9 Web Design Mistakes to Avoid in 2020

web design mistakes to avoid

By Dan Barraclough

This article will map out the worst mistakes to avoid when designing your next website

Flip through the pages of a web designer’s dictionary, and you won’t find the word ‘complacency’. That’s because any pro designer worth their salt knows you can’t settle for a basic-looking, rushed website. Websites need love.

When it comes to web design, certain oversights can negatively affect your online traffic, brand reputation, and ranking on search engines. That’s why we’d really recommend investing in a professional web designer to ensure that these mistakes are avoided.

Which mistakes are we talking about? We’ve done our research, and found nine of the worst web design mistakes to avoid this year. Check out our list below.

Quite the scary list, isn’t it? Not to worry – we’ll show you how to dodge these mishaps, and how to turn your website woes into website whoas.

1. Busy design

If there too much gØing on, it can be hard to focus on what matters. This is what using a busy website feels like – it’s hard to find what you’re looking for, and it’s just not an enjoyable experience.

Unlike with visitor traffic, busier does not mean better when it comes to web design. We understand how it could happen, though: you’re building a website and you let your creative juices flow too much, or you simply can’t make your mind up on which elements to add, so you throw them all in. 

Check out the busy website below. Can you figure out which part is the headline? Where is the CTA (call to action)? What do those menus on the left-hand side even say? Who knows. All we know is that this is busy design at its worst, and it’s a look that should be avoided.

web design mistakes to avoid busy website
An example of terrible, confusing web design

According to WebAlive, it takes the average person just 50 milliseconds to form an opinion of your website. That’s not really much time at all. If your website is too confusing, busy, or complicated, it doesn’t stand a chance of engaging your audience or encouraging those precious clicks and sales.

To avoid a busy website, we’d recommend using lots of whitespace as the background for your home page, with an easily scannable menu in a simple typeface. You should also be sparing with links, and make sure you don’t overload the page with images. 

At Expert Market, we live by a web design mantra – if in doubt, leave it out!

2. Lengthy load time

Leading on nicely from busy web design – or badly, depending on how you look at it – is lengthy load time.

If your website is overloaded with mixed and matched elements, then chances are that your website will fail the ‘three-second rule’ mentioned above. Today’s internet users are more impatient than ever, so why complicate things?

Users love quick websites

Luckily for you, we’ve got some tips to help you turn your website into an online Usain Bolt.

You can improve your website’s loading speed by:

  • Optimising images – smaller images are easier to load
  • Using JPEG rather than PNG – it can support smaller file sizes than PNG
  • Creating concise code – clunky code takes computers longer to scan
  • Investing in better hosting – larger, better servers can load websites more easily
  • Reducing the amount of ads on the page – online adverts use up lots of disk space

We spoke to Andy Golpys, Co-Founder of the web agency Shape, about the importance of fast loading times. He says that slow loading speeds can affect your website’s bounce rate (when someone leaves your site without clicking anything), as well as its ranking on Google:

If a user hits a slow loading website, they may not be patient enough to navigate the page, which increases bounce rates and loses that user. Also, Google has stated that slow websites will not rank as highly as fast websites, with fast loading mobile sites ranking even higher than regular websites.” 

slow loading speeds

When it comes to web design, slow and steady does not win the race. Don’t let lengthy loading times slow your business down – your website should be a clean, lean, quick loading machine.

3. Uninspiring CTAs

A Call To Action is a button, banner or icon on a website that prompts the user to click on it. These buttons can be used for many things, whether it's to encourage users to subscribe, buy, or vote. Whatever the CTA, it needs to be interesting.

Exciting CTAs convert 202% better than their mundane counterparts. Our top tips? Get personal with your CTAs, and use the colours green, red or orange for your buttons to increase your conversions.

We’d now like to show you an excerpt. This is from the diaries of Libby Bearman of Browser Media Agency – she’s been growing tired of boring CTA buttons and had some frustration to vent:

In a time where we encourage individuality and celebrate quirks, I am both confounded and frustrated when I come across a SUBMIT button on my web travels – an uninspiring, default CTA is such a glaring missed opportunity to entice and excite a user.  A descriptive, action-orientated, persuasive CTA is the chance to delight a user into converting, rather than having them reluctantly submit/surrender/succumb.

It wasn’t really Bearman’s diary. We had a conversation about how CTAs have become lacklustre. She believes the CTA needs to be exciting, encouraging and engaging. 

Just look at our two CTA button examples below. Both can be used for designing an eCommerce store – but which one would you rather click? 

smart cta example

4. Non-mobile responsiveness

In the year 2019, 48% of the world’s internet traffic was mobile. This stat alone should be enough to convince you that designing a mobile friendly website is a smart idea. But what does mobile responsive mean, exactly?

Responsive web design involves formatting a website so that it reshuffles to fit on any size screen – check out the responsive design examples below. The web content remains the same, but the layout switches around in order to give the user a more pleasant viewing experience. And web design is all about the user!

mobile responsive web design
Responsive design keeps your website looking great on all devices

If you’re going to avoid one web design mistake this year, make it this one. Internet users really don’t like websites that aren’t mobile friendly. A recent study by Sweor found that 57% of internet users wouldn’t recommend a business with a poorly designed mobile website. It doesn't stop there – Google dislikes non-responsive design, too. Search engines will rank a mobile-responsive website higher than its non-responsive competitor.

Using a website builder? Then pick a platform with mobile responsive themes. Hiring a web designer? Well, they’re professionals, so they should know the deal. In short, just make sure your site is mobile-ready!

Using a professional web designer could make all the difference to your company’s online presence. Luckily for you, we can match you with expert web designers from around the country – all you have to do is fill in this quick form and you’ll receive tailored quotes from the UK’s leading web design agencies. It only takes a minute!

5. Autoplaying multimedia

There’s a fly buzzing around in your room, but you can’t find it. Just the thought gets you on edge, doesn’t it? This is what autoplaying multimedia feels like. An exaggeration maybe, but it’s still one of the quickest ways to annoy your website visitors.

Don’t believe us? A recent survey of 1,008 people revealed that 71% of them found autoplaying videos annoying. Videos are great for engaging visitors, but you need to give users the option to either listen or stick your videos on mute.

auto playing media web design mistake

When surfing the net, most people have multiple browsers open – and if they hear a video playing in the background, they’ll just quit the tab with the noise icon. Don’t let your website be that unlucky tab.

6. Centering logos

Deciding where to put your logo is like playing darts. It may seem like the bull’s eye at the centre is the best place to go for, but you’ll actually get better results by aiming elsewhere. In the world of web design, a centred logo is a hindrance for navigation.

Your logo should take users back to the homepage in one click. By centering your logo, you’re making it more difficult for the user to click ‘back’, or to navigate to the homepage because users instinctively gravitate to the top left corner to return. A 2016 study from Nielsen Norman Group revealed that returning to the homepage is six times harder when the logo is centred.

centred logo web design mistake
This clicking heat-map shows participants had trouble returning to the homepage due to the centred logo

Above is a heat map taken from the study. It shows where the participants clicked while trying to return to the homepage. As you can see, most people assumed the far left label ‘Under $29’ would take them home, which led to a number of frustrated test participants.

When it comes to logo location, left is best. 

7. Lack of H1s and H2s


Now we’ve got your attention, it’s time to talk about skim readers. You’re probably skim reading this article now. There’s no harm in that, but it does go to show that you’ll need to factor scannability in when designing your next website

The H1 is a page title that should contain your target keywords. The H2 is a subheader, and the H3 is the subheader of the H2 and so on, and so on.If you don’t have enough headers, H1s, H2s and H3s, then you’re not giving your visitors the chance to absorb your website’s important info. Strategically located headers are a skim reader’s dream – they’re like signposts, telling you where you are and where to go.

However, headers don’t just improve the UX (user experience) – they also help with SEO (search engine optimisation). Web design and SEO go hand in hand, and Google’s algorithms use headers to scan, index, and categorise websites. That’s why you need plenty of headers that accurately portray the site’s content.

improve ranking with h1s

8. Careless colours 

A website needs quality content to be successful, and content takes many forms. Whether it’s a video, animation, image, or infographic, it needs to enhance your website and the user’s journey at the same time.

Colour is content. It has the power to change moods, feelings, and emotions, which makes it a powerful tool in web design. If used carelessly on your website, colours can create a poor user experience. 

Check out the graphic below on how colour can affect human psychology. How would you want to make your audience feel?

colour psychology
Certain colours evoke different feelings

In search of some colourful tips, we spoke with Joe Harulow, a front end designer for TAO Digital. He knows that colours, psychology, and web design go hand in hand, and says:

“Colour palettes are critical to upholding great visual design. This means: don’t just use four different colours because you think they will look cool. We recommend Paletton to see which colours actually work with each other.  Colours that don’t contrast well with each other will simply look uneasy on the eye, and won’t make your site stand out.”

Of course, it’s important to use your brand’s colours to give your website that professional look, but don’t be colourfully complacent. Instead, think carefully about which colours you’re putting where, and in what quantity.

9. Hidden contact info

Hide and seek is a fun game for most people. However, it’s definitely not enjoyable for website users. 

Picture the scene: your website visitor has been enticed, engaged, and entertained, and now they want to get in touch with you or your business. All’s looking good, until they can’t find your contact information, which gets them so frustrated that they leave. In fact, 44% of people will leave a website if there’s no contact info or phone number.

This is one of the most common web design mistakes, and can prove costly when you miss out on potential client and customer relationships. To avoid this happening, ensure you build a ‘Contact Us’ page, and clearly label it in your navigation menu so it’s quick and easy to find.

Better yet, think outside the box to build a creative and engaging page in order to get internet users excited about getting in touch. A professional website designer can do this for you easily – check out the example below for some inspiration.

web design mistakes hidden contact info
Contact info should be eye-catching

Next steps

We’re sure you’ll agree that everyone makes mistakes. But in the world of web design, certain mishaps can be costly in a number of ways; both your brand reputation and your website’s ranking on Google could be suffering as a result. 

That’s why it’s really important that you avoid the nine web design crimes we’ve explored above – or that you hire a professional web designer, who’ll know what works and what doesn’t, to do it for you. 

No two websites are the same, so we understand that different sites need different designs. However, by avoiding these mistakes, chances are you’ll end up with a website to impress any customer, colleague, or client. Let’s quickly recap the mistakes we’ve covered…

The 9 worst web design mistakes to avoid in 2020 are:

  1. Busy design
  2. Lengthy load time
  3. Uninspiring CTAs
  4. Non-mobile responsiveness
  5. Autoplaying media
  6. Centering logos
  7. Lack of H1s and H2s
  8. Careless colours
  9. Hidden contact info

Web design mistakes take many forms. Some could be really obvious, while others may go completely unnoticed until your website has lost traffic and plummeted down the SERPs (search engine results pages). 

While building your website, you need to ask yourself questions throughout the process: are my CTAs enticing enough? Is my homepage too cluttered? How quickly does it load? Can I find the contact page easily? 

You need to put yourself in your prospective visitor’s shoes. We’d recommend asking a friend or family member to test your website before you publish, and to give feedback so you can make last minute tweaks. That way, you’ll hopefully have a website that no one will want to avoid.

Looking for web designer quotes that are quick, free and easy? We take the hassle out of comparing web designers by matching you the best agencies for your website needs. Simply fill in this form, and you’ll receive tailored quotes from some of the UK’s best web designers.

Dan Barraclough

Dan’s a writer for Expert Market, specialising in a range of cool topics. He loves web design and all things UX, but also the hardware stuff like postage metres and photocopiers.

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