7 Website Design Mistakes That Can Hurt Your Business

I believe most website design mistakes happen when business owners focus too much on what their website looks like and lose sight of what it is supposed to do!

Your website is the most critical component of your brand’s online presence.

When people need to find something, they search online. Whether they are looking for something you offer – or looking specifically for your business – you need to make sure they find you.

And when they find you, you need to make sure your website holds their attention, gives them exactly what they are looking for, and moves them forward in their journey from “visitor” to “customer”.

Website Design Mistake #1: Lack Of Strategic Planning

A good website doesn’t start with design; it starts with planning.

Successful brands think strategically about everything they do online.

So before jumping into the website design and development process, you should ask yourself questions, like:

  • What is the main purpose of my website?
  • Who are my ideal clients?
  • What are my competitors doing with their websites?
  • How will I drive traffic to my website? (e.g. social media, blog, paid advertising)
  • Who is going to maintain and update my website?
  • What is my budget for website maintenance, upgrades, and promotion?

Taking a thoughtful, strategic approach can help you avoid many website design mistakes.

That said,  if you already have a website, there’s no need to panic!

Some of the most common website design mistakes are errors of omission, so they can be fixed by just adding new elements to your existing website.

Website Design Mistake #2: Lack of Calls-To-Action

Every website page should have a practical purpose – BEYOND just telling visitors about a product or service. Ultimately, you want them to do something.

That’s where call-to-action buttons come in. A call-to-action (CTA) is a compelling prompt that is attached to a link or button. It tells website visitors what you want them to do and it inspires them to do it.

The best calls-to-action are clear and simple. They work because they tell people exactly what to do. You don’t need to get overly creative. In fact, complicating simple things is one of the most common website design mistakes!

Some of the most effective CTAs are straightforward statements like:

  • Buy Now
  • Contact Us
  • Get Started
  • Add To Cart

You want your calls-to-action to stand out, so you should use a colour that stands out. Red is a tried-and-true option.

Placement is also important. Don’t make the mistake of only putting call-to-action buttons at the bottom of your website pages. When you put a CTA at the top of the page, visitors see it as soon as they click on the page.

Generally speaking, you should have calls-to-action in multiple locations.  At a minimum, make sure they are at the top and the bottom of every page.

(If you want to go deeper into the subject of CTAs and how to do them right, I recommend reading Neil Patel’s “How to Create the Perfect Call To Action”.)

Website Design Mistake #3: No Contact Form

Contact forms are professional looking and user-friendly.

If a website visitor wants to contact you, making them click to email and then compose a message adds an extra layer of effort.

When it comes to user experience, best practices always favour simple over complicated! Because each extra step in a process increases the risk that visitors will give up and leave your website.

Having a contact form makes it super simple for people to connect with you. Equally important, a completed contact form provides details that help you respond effectively.

Besides using a contact form on the traditional “contact us” page, I recommend adding one to the bottom of each website page.  Take every opportunity to encourage visitors to connect with you!

Your contact form doesn’t need to be onerous or ask a million questions. Keep it simple. And provide the option to call or email.

The best contact forms are easy to use, don’t take too long to complete, and match the visual style of the rest of the website.

Website Design Mistake #4:  Lack of Social Proof

Of all the website design mistakes I see, this one upsets me the most because the value of social proof is so obvious. We ALL rely on social proof to help us make purchasing decisions!

Have you ever booked a hotel based on the online reviews? Or tried a new restaurant because someone told you it was good? That’s the essence of social proof.

We live in a skeptical world. People don’t trust easily. All those magical words you put on your website mean nothing if you can’t back them up with practical, real-life evidence.

Forms of social proof may include things like:

  • Testimonials
  • Case Studies
  • Trust Badges (e.g. Better Business Bureau, Security Badges)
  • Authority Badges (e.g. logos of publications you have been featured in)
  • Credentials (e.g. Certifications, Awards)
  • Portfolios
  • Number of users / downloads / followers

Testimonials are arguably the most effective form of social proof.  Personally, I think they are more effective than anything else because they are authentic.

Someone bought your products or used your services, and they liked it. They had a personal experience that was positive and they are sharing their enthusiasm with others.

When it comes to branding and marketing, it doesn’t get better than that.

And don’t hide these pearls of wisdom on a “testimonials” page! Instead, sprinkle them liberally on the most often visited pages (e.g. home page, services).

Position your testimonials alongside the claims you are making about your products and services.

For Example:

Here is a row of testimonials from the “Digital Strategy” page of my corporate website:

This is a screen shot from the "digital strategy" page of the Trust Communications Inc. website. It is a horizontal row of testimonials from happy clients. A snippet from each testimonial is used as headers. They read: practical solutions, focused on outcomes, 25% increase."

In particular, notice how I pulled text from each testimonial to use as headers. This puts the most compelling copy front-and-centre!

Website Design Mistake #5: No Company Blog

Having a regularly updated blog with high-quality posts can make a huge difference in how well your website performs in search engine results.

Blogging keeps a fresh stream of content pouring into your website. This is important for search engine optimization (SEO) because fresh content gives search engines more reason to index your website more often.

Blog posts (especially those with videos) also keep people on your website for longer periods of time.  This is good for SEO because search engines pay attention to (and impart value to) how long visitors stay on a website.

High-quality, SEO-friendly blog posts help you attract and engage website visitors.  Those visitors may share your blog posts with others. And they may be more likely to visit your website again, because you are creating great content!

Perhaps most importantly, blogging is a great way to build authority by sharing your expertise and insights with potential and current customers.

To learn more about how to write effective blog posts, check out Writing SEO Content: 21 Tips To Attract Search Engines And Delight Readers.

Website Design Mistake #6: Not Using Responsive Design

A website created using responsive design has a fluid, flexible layout that adjusts to match different screen sizes.

What this means, is that your website will look (and function) equally well on a computer, a tablet, and a mobile phone.

This is VERY important because mobile traffic has overtaken desktops and laptops. Today, almost 50% of all online traffic comes from mobile and tablet devices. 

If your website doesn’t look good and work well on whatever device is being used, there is a risk that website visitors will be annoyed and leave your site.

Unfortunately, this isn’t one of the website design mistakes you can easily fix with a “tweak” or an add-on.

You can create a mobile-version of your current site but I don’t recommend it. Having two websites is complicated and mobile users may be frustrated if they find less content or information available on the mobile version versus the desktop.

If your existing website isn’t mobile-friendly, most likely it needs updating on both the content and design side.  It may be time to consider a comprehensive website makeover.

The good news is that you will be able to avoid all of these website design mistakes and end up with a really great website!

Website Design Mistake #7: Not Monitoring Website Performance

Your website is an important investment. You put time, effort, and money into it.

So it stands to reason that you should monitor the site to make sure everything is  working the way it’s supposed to. Something like a slow-loading page or a broken link can drive visitors away from your website – and towards your competitors.

You also want to regularly analyze website performance. Monitoring your website traffic and page views can help identify what content is the most engaging, and what needs to be improved.

In the words of business management expert, Peter Drucker:

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”

There are lots of monitoring and tracking tools available. When it comes to analytics, the most common option is Google Analytics, which gives you lots of valuable information about visitor behaviours and conversion rates.

Ideally, you should include monitoring and analytics in the initial website design. But if that ship has already sailed, you can still work it out. Speak to your website designer.  They should be able to help you set up something simple and effective.

In Conclusion

So there you have it.

These are the 7 website design mistakes I see most commonly, especially on small business websites.  I’d love to know your thoughts on these 7. And I would also be interested in what other common mistakes you might add.

An effective website is a core component of effective digital marketing. To learn more, please download the Digital Marketing Checklist.

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Think strategically about everything you do online.

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