It is difficult to overstate the importance of a well-designed website for modern businesses. Depending on market and product, a homepage may be the most valuable asset that some brands possess. Forming the cornerstone of an inbound marketing strategy that attracts, converts and retains prospects, a website represents the first – and sometimes only – point of contact between a company and its customers.
The Internet has changed a lot in the last decade, and best design practices have followed. But some things don’t change at all: the Web Style Guide still lists accessibility and usability as features that distinguish good sites from bad ones.
Over the years, we’ve seen many clients commit the same, simple mistakes that lead to unnecessary losses by reducing both accessibility and usability for users. In this article, we’ll cover some of the most common offenders. Here are eight blunders to avoid when designing your site:
- Skip mobile design
In 2019, any brand that doesn’t have a mobile-optimized site doesn’t have a site at all. Last year, Google switched to a mobile first algorithm, and from the search engine’s perspective, a business without a mobile site today is like a business without a desktop site in 2009.
Web designers may neglect mobile optimization because they don’t realize that over half of all Internet traffic originates from mobile devices. They may also believe that optimization is a pain in the neck.
In fact, mobile design has never been more painless: simply by investing in a responsive design template, designers can ensure that their sites will run perfectly on desktop and mobile devices. For designers on a time crunch, enabling Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is also a simple fix.
- Forget to use whitespace
Since the 1990s, web designers have been tempted to fill a website with as much stuff as they possibly could. But while text-dense pages with multiple buttons, menus, images and grids may be fun to create, they are not fun to read.
A comprehensive study by analytics firm EyeQuant found an inverse relationship between the simplicity of a website and its bounce rate. The more cluttered a site, the more likely a visitor will click away and never come back.
It’s important to realize that whitespace – all the interstitial parts of a website that exist between elements – are not empty space. Rather, they serve to guide user flow, and direct readers to important information.
- Bury contact info (or anything!)
The moment a visitor arrives at your site, they should be able to find whatever they’re looking for. This is the philosophy behind single-page design, and largely explains why it’s still popular today. But if some resources are less prominent than others, don’t let it be your contact information!
Your website serves as a calling card for potential prospects and partners; contact information is often the first thing they will seek out to establish a relationship with your brand.
What’s more, research has found that easily visible contact information increases user trust: websites with a phone number on the front page have higher conversion rates. While you don’t need to go that far, never make it difficult to find.
- Make SEO an afterthought
Google likes to make life hard, and web designers are in a constant battle with the search giant to rank without getting penalized. In 2018, the company released several updates that emphasized quality over quantity as the key metric determining how easy it is for users to find your site.
When building a site, search engine optimization (SEO) should take a front and center role that governs content, page structure, copy and descriptions. From headers to images to links, don’t forget that every word of text on your website affects how it will rank in SERPs.
- Upload images without formatting
If you are like most web users, you get impatient when a website takes forever to load. You aren’t alone: Google reveals that five seconds of latency will cause 90% of visitors to click away before they give your brand a chance.
Many things can reduce your website’s load time: complex web themes, third party code and heavy custom fonts must be downloaded to a prospect’s computer before they will run. But for most websites, the most data-intensive element is images.
A mere 50kb of image space adds four seconds to your website’s load time. And if you upload images without scaling or compressing them, a single background can hog all of that space. Before uploading an image, make sure the filesize has been reduced as much as possible.
- Use fancy fonts
Your website is not a birthday card. And unless you’re making a wedding homepage, heavily-stylized fonts have no place in your web strategy. Remember that accessibility and usability are both key features of a well-designed site: in nine out of ten cases, non-standard fonts make websites less accessible and usable.
Following web conventions, it’s best practice to use easily legible sans-serif fonts for your site’s typography. Research also indicates that font-size is key to making your website readable: one case study found that increasing font-size and line spacing by a few points lowered bounce rates and raised conversion by 133%.
- Ignore headers
When designing a page or post in certain web editors, it may be tempting to create “headers” by changing the font size in certain areas. But this can seriously damage a website’s ranking.
Headers are not just a fancy way to format text: they make reading easier by introducing the section that follows. Search engines know this, and they prioritize headers when deciding what keywords a post or page should rank for.
User headers throughout your site with proper <h1> and <h2> formatting. <h1> is the most important header for determining rank, so always include important keywords when possible.
- Forget about testing
Too often, businesses believe that web design is a shot in the dark: they will conduct initial research, hire a designer, then cross their fingers and hope for the best.
With frequent testing, even bad websites can morph into excellent websites through gradual development. There are three basic kinds of testing that every business should use:
- A/B testing – A/B testing allows you to test two different versions of the same page to determine which is most effective. This allows subtle refinement of details over time, and it’s especially helpful for product or landing pages.
- Speed testing – as noted above, loading time is a decisive factor in visitor retention. But due to browser caching and network infrastructure, it’s hard to know how slow your website is for visitors around the world. Speed testing services will load your site from different locations and tell you exactly what elements are taking the longest to load.
- SEO testing – while no software or plugin can take the place of a human SEO expert, tools like Yoast! can help designers to avoid the most common SEO pitfalls, and ensure that a site is at least minimally optimized for search engines.
Conveyance Marketing Group is a team of bright, innovative and talented veteran marketers dedicated to big ideas, fresh insights and measurable results. We pride ourselves on taking challenging marketing issues and turning them into opportunities for our clients, on pointing brands in the right direction, and on getting our customers noticed both online and off. From branding to websites to digital marketing, and public relations, we handle all your marketing communication needs! Web Design and Development | Brand Strategy | Inbound Marketing | Social Media | SEO | PR