support number to your existing customers, having a “Contact Us” page is a good idea.
It gives prospects and website visitors an alternative to having to call you for their queries, and it also gives your existing customers an alternative way to reach you, in case they weren’t able to reach you on the support number provided to them.
When adding your “Contact Us” page to your website’s navigation, it is usually the best practice to ensure that the page can be accessed from the homepage after just one click.
When you design and build your website keeping your audience in mind, design and content related decisions get a lot less confusing and the likeliness of making a mistake goes down drastically.
I hope that the advice shared in this article will enable you to design a delightful website for your target audience. With that said, this list of website mistakes is not complete by a long shot. If there is a mistake that has hurt your online business in the past, but you have learnt from it, share your experience with me and the readers of this article in the comment section below.
Guest Author Bio: Vaibhav Kakkar is the Founder and CEO of Digital Web Solutions, a globally trusted agency with a full suite of digital marketing services and development solutions. Vaibhav believes in building systems over services, and has helped scale up agencies from scratch to niche-leaders with million dollar turnovers.