Some elements of web design are subjective, like the fonts and color schemes that no one can seem to agree on. But aside from these small decisions, web design has a huge impact on conversions – and the factors that determine whether that’s a positive or a negative impact don’t leave any room for interpretation.
We’ve compiled this list of the six most common web design mistakes for SMEs, so your company can steer clear of some glaring digital red flags. Knowing what not to do is vital: 38% of people will stop engaging with a website if the content or layout are unattractive, while 88% of users are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience.
To help us compile this list, we spoke to some experts who make a living crafting beautiful, functional websites. Carol Verity Mann, representative of design agency We Get Digital and founder of Women on the Web, and Ana Abrantes, our in-house UI designer, gave us some top insights.
As a small business, whether you are thinking about creating your own website using a do-it-yourself website builder like Pixpa or hire a web designer to assist you in the process, make sure that you consider the list below and avoid these mistakes to get the best results from your website.
Here’s how not to become a statistic of bad web design. The six most common web design mistakes that SMEs make are:
- Unoptimized mobile view
- Hard-to-find contact info
- Autoplaying media
- Thoughtless site organization
- Lack of up-to-date content
Read on to find out how to avoid these digital don’ts.
1. Unoptimized mobile view
Making sure your company’s website is optimized for mobile view is crucial, since mobile devices now account for nearly two of every three minutes spent online. More people than ever will be viewing your website on their cell phones, and it’s in your best interest to make sure they’ll like what they see: 40% of users have opted to visit a competitor’s website after a poor mobile experience.
If you’ve ever had to zoom in just to read something on a mobile site, or struggled to click the links on a tiny menu, then you know how frustrating a “poor mobile experience” actually is. Just imagine trying to navigate Waitrose’s recipes page on your phone:
We talked mobile optimization with Ana Abrantes, who explained: “Mobile first approach should be the focus. In the near future, users will only visit websites on their phones, so it’s important to be prepared for when that moment comes.”
So how do you make sure your site is optimized for mobile viewing?
You need a responsive design, which basically adapts the display of your website to the size of the device screen being used.
Approach your design with this in mind: anything that’s annoying on a desktop will be 10 times more annoying on mobile. Forget about distracting visuals and fancy layouts – make sure your content and information is the main event.
You can also use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test Tool to see if your site looks ideal on mobile.
2. Hard-to-find contact info
You want your contact information to be the most readily visible information on your site – after all, potential customers aren’t going to work overtime to find out how to get in touch with you. In fact, 44% of visitors will leave a company’s website if there’s no contact information or phone number. And people start looking for it right away:
Check out this homepage for digital engineering company Softwire.com:
Not only is their “Contact us” link easy to find in the upper right-hand corner, but you can also clearly see the company’s phone number twice on this landing page. This is the kind of directness your site should emulate.
You also have a chance to get ahead of the competition on this one: 51% of people surveyed think that “thorough contact information” is the most important element missing from many company websites. So make sure it’s easy to get in touch with you!
3. Autoplaying media
Picture this: you’re typing in a quiet cafe, or maybe in a silent train car. Maybe you’re even stealthily browsing the web during an important meeting. You click on a site and suddenly – sound! Motion! Out of nowhere a video is playing. You panic and try to exit the page as fast as you can.
Or maybe it’s not that urgent. Maybe you simply want to reach the “About Us” or “Contact” information of a company, but you can’t access it because you’re stuck waiting for a video to load on the landing page. You probably won’t stick around for long, since even a 0.1 second delay in load time can cause conversion rates to drop by 7%.
Our point is simple: don’t autoplay media on your site. As one of our colleagues succinctly put it: “autoplay videos are a sin and should be banned from existence.”
4. Thoughtless site organization
Your website should create a user journey in which every step is intentional. That means you need to anticipate what information users will be looking for, and where they’ll expect it to be. This process starts with site navigation.
As Women on the Web founder Carol Verity Mann puts it:
“There is a lot of hard work and psychology that goes into making something visibly pleasing, functional, and commercially effective. Competition is fierce, so we need to be just as fierce as we work to get our websites right. Websites need to look the part, work well in the foreground and background, be very user friendly, and attract the right kind of customers for the business owner.”
The most important first impression comes from your homepage. Our advice? Less is more. The temptation to tell your entire brand story right there on the landing page can be strong, but this will only overwhelm visitors. Instead, you should use the homepage as an opportunity to distill your company story into one clear message.
From the main menu (which should be clearly visible on your site’s homepage), people will be expecting a killer “About Us” page, a “Contact” page, and a page with directions to your location (you can consolidate this with the “Contact” page, if you like). Other pages to include in the main navigation bar will vary by industry – if you’re making a site for a creative agency, for example, you’ll want to clearly link to samples of your work. If you have an online store, you’ll want to link to product pages where items can be purchased.
5. Lack of up-to-date content and posts
One major benefit of an online presence is being able to keep your customers in the loop. It’s safe to assume that when someone comes to your site, they want to be reassured that all the information they’re getting is as up to date as possible.
We’ve seen far too many business websites that look like they haven’t been updated since the company – or the internet – was founded (whichever came first). That doesn’t exactly inspire trust in the quality of the information available.
So, what can you do to wipe away the digital cobwebs? There are two major tools you can use to keep visitors informed about your company: social media integration and a blog.
Social media integration involves adding a feed of your company’s social media – like Instagram or Twitter – to display real-time updates on your site’s homepage, like how UK-based company The Ice Co has done below:
Not only is social media integration a great way to direct site visitors to your social accounts and gain a following, but it’s also a way of showing customers that your company is logged in and easy to get in touch with.
In similar fashion, a regularly updated blog will breathe new life into any website. This is a simple page to add onto a site, and most platforms will even organize posts chronologically for you. By creating a space where customers can read about your team and your latest offerings, you’re inviting them to follow along and get invested in your company’s story.
Here’s something that evidently few small business websites grasp: white space is just as important as content. In fact, white space enhances your content – if a page is too busy, then none of its contents will stand out. You should use white space to emphasize important elements on each page.
There are some simple ways you can avoid cluttering up your pages:
- Don’t use a lot of different fonts or colors
- Limit the number of images on each page
- Break up long blocks of text
Remember that less is more. There’s a passive solution to the problem of a cluttered website: don’t add more content than is strictly necessary, and you should be fine.
Your website is your first opportunity to tell your brand story and get new customers interested. Now that you know what to avoid, it will be a lot easier to take the reins and create a digital experience that you – and your customers – will enjoy. Our expert, Ana Abrantes, put it best:
“Everyone wants to create a unique website, with something that differentiates it from the rest. But we should bear in mind that, in the end, what’s going to attract the user is a good product and well-written content – design is there just to tie everything together.
About the Author: Maura Monaghan writes for Website Builder Expert, the leading authority in helping people of all abilities build an online presence. She specializes in WordPress and website building with a focus on web design, and enjoys sharing her expertise at every opportunity.