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7 Web Design Mistakes to Avoid

The design of your organization's website is a bit like the layout of a retail store. You want customers to find it attractive and accessible, fun to browse but also efficient for those who want to buy and check out quickly. Unfortunately, designers often make mistakes when creating the look and feel of their company's site. Here are the top ones to avoid.

  1. Not using a responsive layout. Responsive design is a method for ensuring a web site adapts to different client devices such as desktop computers, tablets, and smartphones and other mobile devices. Without it, you must update and manage several different templates, CSS files, and/or a completely different site. Responsive layouts ensure consistency of content and images for your customers regardless of their devices.
  2. Use Flash. Apple stopped supporting Flash in all its mobile devices, and using it alienates all of those users. Presumably you could have one site for Windows desktop users who have Flash, and the rest done in CSS3 and Javascript, but why have all of that extra code to be responsible for? By sticking with Javascript and CSS3, you get similar effects and avoid duplicating your work.
  3. Go heavy on artwork or unusual treatments. A decade ago, it was fashionable to push the envelope in web design with lavish graphics, layered art, curved or diagonal designs, and other out-of-the-box creative approaches. But today, so many people are using their phones and tablets to access websites that simplicity, consistency and predictability are of much greater importance than unusual web design. It is also more difficult to maintain a consistent look with responsive templates if you have an intricate and complicated design. If you're tempted to go a bit wild with your art and layouts, first check your site's traffic to see what percentage of your visitors are mobile. If you've got 40 percent or more mobile users, or even 30 percent, hold back with those interesting but unpredictable layouts and go for clean designs that will display well on any screen.
  4. Crowd your site with images and text. Overcrowded web pages with little white space are difficult to navigate or read. Crowding literally tires the eyes and can cause visitors to move on. Pages need white space to provide boundaries, refresh the eyes, and enable readers to quickly grasp what is most important on the page. So be liberal with your white space. One caveat however: Don't "trap" a batch of white space in the middle of the page. That's jarring. Instead, use wide, but even, margins between the content, while lavishing a bit more on the outside margins.
  5. Copy another site’s designs. It’s fine to take inspiration from other sites you admire, or even use some specific ideas. But copying all or large parts of someone else’s layout is a big no-no. The rule of thumb is that it’s ok to borrow ideas on things like color combinations, fonts, use of graphics, and navigation – but never OK to outright copy it. It will inevitably backfire on you when someone – a customer, partner, competitor, random visitor – notices the theft and comments on it in social media.
  6. Don't provide enough contrast. Web sites should be easy to read and navigate, so contrast is important. It’s especially important to have good contrast for things like text, buttons and links. Contrast means both dark on light tones (e.g. black on white is better than charcoal on light gray) and color contrasts. Some colors, no matter how dark or light, don’t pair well. An example is orange with red, or green on blue. Even a light orange on a dark red is going to be hard on the eyes. If you’re not sure, ask the opinion of those around you.
  7. Forget your visitors' needs. Do you cater to seniors or others with accessibility issues? Consider who and how people will be using your site. Seniors or vision-impaired visitors need bigger, darker text or easy to see buttons and images that can be enlarged. People who have arthritis may find it difficult to click through multiple links or manipulate sensitive drop-down menus. Others have trouble using mice and touchpads, so they appreciate sites coded to support keyboard navigation as well. And to ensure that color-blind visitors can identify a clickable link, use underlined or bold type as well as color to make it stand out.

You should consider the preferences of all your site visitors when creating your design. The goal is to make their experience as pleasant and productive as possible, so they'll want to come back. The more appealing and user-friendly it is, the better it will serve your company and make your bottom line a nice dark black.