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

Keren Lerner
Oct 03, 2018

Portray the right image for your small business following these crucial web design tips.

Did you know the first website was made was in 1991 and is still online?

I got involved in making websites in 1996. As a fledgling designer, I was annoyed by all of the bad websites out there. This feeling, sadly, hasn’t faded. Some call it “design disease,” but I wouldn’t trade it in.

The biggest issue with a newly revamped website is that people don’t pay close enough attention to the end result that goes live for all the world to see. So the result sometimes is a site representing a business with glitches and mistakes.

While it’s hard to summarize the many mistakes people make when making websites, I have divided them into five main categories.  

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1. Outsourced supplier mismanagement

Outsourcing is a good idea. Those who recognize they’re not good at everything are the ones who go further in business. However, delegation and abdication are two very different things. As the business owner in charge of the website project, you do have to sign things off, and it’s up to you to check things over properly.

Sometimes it’s not completely the fault of the supplier. Sure, it may be a case of “buy cheap, pay twice,” but if you have decided on a supplier, then give them clear and timely feedback, and show gratitude for their work – they will do a better job for you.

2. “I just want something simple up there quickly.”

People either go the DIY route or ask someone else to help them. In either case, mistakes are made. In both cases, a common issue is that people underestimate the thought, planning, time, talent, care and attention a good website requires. It’s seldom that someone with this intention gets what they desire without some consequences.

They either realize it’s taking more time and skill than they expected, or they don’t realize what is needed. And the result of that is usually not good.  

If you decide that you need a new website, plot some time a few months in advance to properly consider who it’s for, what result you want out of it, what you want it to say and roughly how you want the information to be divided up. Then plan time and resources for the steps needed – wireframing, design, coding, content, refinements, testing and launch. Rushing things creates problems.

3. Design glitches galore

It’s hard for a nondesigner to spot what is “good” design” and what constitutes “bad” design. There are many ways in which a design can be bad. However, a few common issues that appear consistently include:

  • Massive gaps. Many don’t notice when double paragraph spaces happen between paragraphs in website pages. Check the text and correct these extra spaces.
  • Cheesy images. There are a number of images that people spot and immediately label as “cheesy.” These are the obvious stock photos of people shaking hands, shiny buildings and strange, little 3D people doing different activities.
  • Full-text justification. While people may think this is a good idea, satisfying our natural desire for symmetry, in narrow columns of text, justified text leaves large gaps between words, making everything look messy.
  • Poor legibility. This occurs when people use colors that lack sufficient contract between the text and the background.
  • That picture of you. People put a picture of themselves or their team in About or Meet the Team sections of a website – wonderful! But they use images that are taken on their iPhone, which have poor lighting, are badly cropped, blurry/pixelated, or generally unflattering. There is a better way – use a professional photographer.

4. UX issues: The user journey and user experience

There is a lot of confusion regarding the difference between UX or UI and design. However, some hard and fast rules do apply when it comes to websites. Not everyone follows them, and as a result, some problematic issues come up:

  • Poor theme selection. If you’re choosing a theme without proper consideration of how your images and content will fit, you’re starting off on the wrong foot. It’s something you need to consider before buying your new template.
  • Not making the links into links. Many companies will mention their email addresses in the text of a page and then forget to make it a hyperlink.
  • Using every item from the template. Themes often come with lots of “bells and whistles,” which you may feel compelled to fill in. Just because it’s part of the theme, though, doesn’t mean you have to use it. Sometimes, it’s best to strip things back and avoid adding things to your site for the sake of it. Most people I know prefer simpler sites.
  • Not checking the site on mobile devices. More than 50 percent of users are looking at websites on their phones rather than their PC. Test your site on your phone – navigate through each page, test links, study each page. This will help you identify things that aren’t lining up or showing up properly. 
  • Links to social media pages that don’t exist. It’s often an afterthought to add social media links, and if they are no longer active, then it’s best to remove it. 

5. Poor optimization (SEO and speed)

Traffic is annoying when you’re stuck in it, but when it comes to websites, it’s actually something you really want. Even if you have a fantastic website - clear, easy to navigate and visually appealing - under the hood could be some missed details that will affect the likelihood of your site being found (meaning very little traffic) or your site not loading fast enough (meaning people get impatient and “bounce”).

There are many ways to improve the speed of your site and your chances of getting more search engine traffic. Here are some “under-the-hood” things to check on your site:

  • Did you get lazy with image names? Rather than leaving images with their default file name, name them with phrases relating to the image, using keywords you’d love people to type in to get your image as a result. For example, “fluffy-white-dog-poodle.jpg” instead of “dog3944394.jpg.”
  • Mahoosive images? Images need to be optimized to load quickly. Many people disregard this and add images in whatever size they were originally, which is usually too big. This makes the site and images slow to load.
  • Missing keywords To encourage search engine traffic, there are several places in the code of your site where you can add relevant keywords and phrases, including the Title tag for each page, and ALT tags for each image. Make sure you put these in, as these are basic SEO practices that you need to do as a bare minimum.
  • What, no Google My Business? This item doesn’t have anything to do with your website but with your Google results – a major source of important traffic to your site. When you search for certain companies, their Google My Business profile will show up on the right side of the screen, and it takes up a good chunk of the results page. This info. needs to be updated with the right pictures, correct address and text relating to your business.
  • All the WordPress plug-ins in one site! Another common mistake people make that really slows pages down is adding too many plug-ins. Not all the plug-ins are needed; limit yourself to no more than seven or eight. 

There is always room to improve. Just like how people never stop learning, websites are never finished. However, if you follow the tips above as your handy life-saving checklist of website love, you’ll have one of the best sites out there.

Image Credit:


Keren Lerner
Keren Lerner is the CEO and founder of Top Left Design, a London based design and marketing agency. Founded in 2002, Top Left Design specialises in bespoke designed websites, brands, and marketing material with integrated marketing advice. Keren regularly speaks about design and digital marketing at seminars and workshops for industry organisations across different industries (property, HR, interior design, travel, food, film, finance, and law). She advises on social strategy and communication and trains businesses and teams on how to effectively market themselves online.