The Most Prevalent Web Design Mistakes to Avoid


Web design as we know it today focuses on deftly combining form and function, all to provide users enjoyable, interesting, and usable visits.

In other words, web design is now all about enhancing the user experience. Today’s web designers strive to fulfill what Internet users need, whether they’re creating a site with minimalist and simple web design or one that’s visually stunning.

Still, mistakes are not uncommon in the world of web design, most of which don’t do the user experience any favours. Let’s take a look at some of the most prevalent mistakes web designers should steer clear of.

Pages That Take Forever To Load

There was a time when a page loading fully within 10 seconds or so already makes users happy.

That time is long gone. In 2021, the norm is three seconds or less.

Anything beyond that and people will label a page as one that takes forever to load. Yes, four seconds is already “forever” to many users, which speaks volumes about our ever-shrinking attention spans.

Slow page load speed is something web designers must address. Sure, some other factors may be causing the lag, like web hosting or the Internet speed of users, but web design is often at the top of that list.

Unoptimized images, heavy use of custom fonts, excessive ads, social media script overload, and other factors contribute to slowing down your pages. All of them are web design issues, which means you should avoid them when you can.

Random Use of Stock Photography

Let’s make it clear that there’s nothing wrong with using stock photography per se.

While it’s true that stock photos have nothing on original photography when it comes to setting your brand apart, some businesses simply don’t have the budget to commission a professional photographer.

For them, it’s almost always a choice between mediocre original photos of their staff and high-quality images of impeccably-dressed people in staged situations wearing smiles that come across as fake.

If you have to resort to stock photography, choose images that somehow represent your brand, not a random photo set that seems like something you just put together for the sake of featuring pretty pictures on your site.

If you want to present a polished image for your brand, you should at least pick stock photos where the lighting, the technology being used, the models’ outfits, and other small details are consistent.

Navigation Issues

For Internet users, few things are more frustrating than being led on a wild goose chase while exploring a website.

A bad website navigation structure can easily ruin the user experience. People have very little patience for issues like links that lead to the wrong page, far too many navigation options, and a search feature that doesn’t work, among other things.

You can’t expect people to put up with navigation problems. They will just drop your site like a hot potato, and you’ll end up with a much higher bounce rate.

Navigating your site should be easy, so tweak your web design and do stuff like adding clickable navigation elements, checking all links to make sure they lead to the right place, dividing categories clearly, and linking the logo back to the home page.

Animation Overload

Every year, web design trends come and go. Some trends, however, seem bent on staying. The use of animation and video in web design has been trending for years now and shows no signs of ever leaving.

Animation and video are great, but some web designers tend to go overboard with them. Add the fact that a growing number of web designers are now toying with moving elements, and they eventually end up with websites so distracting that focusing on one thing can be difficult.

Animation is particularly good at drawing the eyes of visitors. Instead of trying to impress them with an animation overload, try placing elements in an area where they will lead people to contact forms, live chat, offers, and other critical elements of your website.

Using Barely Readable Fonts

Video may be getting a lot of attention from users, but people still typically read the written content. 

Sometimes, however, web designers use fonts that are either too small or difficult to read.

Ideally, body text should be at 16px, which is quite easy to read regardless of the device you’re using.

Also, avoid using cursive fonts, hand-drawn scripts, and other typefaces that look pretty but offer little in the way of readability.

Use no more than three fonts as well. And if you’re going to use colored typefaces, don’t torture readers with low-contrast text, like yellow fonts on a white background.

Too Many Colors

Colors play a very crucial role in making a website look great. Sometimes, however, web designers go to town and use as many hues as they want.

You don’t need to use a multitude of colors for your work. Ideally, websites should only have two to three colors, although some could reasonably go up to five or even six. Seven or more colors on one website can be uncomfortable for the eyes and confusing for the brain.

Zero Mobile-Friendliness

When users access your website on a mobile device, and they end up doing a lot of pinching and zooming and scrolling sideways just to read anything, don’t expect them to hang around. They will exit your mobile-unfriendly site without hesitation, and you will surely miss out on leads, conversions, and even sales.

Not being mobile-friendly is no longer an option for websites these days, when mobile users far outnumber desktop users.

You have to make your website easier to read, and its buttons easier to tap on mobile devices. Switch to responsive web design, and Google will also love you for it

Stuffing Pages With Too Much Content

A web page filled with quality content is okay, but cramming in too much content—even when it’s of high quality—on one page only makes the whole thing look cluttered.

Go easy on the content stuffing and make sure your web pages look clean and organized. It would also be great if you could leave plenty of whitespace, which allows your content to breathe and make the whole page look more professional.

Too Many Ads

Websites are a business, and ad placements are an integral part of that business.

Some overdo it, though. Too many ads on a page tend to be distracting—even annoying.

Aside from annoying visitors, a plethora of ads can end up undermining the web design in general.

Practice some restraint in this regard because visitors will likely leave if you bombard them with ads every single time.

Autoplaying Videos With Sound

This may be news to some web designers, but many people hate the idea of opening a web page only to be greeted by an autoplaying video with the sound on.

If you have to put that in for whatever reason, the least you can do is turn autoplay off or mute it. That way, you won’t be giving visitors wearing headphones a heart attack when they access your website.

Missing Contact Information

It’s odd that many websites have no contact information, or don’t display them as prominently as they should.

If you want prospective customers to reach you, make sure that your contact information—from your business phone number to social media account links—is displayed in a highly visible spot on your website, like the header or the footer.

Creating a dedicated contact page would also be great.

Ill-timed Pop-ups

There is nothing wrong with pop-ups. They can help encourage visitors to engage with your business more, among other things.

Pop-ups, however, can quickly turn annoying when they appear at the most inappropriate times.

In most cases, pop-ups urging visitors to subscribe or sign up to their mailing list appear the moment they open a page before they even get to read the content they were seeking.

The most irritating part is when the pop-up box is big enough to block the content visitors are about to read completely.

It’s preposterous to assume that your pop-up can convince a visitor to do its bidding without having read a single word of your content.

The right thing to do is give your visitors some time to explore your site before showing that pop-up.

More than twenty years in, web design as a science or art is still at its very early stages. The level of work today’s web designers are capable of turning in may be a far cry from how websites looked and functioned during the 1990s, but it’s still easy for them to make a mistake.

Web design is still evolving, and what may be considered good practice now may no longer be acceptable in the future. Nevertheless, following current best web design practices and steering clear of the mistakes listed above remain the right path to take toward achieving your business website’s goals.

About the author

Alex Thomas

I've been involved in digital marketing for over 10 years and have worked with global and local companies on large scale SEO and PR campaigns. In my current role at Breakline, I'm responsible for winning new business, creating, implementing and overseeing SEO campaigns, social communications, online and offline media relations.

By Alex Thomas
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