PRO TIP: If you can’t be bothered to read 1,000’s of words right now, you can watch the video a few paragraphs below or listen to the podcast episode right here. 🙂
As a web designer, whether professional or amateur, you should constantly be seeking to improve your website.
Whether it’s website performance, style, copywriting, conversion rate, or user experience, keeping a pulse on how your website is performing is essential.
And with web design standards and Google’s algorithms constantly evolving, this should be something you do at least once a month.
After years of running my own web design agency, I’ve seen a lot of people make some crucial web design mistakes. (and refuse to learn from them)
I want to keep you from making those same mistakes.
By removing these 16 things from your website, you can instantly fix these mistakes and improve it today.
- Vague and confusing headlines
- Unclear calls to action
- Too many calls to action
- Long paragraphs
- Autoplaying videos
- Too many animations
- Oversized images
- Generic stock photos
- Boring copy
- About page
- Testimonials page
- Prominent social media icons
- Bloated plugins
- Obnoxious live chat
- Email links
- Too much “stuff”
1) Vague and confusing headlines
When people first land on your website, you have mere seconds to grab their attention.
How will you choose to use those precious few seconds?
For one, you better make it abundantly clear what you can offer your lovely new visitor. And the most efficient way to do that is with your top headline.
Vague headlines will only serve to confuse or frustrate your website visitors.
Here’s an example of a good headline and a bad headline:
In the first headline from TrustedHousesitters, the benefit offered to the visitor is immediately made clear.
In contrast, the second headline from MindMyHouse is just a generic “welcome to my website”. Like we’re all still building websites on Homestead in 2002…
Which one makes you want to learn more about the company?
2) Unclear calls to action
Too many businesses are so focused on attracting people to their website that they don’t even know what they want their visitors to do once they arrive.
You’ll see all kinds of bloggers boasting about how much traffic they get to their website every month, but almost none talk about how many of those visitors actually became customers or subscribers.
Do you want 50,000 visitors every month? Or do you want 1,000 new customers every month?
Having a clear call to action to guide your visitors will turn your generic traffic-generating machine into a real profit-making business.
Here’s an example of a good call to action and a bad call to action:
BombBomb‘s call to action is clear, immediate and actionable. Visitors don’t even need to click or scroll anywhere to sign up. (credit-card-free too!)
Whereas iMark Interactive‘s call to action is confusing and divisive. What exactly am I “Getting Started” with? Is it different from “Contact Us”? Why do I have two options to choose from? What if I choose the wrong one?
See how easily things can go wrong for your visitor?
3) Too many calls to action
Subscribe to our newsletter, follow us on social media, buy this, click here, read this, watch my YouTube video…
It’s all too much.
Each page of your website should be dedicated towards getting your visitors to take one single action.
While it’s perfectly acceptable to have links to your other pages, you should be guiding your visitor down a path to a call to action at the end.
A funnel can look something like this:
- A visitor lands on your blog post about “How to know when your roof needs repairing”
- They read your post, then click your call to action at the bottom that says “Get a quote on a roof repair”
- Your call to action takes them to your Roof Repair Services landing page
- They view the page, like what they see, then submit a request for a quote on your contact form located at the bottom of the page
- You just successfully turned a visitor into a potential new customer!
That whole funnel only works if you stick to that one call to action: Get the user to request a quote on roof repair.
If you had placed a bunch of other stuff at the top of that funnel, like a bunch of subscribe buttons and social media links in the middle of your blog post, you increase the odds of your visitors losing focus and wandering off somewhere else.
Here’s an example of too many calls to action: (yes, this is a real website lolz)
This is an extreme example, of course. But you’d be amazed how many websites commit this gargantuan web design error.
4) Long paragraphs
This is an easy one.
No one wants to read a wall of text. Break your content up into short, skimmable paragraphs.
Here’s an example of good paragraph length vs bad paragraph length:
Which one would you take the time to read?
5) Autoplaying videos
Videos that automatically play when you land on a website are obnoxious.
In fact, any aspect of a website that forces me to do anything, or limits my freedom to choose my experience, is obnoxious.
Not to mention that force-playing videos reduces the load time of your website. The video has to be loaded regardless of whether your visitors wants to watch it.
And there’s a special place in… my heart… for websites that force-play videos with THE SOUND ON.
Here’s a bad example of an auto-playing video:
If I wanted to watch it, I would have hit play, Anchor. (love your podcast platform though! 😘)
6) Too many animations
Animations are cool.
And they can certainly add value to your website’s message. If you’re making a website about space, who doesn’t want to watch planets float by as you scroll?
But you can definitely overdo it.
There’s a fine line between improving the user experience of your website and just throwing in as many cheesy gimmicks as your server can fit.
Not to mention that it can seriously damage the performance of your website.
Here’s an example of good use of website animations:
Your website animations shouldn’t detract from your message, it should add to it.
7) Oversized images
Powerful imagery is the lifeblood of your website. People don’t have time for your old-fashioned words.
And with images becoming the focus of great web design, the toll it can take on your website’s servers is massive.
Many DIY bloggers and designers are downloading high quality photos and then simply uploading them to their own websites. Without doing any optimization or compression first.
This is a costly mistake.
Many of these images are clocking in at 3MB+…
Take a look at the difference compressing and optimizing your images makes: (from our friends over at Kinsta)
Optimizing the images of this page catapulted the loading time from 1.5 seconds to just under half a second.
A massive improvement for such a simple task!
8) Generic stock photos
Is there anything worse than discovering a beautiful website, only to scroll down and find that they are using cheesy stock photos of people who don’t even work for the company?
Or worse still, Vince Vaughn works for them?
Yep, that’s right. Vince Vaughn and a few other actors decided to skewer the stock photo industry by taking part in producing their own cheesy stock photos.
The point was to show how stock photos dehumanize their subjects. To the point where you wouldn’t even notice a famous celebrity in them.
“But Patrick, I don’t have $500/month to drop on Shutterstock. Where can I get free stock photos that don’t look like stock photos?” – You, probably
The truth is, you can find many resources for free stock photos that don’t look like they’ve been mass produced for every lawyer and accounting firm in the country.
How do you know what to look for?
Here’s an example of a bad stock photo and a good stock photo:
The difference is clear.
9) Boring copy
This one drives me bonkers.
People put so much thought into the look and feel of their website, make something beautiful and functional, then completely crap the bed when it’s time to write the words.
Great copywriting is the heart and soul of not just your website, but your entire business.
It’s the thing that will either keep your visitors reading and scrolling, or running off to your competitors.
The web design industry is notoriously bad at copywriting. As such, they will be the focus of my scorn.
Here’s an example of bad website copywriting and good website copywriting:
Which page is more likely to hook you and keep you scrolling down for more?
(Full disclosure: the bottom page is mine. 🙂)
10) About page
The About page is dead.
The vast majority of websites don’t need one.
If you can’t tell your visitors what you’re all about from your home page, then they won’t bother clicking through to your About page.
Save the time, and money, and skip it.
Here’s an example of a bad About page that you should never see:
11) Testimonials page
The Testi’s page (lolz) is even deader than the About page.
Frankly, you should have social proof (i.e. reviews and testimonials) sprinkled throughout your entire site. There’s no reason to keep them all to one dedicated page.
And getting reviews for your Google My Business page is more important anyway.
Here’s a good example of where testimonials should go: (via our friends at BigScoots)
Right there in the middle of the home page. That’s where your testimonials should go.
And in any other subsequent pages where relevant.
12) Prominent social media icons
Our friends over at Orbit Media put it better than I ever could:
Social media icons are merely candy-colored exit signs. – Andy Crestodina
Every social media icon you place on your site is an opportunity for your visitors to get distracted and peace out.
The whole point of social media is to get people to come FROM social media TO your website. Not the other way around.
13) Bloated plugins
This one mainly applies to my fellow WordPress users out there.
WordPress’ plugins feature makes it easy to add advanced functionality to your website. Features that would normally require some complicated customization.
But many people go way overboard with adding plugins.
Each plugin you install draws more resources from your server. Resources that could potentially be better spent elsewhere.
Look at the difference WPCurve made in their website when removing unnecessary plugins:
From a loading time of 5.2 seconds to just under half a second.
That is massive.
14) Obnoxious live chat
Quite possibly the worst new internet marketing trend in a decade.
It’s the new popup.
I just can’t believe how many website owners continue to defy all moral sensibility of the user experience. Obnoxious really is the only way to describe it.
I’m not opposed to all live chat, mind you. It needs to be done discreetly and with the user in mind.
Here’s an example of live chat done right, and also done horribly wrong:
One of these is a subtle contact option that is there if you need it.
The other is aggressive, annoying, and somehow even manages to be an advertisement for one of their own products.
Which website would you prefer to visit?
15) Email links
I had this debate with a client recently. I lost.
I guess sometimes “the customers is always right.” *shoulder shrug*
They insisted that they needed to have a direct-to-email link on their site. You know, when you click an email and it automatically pulls up your email client of choice so you can start typing.
Sounds super convenient, right?
And it was. Right up until “marketers” ruined it.
Now, if you do decide to put a mailto: link on your site, you’re just increasing the amount of spam you’re going to receive in your inbox.
16) Too much “stuff”
And last but not least, too much “stuff”.
I know that sounds super vague, but bare with me.
With modern web design, less is more. White space is your friend. Just because you have empty space, doesn’t mean you have to fill it with something.
Wise use of white space actually better presents your message, and beautifies your website even further.
Here’s an example of a website with too much stuff, and a website with just the right amount:
(Yah, that’s right. I used my own website as an example again. Make your own blog if you don’t like it. 🙃)
Which of these sites has the clearer message?
Clean, simple and minimal is in. Clutter and information overload are out.
Oh, I’m sure there’s more stuff to get rid of…
As the internet evolves, web design standards adapt.
These days, this is happening at a rapid pace.
I’m gonna have to stay on top of this post so I can continue to add more over the years…
But if you remove these 16 things from your website today, you will notice a dramatic improvement in your website performance and conversion rate.
I personally guarantee it.