No one has to tell you why it’s important to have a great website. Your website is your face to the world, and it’s not only the way new people find out about you, it’s the way your current customers, donors, and fans interact with you. It may in fact be the primary way most of those important to you learn about and interact with you.
So it is surprising when we see often little attention paid to getting design right. We’ve all seen them – sites which are often visually attractive but lack focus. Too much going on. 10 different embedded fonts. Clicks that take you to strange and unexpected places. I could go on.
There are clearly some guideposts to follow to keep you on the right side of the yellow lines. Here are five design mistakes you should avoid like the plague on your website.
Five Web Design Mistakes That You Should Avoid Like the Plague
1. Never have motion in more than one place on your homepage. Motion is a tricky thing on a website, because if you do it wrong, you’ll alienate your visitors with big flashing signs or banners that scroll too quickly for your visitors to read your messages. The rule of thumb is that you should avoid having more than one motion element on your website. This is because motion attracts the eye, and if you have more than one element moving on your site, your readers won’t know where to look first, and your website’s experience will be confusing.
One exception: you can have multiple motion elements on a website, but you need coordinated motion that enhances the visual hierarchy and doesn’t confuse it.
2. Don’t use fonts inconsistently. Nothing screams “look what I can do” like having random fonts across a webpage. You can (and should) get creative with fonts, and you don’t need to be a slave to just one font on a website.
But you should always have a clear reason why you pick one font over another font, and you should apply your fonts consistently across webpages on your site. You can even use multiple fonts (even embedded ones) but try to pair them so there is contrast or complement.
3. Don’t use every inch of space available. Don’t be afraid to use some amount of “negative space” on your website. The concept of negative space comes to us from the art world, and it refers to the space around an object.
On a website, you can draw attention to the most important elements of a page by consistently leaving negative space around your key content. This is especially useful around any “action items” that you want your visitors to click on, because there is nothing more frustrating for users than having difficulty clicking on a link because it is placed too close to another. In addition, the effective use of space is even more useful when people access your site from the less-roomier confines of their mobile phone.
4. Think about the devices that your visitors will use to access your website, and don’t just design your website for your own device. One of the many, many things that Google Analytics can tell you is exactly what devices your visitors are using to browse your website. This means you can see how many people visit your website from an iPhone, an iPad, an Android device, and the resolution quality of their laptops and desktops. A lot of people make a website look great from the computer they use to design the site, but they don’t put nearly as much thought into optimizing it for the other devices that their audience uses. For obvious reasons, this doesn’t make sense.
5. Avoid the temptation to overdesign and overbuild. Yes, there can be too much of a good thing, especially if you cannot sustain it. It’s more than just a design mistake, but it probably sends more websites off track than any other problem. If you don’t keep website creep under control, it’s only a matter of time before your website collapses under its own weight.
Nowadays, it’s easier than ever to create new websites. With the proliferation of easy-to-use platforms like WordPress, everyone seems to be designing and building websites. I mean, how hard can it be? Yet there is still something to be said for living within your digital means and not building past your capacity to create fresh and engaging content or resources. The expertise you need often has less to do with competency in specific tools and more to do with experience with the medium of the web.
There’s a lot that goes into designing a website that’s a fit for you and your organization, but there are also some common mistakes like the ones listed above that can throw even the best of intentions off track.
It goes without saying that rules in certain instances are made to be broken. As long as you have taken the time to articulate how the benefits of breaking of the rule outweigh a more standard approach, you can get away with bending or breaking certain rules.
Are there other common mistakes that you’d like to add to this list? Let us know in the comments below!
D.J. Smith is the CEO of CiV Digital. He designed his first website before most people new what a website was.