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11 Website Design Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

August 16, 2022
Ferdie L. Eusebio
5 minute read

Websites are like first impressions — you only have one chance to make a good one. A poorly designed website can be a major turnoff for visitors, and it can also reflect negatively on your business.

According to a study, 38% of those who browse online are likely to leave your website if it doesn’t have a good design. This means you are likely to lose potential customers if there is something wrong with how people are navigating through pages on your site.

Poor content or multiple design errors will only hurt rather than help improve reputation. Thus, your business will be unable to generate return audiences, you won’t be able to keep visitors engaged enough, and they’ll probably just scroll past without giving much thought to anything other than switching to a different website.

Some of the most common website design disasters are also some you might not know about. To help you avoid making any major design faux pas, we've compiled a list of 11 website design disasters and how to avoid them.

What is a Website Design Disaster?

A website design disaster is a website that has been poorly designed and implemented, resulting in a site that is unusable, unprofessional, and/or unattractive. There are many ways in which a website can be a design disaster, but some of the most common problems include:

  • bad navigation
  • confusing layout
  • poor color scheme
  • unreadable text, and
  • missing or broken features
  • Multiple website design visions

Whatever the cause, a website design disaster will turn visitors away in droves.

As such, you must recognize these disasters so that you’ll know how to avoid them and create a stellar website design.

11 Types of Website Design Disasters

If you still don't know how websites fail, here are eleven popular examples of the most common website design disasters that you may have encountered on the internet:

1. The Spaghetti Navigation

Spaghetti navigation is a term used to describe a website navigation system that is overly complex and difficult to use. This type of navigation system is often the result of poorly planned design, making it hard for users to find the information they are looking for.

Spaghetti navigation typically features many links and menu items, which can overwhelm users. In addition, this type of navigation often lacks a clear hierarchy, making it hard to understand where one link leads to another. As a result, spaghetti navigation can frustrate and confuse users, leading them to abandon your website altogether.

How to Counter the Spaghetti Navigation

Navigation is one of the most important elements of website design, yet it is often overlooked. A well-designed navigation system will guide users to the information they need without being intrusive or overwhelming.

  • Structure. The first step is to determine the structure of your navigation. Will it be based on categories, pages, or a combination?
  • Labels. Once you have decided on a structure, take some time to think about the labels you will use for each element. The goal is to use clear and concise language that accurately describes the destination. Remember that your navigation should be easy to understand at a glance, so resist the temptation to cram too much information into each label.
  • Style. Pay attention to the location and style of your navigation elements. They should be placed in a consistent location on each page and easy to identify.

By following these simple guidelines, you can ensure that your navigation is easy to understand and user-friendly.

With careful planning, you can create a navigation system that is easy to use and helps guide your users to the information they need.

2. The Wall of Text

We've all been there before--staring at a wall of text on a website, not knowing where to begin. It's an overwhelming feeling and one that often leads us to click the "back" button in search of something more digestible.

As any web designer knows, the amount of text on a page can have a big impact on its overall look and feel. Too much text can make a page look cluttered and visually overwhelming, while too little text can make it seem cold and uninviting.

Finding the right balance is essential for creating an effective website. However, there is one situation where less is not more: the wall of text.

Also known as a "text block," a wall of text is a large chunk of text that appears without visual breaks, such as headings, paragraphs, or bullet points. Not only does this make the text difficult to read, but it can also discourage visitors from sticking around long enough to see your content.

Who wants to read what seems to be a boring piece of content?

When used sparingly and with purpose, a wall of text can be an effective way to highlight important information. However, when used excessively, it can quickly turn your site into an unreadable mess.

How to Avoid the Wall of Text

If you're a web designer or content manager, it's important to avoid creating a wall of text for your readers. Here are a few tips:

  • Use short paragraphs. A good rule of thumb is to keep each paragraph to no more than four or five sentences.
  • Use subheadings. Breaking up your text with subheadings makes it easier for readers to scan and find the information they're looking for.
  • Use bullet points. When appropriate, use bullet points or numbered lists to make your text more scannable.
  • Use imagery. Adding images, videos, or infographics can help break up a wall of text and make your content more visually appealing.

Following these tips will help you avoid creating a daunting wall of text on your website--and will make it more likely that visitors will stick around to read what you have to say.

So if you're tempted to add a wall of text to your next web project, think twice before hitting that publish button and simply apply any of our tips above.

3. The Pop-Up Nightmare

A pop-up nightmare is a website design element that is intrusive and disruptive. Pop-ups are often used to promote special offers or to capture email addresses, but they can be extremely annoying to users. In some cases, pop-ups may even prevent users from accessing the content they're looking for.

As a result, pop-up nightmares can hurt the user experience and lead to website abandonment.

How to Avoid the Pop-Up Nightmare

As someone in the website content space, I've seen firsthand the devastation that popup ads can wreak on an otherwise well-designed site. Not only do they interfere with the user experience, but they can also negatively impact your site's search engine ranking.

Fortunately, there are a few simple steps you can take to avoid the popup nightmare.

  • First, be judicious in your use of popups. If you must use them, make sure they are relevant to the user and triggered by an action such as clicking on a button or link.
  • Second, give users the option to close the popup. This way, they can choose to see the ad if they're interested but won't be forced to do so.
  • Finally, make sure your popup is designed to be easily dismissed. Use a lightbox effect so that it doesn't cover up the entire page, and include a close button that is clearly visible.

When used correctly, pop-ups can be an effective way to improve the user experience on your website. However, when abused, they can quickly become a pop-up nightmare.

By following these simple tips, you can avoid the popup nightmare and keep your website user-friendly.

4. The Autoplaying Video

Autoplaying video can be a great way to grab attention and add visual interest to your website or blog. However, it's important to use this feature wisely, as an autoplaying video can also be annoying or intrusive.

How to Use the Video Autoplaying Feature for Best Results

A video is worth a thousand words, but only if someone wants to watch it.

These days, more and more websites are auto-playing videos as soon as a user opens the page. While this can be an effective way to grab attention, it can also be incredibly annoying. After all, not everyone wants to watch a video at that moment, and those who do may not appreciate having the volume blared unexpectedly.

For these reasons, it's important to allow users to play videos instead of auto-playing them. By giving users control over when and how they watch videos, you can ensure that they are being watched by those who are interested, rather than being ignored or met with frustration.

When used properly, an autoplaying video can help to make your site more engaging and visually appealing. Here are a few more tips for how to use autoplaying video effectively:

  • Make sure the video is relevant to your content. Autoplaying video should supplement and enhance your existing content, not distract.
  • Ensure that the video automatically stops playing after a certain amount of time. This will prevent it from becoming too intrusive or annoying.
  • Turn the audio off during autoplay. This prevents the video from being too much of a distraction. If your audience wants to view the video and listen to the audio, they can turn it on.
  • Offer viewers the option to put the video on pause/play. This way, they can still enjoy your content even if they don't want to watch the video.

In the end, it's all about providing a better user experience. And that's something we can all get behind.

5. The Confusing Layout

A confusing layout is a website design that makes it hard for users to find what they're looking for or understand where they are on the website. This can happen when there's too much going on visually, when the navigation is confusing or not intuitive, or when the overall design just doesn't make sense.

Unfortunately, a confusing layout can frustrate users and cause them to leave the site without taking any desired action, such as making a purchase or signing up for a newsletter.

How to Avoid Creating a Confusing Website Layout

Creating a confusing website layout is easier than you might think. In fact, there are a number of common design mistakes that can lead to a cluttered, disorganized site. To avoid making these mistakes, here are a few simple tips to keep in mind.

  • First, designers must focus on creating a clean, well-organized design with a clear visual hierarchy and easy-to-use navigation. By doing so, they can help ensure that users have a positive experience on the site and can quickly find what they're looking for.
  • Second, use plenty of white space to break up your content and make it easy to scan. Too much text can be overwhelming, so be sure to use plenty of headings and subheadings to break up your text. (Remember the wall of text we talked about?)
  • Third, be sure to use a consistent layout throughout your site. That means using the same header and footer on every page and arranging your content in a logical, easy-to-follow way.
  • Finally, pay attention to the overall look of your site. . A well-designed site will be easy on the eyes and easy to navigate.

By following these simple tips, you can avoid creating a confusing website layout.

6. The Slow Loading Time

How much patience do you have when you click on a link, and it doesn’t load right away? If you’re anything like most people, not a whole lot. Studies show that even a delay of a couple of seconds can cause website visitors to click away in frustration. This is why the loading speed of your website is so important.

But what exactly is website loading speed?

The technical definition of loading speed is the amount of time it takes for the full contents of a web page to appear in a visitor’s browser. But numerous factors can affect loading speed: the size and number of images on a page and the code used to build the site. Sites that take too long to load frustrate users and can lead to lost traffic and conversions.

How to Avoid Slow Loading Times

In today's fast-paced world, everyone wants their website to load as quickly as possible. Here are a few tips on how to ensure your site loads quickly:

1. Use a content delivery network (CDN). CDNs store your website's files on multiple servers around the world, so that visitors can download the files from the server closest to them. This speeds up the loading process and reduces traffic congestion. Cloudflare is the most popular CDN today, and it also offers free plans.

2. Optimize your images. Large, unoptimized images can drastically slow down your website. Make sure to compress your images before uploading them to your site.

3. Minimize HTTP requests. Each time a visitor loads a page on your website, their browser sends an HTTP request to your server. These requests can add up, and slow down the loading process. To minimize HTTP requests, you can use a caching plugin or combine multiple files into one (known as concatenation).

4. Use a lightweight WordPress theme. Some WordPress themes are packed with features and can be quite heavy. If you're not using all of the features offered by your theme, consider switching to a lighter theme. This will help your site load faster.

5. Utilize gzip compression. Gzip is a form of data compression that limits the size of your web files such as HTML, JavaScript, and CSS files by up to 70%. This means that your site will load faster since there is less data for the browser to download. You can enable gzip compression on your server or use a WordPress plugin like W3 Total Cache or WP Rocket.

So if you want your website to perform well, pay attention to its loading speed. By following these tips, you can ensure that your website loads quickly for everyone who visits it. Work with your web development team to ensure your pages load quickly and efficiently.

7. The Ad Overload

Ad overload is a common problem on websites, especially those that rely on advertising for revenue. When there are too many ads on a page, it can become difficult for users to find the content they're looking for. In some cases, ad overload can even lead to user frustration and abandonment.

The causes of ad overload are typically related to website design or ad placement. For example, if ads are placed above the fold or in prominent positions on a page, they can be more likely to interfere with users' ability to access the content they're looking for.

Ad overload can also be caused by a lack of control over the number or types of ads displayed on a page. In some cases, advertisers may flood a site with their ads to increase visibility.

Whatever the cause, ad overload can have negative consequences for both website owners and users. As such, it's important to be aware of the potential risks and take steps to avoid them.

How to Avoid Ad Overload

Too many ads can make a website feel cluttered and difficult to navigate, which can discourage readers from returning. Fortunately, there are a few simple solutions to this problem:

  • Use AdSense filters to block certain types of ads that are particularly intrusive or unwanted.
  • Increase the space between ads so that they don’t feel so cramped and overwhelming.
  • Use color schemes and fonts that make ads blend in with the rest of the website rather than standing out in stark contrast. You can also work with ads that don’t look like one, like native advertising.

By taking these steps, designers can help reduce the risk of ad overload and create a more pleasant experience for their readers.

8. The Broken Links

A broken link is a link on a webpage that no longer works. This can be due to the webpage being moved or renamed, the website being taken down, or the link simply not working correctly.

Broken links can be frustrating for users, as they can prevent them from accessing the content they are looking for. They can also harm your website's search engine optimization (SEO) by preventing search engines from indexing your pages correctly. As a result, it is important to regularly check for broken links on your website and fix them as soon as possible.

How to Fix Broken Links

Anyone who has ever clicked on a broken link knows the frustration of trying to access a web page that no longer exists. Whether you're trying to find an old article or reach a website that has changed its address, broken links can be a real pain.

If you're the owner of a website, broken links can also hurt your business by driving away potential customers. Fortunately, there are a few simple steps you can take to fix broken links and keep your website running smoothly.

The first step is to identify any broken links on your site. This can be done using a website crawler or by manually checking each page. Fortunately, there are many tools available that can help you find and fix broken links in just a few clicks.

Once you've found the broken links, the next step is to determine where they're pointing to. If the link is pointing to an internal page on your site, you can simply update the address.

However, if the link is pointing to an external website, you'll need to contact the site owner and ask them to update the link. In some cases, you may also be able to redirect the link to another page on your own site or simply search Google for a new page to link to.

By taking these steps, you can quickly and easily fix any broken links on your website. Doing so will improve the user experience for your visitors and help ensure that your site remains accessible.

9. The Hard-to-Find Contact Information or Contact Page

There's nothing more frustrating than finding a company's contact information, only to come up empty-handed.

Whether you're trying to track down a customer service number or simply want to send an email, finding the right contact information can be a challenge. That's why it's so important for companies to make their contact information easy to find.

How to Make Your Contact Information Easy to Find

Make it prominent.

The first step is to ensure that your contact information is prominently displayed on your website. If someone has to search through your entire site just to find your email address or contact page, they're likely to give up before they even get in touch. Make sure your contact info is easily accessible from every page on your site, like the footer.

Update your contact.

Another important consideration is making sure that your contact info is up-to-date. If you've recently changed your email address or phone number, update your website accordingly.

Nothing is more frustrating than trying to reach out to a company only to discover that their contact info is no longer valid.

Provide multiple contact modes.

Finally, remember that not everyone prefers the same method of communication. While some people might prefer to call you, others might prefer to send an email or even live chat with you online.

The key is to provide multiple contact methods so that everyone can easily get in touch with you. By following these simple tips, you can make it easy for customers and clients to get in touch with you — and they don’t even have to look hard.

10. The Outdated Design

Outdated design can refer to several different things, but generally, it refers to designs that are no longer popular or considered stylish. This can include everything from furniture and architecture to fashion and web design.

While what is considered outdated changes over time, there are usually some commonalities between different eras. For example, designs from the 1970s are often characterized by bold colors and patterns, while designs from the 1990s tend to be more minimalist.

Outdated design can also refer to designs that are no longer functional or practical. For instance, a website that is difficult to navigate or doesn't work well on mobile devices would be considered outdated.

Ultimately, outdated design is anything that is no longer current or in style. The best way to avoid this is by keeping up to date with graphic design trends. (We’ve got you covered!)

11. Design by Committee

In some cases, a website may also be a victim of "design by committee," where too many cooks spoil the broth, so to speak. This often happens when there is no clear vision for the site from the start, and each person involved tries to make their mark on the project with no overall cohesion. The result is a hodgepodge of ideas that don't work well together.

However, having a team that provides design feedback is still necessary to make sure your website works as described.

So to avoid a mishmash of design ideas, here are some things to consider:

1. Make sure everyone is on the same page from the start. Before starting any work, make sure that everyone involved knows the goals of the project and agrees on them. This will help keep the project focused and prevent too many disparate ideas from being introduced.

2. Encourage constructive criticism. It's important to encourage open communication and feedback within the group, but make sure that everyone remains respectful of each other's ideas. Criticism should be constructive and focused on improving the quality of the design, not on personal attacks.

3. Set deadlines and stick to them. Having deadlines helps to keep the group focused and ensures that work gets done in a timely manner. However, it's important to be realistic about what can be accomplished in the time available; setting unrealistic deadlines will only lead to frustration and stress.

4. Utilize a feedback and annotation tool. Instacap is a great tool for getting feedback on your website design — or avoiding a disastrous outcome. Instacap allows you to take screenshots of your design and share them with others, who can then add their own comments and suggestions.

This is an invaluable way to get feedback from consumers, designers, and even web developers, who can all offer their own insights. Instacap is also useful for keeping track of changes made to a design over time. By tracking the comments and suggestions left by others, you can quickly identify areas that need improvement.

5. Be flexible. Despite your best efforts, there will inevitably be disagreements within the group. Try to be flexible and willing to compromise; remember that no one gets everything they want all of the time.

6. Appoint a leader. In large committees, it can be helpful to appoint someone as a leader to help facilitate discussion and keep track of progress . However , this person should not be dictator-like; rather, they should act more as a facilitator, allowing all members of the group to have an equal say.

There's nothing worse than coming across a website that's clearly been designed by someone who has no idea what they're doing. To avoid becoming the next victim of a design disaster, make sure you keep the list above in mind.

Additional Tips to Avoid Website Design Disasters

While we’ve provided some methods to avoid committing any of the disasters above, there are a few additional ones that we believe you should know:

1. Keep the user in mind at all times.

As a website designer, it's important to keep your user in mind at all times. After all, they're the ones who will be visiting your site and engaging with your content.

  • You need to design your site in a way that is user-friendly and easy to navigate. Pay attention to things like font size and color scheme, which can make a big difference in how easily users can read your content.
  • Don't forget about mobile users! More and more people are accessing the internet from their phones and tablets, so ensure your site is responsive and looks great on all devices.
  • Consider all aspects of the person’s experience with the system, including social, cultural, and physical contexts. As such, website designers need to consider these factors when designing their sites. For example, when designing a site for an international audience, you must consider language barriers and cultural differences.

Likewise, if you are designing a site for people with disabilities, you will need to make sure your site is accessible and easy to use for everyone.

By keeping the user in mind throughout the design process, you can create a website that everyone will love.

2. Use bullet points or short paragraphs to break up the text.

There's no question that bullet points are a popular design element in modern websites. They help to break up content and make it easier to scan, which is especially important in our fast-paced, attention-deficit world.

However, there's more to using bullet points effectively than just randomly sprinkling them throughout your site. Here are a few tips for making the most of this versatile tool:

  • Use bullet points sparingly. Too many bullet points can be overwhelming and make your content harder to read. Use them only when they genuinely add value.
  • Keep bullet points short and to the point. No one wants to read a novel, so make sure each point is concise and unambiguous.
  • Use lists judiciously. Not everything needs to be presented as a list. Sometimes a well-written paragraph will be more effective at conveying your message.

3. Use a simple layout that is easy to understand.

When it comes to website design, simplicity is key. A simple layout is easy for visitors to understand and navigate, and it helps to create a focus on your content. At the same time, a complex or overly busy design can be confusing and off-putting.

In general, it's best to keep your design clean and uncluttered, with plenty of white space to help guide the eye. When in doubt, less is more. Ultimately, your goal should be to create a website that is both visually appealing and user-friendly.

4. Work with a Collaborator to Prevent Website Design Disasters

Any website design project, no matter how big or small, can benefit from having a collaborator. That is why companies even hire teams of designers. If you can’t hire a team, at least find someone you can bounce ideas off.

A collaborator can provide fresh ideas, help to troubleshoot problems, and offer an objective perspective.

However, working with a collaborator also has its challenges. It is important to find someone who you can trust, who has the necessary skills, and who shares your vision for the project.

5. Proofread everything!

Nothing screams "amateur" quite like a website full of typos and grammatical errors. A website full of such errors sends the message that you don't care about your content — or your customers. So how can you avoid this design disaster? The answer is simple: proofread everything before you hit publish.

Take the time to read through your content carefully, or better yet, have someone else take a look.

6. Use your brand kit.

While a brand kit is not required to have a great website design, it can help avoid certain disasters. For example, without a style guide, your website might end up with an assortment of fonts, colors, and images that don't really go together.

A business brand kit provides a unified look for your website, making it more professional and polished. In addition, a brand kit can help you keep track of all the different elements of your website design, from the logo to the overall layout.

By keeping all of these elements in one place, you can avoid the stressful process of trying to piece everything together at the last minute. So whether you're just starting out or you're looking to give your website a fresh new look, be sure to maximize your brand kit.

Final Thoughts on Website Design Disasters and How to Avoid Them

Website design disasters come in all shapes and sizes. From confusing navigation menus to outdated design styles, there are many ways to ruin an otherwise great website. However, the steps to avoiding them are also relatively simple.

Are you designing a website and need to get feedback from your team? Instacap can help! With Instacap, you can get feedback from users about your website design before you launch. It’s free anyway, so you won’t lose a thing.

You can have the best website designers worldwide give you feedback without scheduling meetings. With a simple use of blurs, screenshots, and video recordings, they can send you useful feedback that can help you prevent design disasters that will turn people away from your website.

Ready to get started? Try it now!

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