Want to build a better website? You can find lots of resources on the web with tons of great advice for that, including long lists of resources, design principles, and plenty of examples of best-in-class web design.
Sometimes, however, we think it’s easier to look at what not to do.
So let’s come at the important topic of “how to create a great website for your business” from the opposite angle. Here are 13 ways to create a bad site (and, if you’re so inclined, how to flip it all around and make your site spectacular).
1. Don’t Tell Visitors What You Do Right Off the Bat
If you really want to confuse new visitors and drive them off your site at the earliest possible opportunity, there’s one simple trick you can use: Just don’t tell them who you are, what you do or who you do it for.
Of course, if you’d rather actually attract prospects who are shopping for your products or services, then do the opposite. Make sure you state up front and in the clearest possible terms what your business offers. Use both text and images, if possible, and try to use the language that will communicate most effectively with your targeted audience.
2. Make Your Site Mobile-Unfriendly
Mobile users now exceed desktop users. You simply can’t afford to ignore them. Moreover, Google now prioritizes mobile responsive design.
So it’s in your own best interest to create a site that employs responsive design—that is, a design that renders well on mobile devices with a minimum of pinching, scrolling or resizing.
You can check your site’s current design using Google’s free mobile-testing tool.
3. Ensure Your Site Loads Very Slowly
Nothing will drive hot prospects off your site faster than a slow-to-load site. In fact, the likelihood that your visitor will bounce increases dramatically the longer it takes to load. Almost half of all web users now expect a page to load in two seconds or less.
Things that can slow down your web site include:
- Image and other files that are too large and take too long to load completely
- Bloated code
- Too many scripts called by the page’s code
- Outdated themes and plugins
- Insufficient hosting servers
- Not using a content delivery network (CDN)
Perform a site speed check and then address whatever issues your page might be experiencing as soon as you can.
4. Use the Wrong Fonts and Font Sizes
Video and images may be the visual spice of the web but text content is its foundation. When text content is displayed in fonts that are too small or not readable for whatever reason, your site will drive off visitors who just don’t have the time or patience to try to puzzle out what you’re trying to say.
Avoid font combinations that don’t stylistically align. Aim for font sizes of 14px or more. Sans serif fonts may be more readable for many visitors, but be aware that this is not always true. The bottom line is that you should always test your font choices out on your own targeted audience.
5. Make All Your Links Open in New Tabs or Windows
When every link your users click on your site load in a new tab or window, you’re essentially begging them to go elsewhere and forget about you. It’s bad UX and also makes effective navigation more difficult. When carried to extremes, it just slows down your user’s browser performance, which can make them react negatively to your brand.
Instead, make sure your links open in the same tabs and keep those hard-won users on your own site.
6. Display All Your Social Media Icon Links at the Top of Each Page
What happens when you put your social media links at the top? Simple: Distracted users leave for your profiles, wind up getting pulled into social media and never come back. Put them literally anywhere else!
7. Hide Navigational Menus and Links
Don’t hide text links and other navigational aids if you want people to stay on your site. Menus are great (especially on mobile), but also try to provide text links for users who prefer them. Make it easy for your users to find the next great thing on your site to look at and read.
8. Don’t Use Any H1/H2 Tags
Properly structuring your content with accurate, valid code helps your SEO and also leads to valid code, which creates a better UX. Understand what headings and subheadings are for—to organize and mark up your content so that search engines and users both will understand it better and faster.
Headings and subheadings also help organize and visually represent your content more efficiently, and leads to enhanced readability as well.
9. Don’t Make Your Contact Information Highly Visible & Accessible
You can do everything else perfectly, but if you don’t provide contact information for your prospects, how on earth can they give you their business? The solution is simple, fortunately: Give them multiple ways to contact you, depending on their preferences—telephone numbers (with click-to-call functionality), email address links, contact form links, physical addresses, etc.
There should be some easy and quick way for users to reach you from every page.
10. Don’t Install an SSL Certificate
A secure website is essential if you’re doing any kind of ecommerce work from your site, but every website can benefit from using the HTTPS protocol.
Search engines prefer SSL-certified sites over regular HTTP ones. It’s been a Google ranking factor since 2014. Chrome browser even marks non-HTTPS sites as “not secure.” That hardly engenders confidence in new visitors and prospects.
It’s not that hard to do, but it’s important to get this right. Consider consulting a web development professional to complete this task for you.
11. Embrace Lots of Avant-Garde Design Choices
Granted, this is not always a problem. It can work for some creative fields where being on the bleeding edge of design and trends works in your favor.
But if you’re in a more traditional field and your site eschews traditional web norms (navigation bars at the top of the page, text links, links that change color once clicked, etc.), you’re risking frustrating your new visitors.
12. Clutter Up Your Page and Remove the Whitespace
Whitespace is essential for a readable, scannable page that doesn’t overwhelm your visitors. Don’t clutter up your sidebars and page body with any unnecessary elements. Strip it all down to the essentials so that your users can focus on the important content.
13. Select Uninspired Stock Images
Stock images can help jazz up your site and create emotional resonance with visitors. But if the image you’re using could be just as “at home” on a website for a completely different business, then it’s generic. Generic is bad. Relevant is good.
Instead, look for dynamic images that evoke the right emotional response in your users, reflect your color scheme and resonate with the nature of your business.
Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to create a site that doesn’t pull its weight for the benefit of your business and your prospects. The good news, however, is that there are always ways to turn those problems around and make your site work harder for you. And if you need any help to accomplish this goal, why not call Keen to Design? We’d love to create a site for you that helps you build your brand and get more customers!