Website Design Is Important
Most businesses, regardless of size, will reach a point where they feel like they are beyond the website design stage of their online marketing efforts. They are reaching out into blogging, social media, email, and other channels to distribute their message and give little thought to their company website.
It is a static presence on the internet, after all, so how much attention does it really need? Your company website is the one part of your online presence that never relocates, rarely changes, and is always ‘open for business’ and ready to receive visitors. Instead of letting it gather dust on a digital shelf, you should be treating it like it’s the MVP of your marketing roster.
The list of things you should do to make your website design more effective is long and varied, but so is the list of things you should not be doing. Whether the design mistakes just interrupt the flow of a user’s experience or seriously hurt your SEO, they are still issues that can cause your website to take a backseat to those of your competitors.
Here are 14 website design mistakes that you are likely still making today that are negatively impacting the user experience and marketing potential of your business website:
1. Isolated pockets of unconnected or unrelated content
You may think that having small bits and pieces of information scattered here and there around your website is a great way to encourage visitors to click to their heart’s content, but the reverse is actually true.
It creates confusion and disorder, giving your site a disconnected feel that pushes users away from your content rather than pulling them toward it. The content on your site should be interconnected and easy to navigate, with a logical and flowing path from one item or idea to the next.
2. Weak, ineffective, or incomplete search options and results within your website
While a search engine may not be able to index each individual page of your site for different reasons, such as a noindex attribute on the page itself, the search function within your site should do so. Many websites have search options and results that are ineffective or incomplete simply because they do not index all the pages and provide results based on the totality of the site’s content. This can leave information completely ignored that would otherwise be extremely useful or valuable to a user.
3. Pop-ups that pop up before your primary content does
Internet users already dislike pop-up content immensely, but website designers and marketers keep using it. Search engines are starting to pay more attention to user impressions, however, especially when it comes to advertising pop-ups that load before and completely cover a page’s primary content.
Not only do search engines consider this to be intrusive and an interruption in the user experience, but users themselves will often click away from the page altogether rather than wait for a pop-up to load and close or navigate away from it to access the main content on a web page.
4. Redundant or repetitive links
When a site visitor selects a link on any page of your website, they expect to be taken directly to the content the link implies. They should not find themselves on another page with another set of links, among which is the one they originally selected.
Always provide a direct route to content with no hidden paths or side-tracking journeys through irrelevant or repetitive data to get there. Link labels should also avoid redundancy; have one clearly labeled and easily understood link for each page of your website, and use that single link uniformly in all the navigation sections of your website.
5. Directing users to a secondary site or page with no clear way to return to the primary site
If your website is designed to take a user to a secondary location or micro-site if they choose certain navigation options, make sure the alternate location has a navigation route back to the original or primary site.
The ‘back’ function for a browser window often does not take the user directly back, and they usually end up leaving the site altogether out of frustration. If and when possible, you should also inform the user that they are leaving the main site.
6. Videos, images, or other embedded content that has a large file size
Not only do search engines want page content that loads quickly, site visitors do too. In fact, page load times are one of the most important factors for internet users when they are making the decision to visit a web page or move on to other sites.
When including images and video on your website, you should make sure it consists of the smallest file size possible to avoid losing visitors simply because they don’t want to wait for your content to load.
7. Content that cannot be found or isn’t where it should be
This item does not mean that your site has broken links pointing toward unreachable content. What it does mean is that your content is either non-existent, does not exist where it logically should, or is housed under a category name or heading that is not immediately understood by the average user. When creating category menus or choosing locations for your website’s content, you should decide placement and labels based not on your understanding of where it should go or what it should be called, but that of your site’s visitors.
8. Poorly labelled links or categories
If you have a construction company and someone visits your website to find out what types of construction projects you perform, would they find it under the Who We Are, What We Do, or How We Do It navigation options?
All three of those options have the potential to be terribly vague and do not immediately and clearly inform a site visitor of the content they will find if they follow the links. Your links and category names should be as unambiguous as possible in terms of identifying the information to be found by following them.
9. Forcing visitors to commit to a course of action before providing details about costs or fees
Quite a few websites have a sign-up or enrolment process that a user must go through to obtain something that appears to be free. When a user does begin the process, however, they often end up finding out – almost at the end of the process – that there is a mandatory fee to complete the transaction. Always be upfront and transparent about any costs or fees a user may incur if they initiate an action to obtain something via your website.
10. Drowning visitors in information that is not highly relevant to the page contents and the visitors’ wants or needs
Just because there is a lot you can say about something does not mean you should do so, especially when it comes to delivering information to website visitors.
Most internet users scan information rather than reading it, which means they try to pick out the most important pieces of data and form a response or decide on an action based on those pieces.
If you want your content to be actionable, make it easy to read, easy to understand, and focused only on the most relevant, engaging, or valuable data points.
11. Too much on-page content that pulls from too many off-page sources
The particular aspect of website design is quite terrible, your content is relying completely on the speed and accessibility of sources over which you have no control at all. When your website or page is looking for, connecting to, accessing, and loading information from other locations around the internet, this means your user has to wait while that content is retrieved and displayed.
Using external content is sometimes unavoidable, like in the case of advertisements or sponsored data, but you should try to limit the quantity of on-page information that actually comes from off-page sources simply to dramatically reduce the loading time of your web pages.
12. Not making links stand out, especially when you want visitors to act on them
Fancy website design may look great, but it can often hide information your visitors need in order to make a decision. On-page links to important content should always be as visible as possible, and there should be no confusion about what the link represents or where it will take the user.
A key thing to keep in mind when making links, especially calls to action, stand out to site visitors is to avoid giving them the appearance of an advertisement. Most internet surfers and searchers today are so inundated with advertising material that they automatically ignore anything that resembles an overt sales pitch or piece of marketing content.
13. Ignoring essential on-page SEO practices in favour of elaborate design tactics
An intricately detailed and aesthetically pleasing website may look awesome, but if you have left out a few basic SEO elements no one will ever find it because it will get ignored or down-ranked by search engines.
Three important on-page attributes that can significantly improve SEO all by themselves are the page title, meta description, and H1 tag.
Not only do these attributes help with ranking in search results when applied correctly, but they also help users determine, at a glance, if your site or page has content relevant to their search. Being able to quickly decide relevance is extremely important, especially for mobile users who are accessing data while on the go.
14. A lack of detailed content
When someone visits your company website, it is almost always because they want more information than they’ve been able to find in an email, blog post, or on social media. Your website should be the richest source of data a person can possibly find when it comes to delivering information about what your company does, the products or services you offer, how someone can contact you, and so on.
While all the other online marketing channels can, and do, provide useful and relevant information about who you are and what you do, your website should be the foundation upon which those other channels are built.
The truth is that your online presence should start and end with your business website, rather than have it exist only as a digital storefront or brochure for your company’s offerings. Yes, you can do very well with marketing strategies that focus on social media or blogging, and email blasts can generate a spurt of renewed interest in your business. That would be no different, however, than a brick-and-mortar company relying almost exclusively on TV and radio ads or billboards and road signs to keep their business afloat.
If your company website is not getting the attention you think it should, spend some quality time evaluating every aspect of it to find weak spots and potential mistakes or flaws that can be reconfigured to dramatically improve its marketing effectiveness. A great way to do this is by incorporating usability testing, user experience optimisation, and user research into your web design strategies. Deliver a website users want to use, and they will reward you with the traffic, leads and conversions your company relies on to reach your marketing goals.