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The 5 Most Common Mistakes SMBs Make When Designing Their New Website

Jennifer Dublino
Jennifer Dublino

Follow essential web design best practices to show your business in the best possible light.

Your website is your business’s most visible digital asset, presenting your organization to prospects, customers, and other stakeholders. Your website is often people’s first impression of your company, setting expectations for professionalism, branding, customer service and product breadth. It pays to get your website right, whether you’re starting a new business or undergoing a website redesign.

We’ll explore five critical website errors SMBs often fall prey to, along with website design tips to portray your organization in the best possible light.  

Editor’s note: Need a web design firm for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you with free information.

Common website design mistakes businesses make

The biggest issue with new or revamped websites is not paying close enough attention to the end result. All too often, a site representing your business goes live with glitches and mistakes for all the world to see. 

Here are five common mistakes to avoid during the website design process

1. Mismanaging outsourced suppliers is a website design mistake. 

Outsourcing is an excellent idea. When you recognize you’re not an expert at everything, your business has a better chance to grow. However, delegation and abdication are two different things. 

As a business owner, you’re in charge of your website project. You must sign off on decisions and monitor everything closely. 

Examples of properly managing outsourced suppliers include: 

  • Give copywriters comprehensive information. If you’re outsourcing website copy, you must impart comprehensive information about your company, branding (including brand voice) and desired outcomes. If you don’t clearly communicate this information to the writer, your website copy will end up sounding generic, uninformative and less effective. 
  • Work closely with your web designers. Regarding programming and design, it’s crucial to work closely with the web designer to ensure the bells and whistles serve a business purpose and are not just there to look cool. Also, ensure the website’s look is consistent with your brand identity and that the designers incorporate SEO in the code. 
  • Give all suppliers timely feedback. When working with any supplier, give them clear and timely feedback throughout the web design process. Show gratitude for their work – they will do a better job for you.

Ask your web developer the right questions to ensure you’re on the same page. Determine if they’ve worked on projects with similar goals, ask about their research process, and understand what services they provide.

2. Launching an incomplete or overly simple site reflects poorly on your business.

Underestimating the thought, planning, time, talent, care and attention a good website requires is another typical mistake. You won’t get the results you want if you fail to plan and devote the proper resources to your website.

Business owners often realize the website is taking more time and skill than expected, so they rush the process and throw a partially completed or overly simple site online – one that doesn’t reflect well on their organization. 

When you decide to create a website for your business, take the following steps to ensure your process is thorough and your end result is optimum: 

  • Plan ahead. Months before you want your website to go live, determine who it’s for, what results you want to achieve, what you want it to say, and how you want information divided. For example, if you’re building an online business, you’ll need to understand your target audience, create product pages, and choose a payment gateway or payment processor.
  • Devote adequate resources. Once you clearly understand your website’s purpose and have an idea of your information layout, allocate adequate resources to the project. Hire professional help if you don’t have an in-house team or website design isn’t in your skill set. 
  • Allocate sufficient time for the project. Ensure you’ve dedicated enough time to the various website design steps, including wireframing, design, coding, content, refinements, testing and launch. 

Check out our reviews of the best website builders and design services to find a partner who fits your needs and budget.

3. Design glitches look unprofessional.

It’s hard for non-designers to spot good design and pinpoint bad design. This aspect of your website can go wrong on many levels. 

However, the common design issues you should scrupulously avoid include: 

  • Massive gaps. Many people don’t notice when double paragraph spaces happen between paragraphs on website pages. However, the end result looks gappy and strange. Check your text and correct these extra spaces.
  • Cheesy images. People automatically spot and label specific image types as “cheesy.” For example, avoid obvious stock photos of people shaking hands, shiny buildings, and strange 3D figures conducting various activities.
  • Full-text justification. People may think full-text justification is a good idea, satisfying our natural desire for symmetry. However, justified text leaves large gaps between words in narrow columns of text, making everything look messy.
  • Poor legibility. Poor legibility occurs when websites use colors that lack sufficient contrast between the text and background. Consult a designer or check your website text for legibility.
  • Poor-quality photos. Often, business owners will place their pictures or pictures of their team on the website’s About page or Meet the Team section. This is a good idea. The mistake arises when they use poor-quality phone images or photos that are poorly lit, badly cropped, blurry, pixelated or generally unflattering. There is a better way: Use a professional photographer. All website photos should be the highest resolution possible for the web (72 pixels) and have high-quality composition and lighting.

3. UX issues can turn off website visitors. 

User experience (UX) elements include navigation menus, information flow between pages, linking and ease of finding relevant information. 

A good website UX makes it easy, pleasant and seamless for visitors to navigate the website, find specific information, and accomplish their goals. However, a poorly designed user experience can frustrate visitors and lead to lost sales.

Here are some UX issues to avoid:

  • Poor theme selection. If you choose a theme without considering how your images and content will fit, you’re starting off on the wrong foot. Choose a theme and buy templates only after careful consideration.
  • Not linking contact information. Many companies will mention their email addresses in the text of a page but forget to make them hyperlinks. Linking this information makes it easy for customers and prospects to contact you and helps you build an email list.
  • Using every item from the template. Website themes often come with many bells and whistles you may feel compelled to use. However, just because an element is part of the theme doesn’t mean you have to use it. Sometimes it’s best to strip things back and avoid adding extra noise to your site. Most people prefer straightforward, easy-to-navigate sites.
  • Not checking the site on mobile devices. Users are increasingly visiting websites via their mobile devices, so making your website mobile-friendly is crucial. Test your website on phones and tablets, navigate each page, and test links. Thorough mobile testing will help you identify elements that don’t line up or display properly. 
  • Leaving broken social media links. Adding social media links is often a website design afterthought. However, if they’re no longer active, remove or update them. 
Did You Know?

Another crucial mistake is not making your e-commerce website ADA-compliant. Any business with 15 full-time employees or running time of at least 20 weeks a year should be ADA-compliant.

5. Poor optimization (SEO and speed) can hurt your website.

Even if you have a fantastic website — clear, easy to navigate and visually appealing — you may have missed some essential under-the-hood details, resulting in a hard-to-find website with little traffic. Additionally, slow page-load speeds can boost bounce rates as impatient visitors leave. 

There are many ways to improve website speed and boost website traffic. Here are some “under-the-hood” elements to check on your site:

  • Images with default file names. Instead of leaving images with their default file name, rename them with phrases relating to the image, using keywords people are likely to search for. For example, use “fluffy-white-dog-poodle.jpg” instead of “dog3944394.jpg.”
  • Massive images. Your website images must be optimized to load quickly. Many people disregard this and add images in their original sizes, which are usually too big. This makes the site and images slow to load.
  • Missing keywords. To encourage search engine traffic, there are several places in your site’s code where you can add relevant keywords and phrases, including the title tag for each page and ALT tags for each image. Ensure you enter these keywords; it’s part of essential SEO best practices.
  • Using all the WordPress plug-ins in one site. Adding too many plug-ins is another common mistake that really slows pages. You don’t need every plug-in; limit yourself to no more than seven or eight. 
Bottom Line

Use cybersecurity best practices to ensure website security, including using updated software, strong passwords, password encryption and hypertext transfer protocol secure (HTTPS).

Website design best practices

Now that you know what not to do, here are some tips for designing a high-quality website that shows your business in the best possible light. 

  • Make your branding consistent. You should already have a good logo and other brand-identity assets, including a color scheme. You must carry this branding throughout your website. Use the same colors, fonts and design look as your logo and other marketing materials. An existing customer visiting your website should instantly know it’s yours. 
  • Be consistent with your brand voice. Additionally, your brand should have a consistent voice. This means your copy and other media, such as audio and video branding materials, should have the same attitude and personality (formal, friendly, casual, helpful, funny and so on) as your other marketing. If you switch copywriters, ensure the new one emulates the existing style, or have them rewrite everything in a consistent style. 
  • Use CTAs throughout. Your website should have at least one business purpose – a call to action (CTA). You must prompt visitors to address the CTA, not just read your information and leave. CTAs may include asking visitors to subscribe to a blog or email list, fill out a web form as part of your lead-generation strategy, follow your social media accounts, and make a purchase. Give visitors a clear, compelling reason why this action would benefit them, and make it easy for them to do. CTAs should also be eye-catching so they aren’t overlooked.
  • Make navigation simple. Place navigation bars where visitors are likely to see them, usually at the top or side of the page. If you have many website sections, use drop-down menus for an uncluttered look, and use simple names for your pages, such as “Services” and “About.” With larger, more complex websites, it can also help to use breadcrumbs – clickable links to show visitors how they got to a certain page, allowing them to get back to a higher level more easily.
  • Keep it simple. While you want all the necessary information on your website, you don’t have to jam it into a few pages. Use simple visual design with plenty of white space to encourage visitors to linger and explore. Keep colors to a limited palette, and use easy-to-read fonts. Simple design is considered more attractive and pleasant because it doesn’t overwhelm the visitor.
  • Use video. Video content is highly engaging, and most website users prefer it. Sprinkle embedded videos on your About page and where you discuss products or services. Consider including video testimonials, and post videos of your speeches or interviews. Video content helps engage your audience while boosting SEO. 
  • Stay on top of new developments. In today’s fast-paced digital world, you must stay aware of new technologies, requirements, competitor sites and SEO algorithms and be ready to make changes when necessary. Luckily, websites are easy to update. Continually monitor what visitors want and need from your website and how you can adapt to meet those needs. When new technology arrives, investigate whether or not it would be helpful to your website and visitors. 
  • Update your site as needed. Update your website immediately if you make changes to your executive team, location, products or prices.

Website design is a continuous process

There is always room to improve when it comes to web design. Just like how people never stop learning, websites are never finished. However, you’ll have an effective site if you follow website design best practices and avoid costly errors. 

Keren Lerner contributed to the reporting and writing in this article.

Image Credit: ronstik/Shutterstock
Jennifer Dublino
Jennifer Dublino
Contributing Writer
Jennifer Dublino is a prolific researcher, writer, and editor, specializing in topical, engaging, and informative content. She has written numerous e-books, slideshows, websites, landing pages, sales pages, email campaigns, blog posts, press releases and thought leadership articles. Topics include consumer financial services, home buying and finance, general business topics, health and wellness, neuroscience and neuromarketing, and B2B industrial products.