It may be hard to remember a time when your website was a nice-to-have, rather than the critical make-or-break-it element of your brand it is today. Now more than ever, with just about every aspect of consumer life moving online, from virtual visits and services to online shopping, your website is the first––and often also the last––place customers will interact with your business.
That’s why it’s perhaps not surprising that more than a quarter of all small businesses surveyed this spring said they were considering a website redesign (and 66% of those without a site now are in the process of creating one) in response to the pandemic.
If you’re about to embark on a facelift for your website, it’s important to have a plan going in, even before you meet with a designer. And it’s especially helpful to know some of the most common mistakes in web design so you can avoid them.
1. Not prioritizing mobile
Today, many, if not, most of your customers are likely to encounter your brand for the first time from their mobile device. That means it’s imperative to design for maximum readability on a phone or tablet, and that’s where you should start the design process; not the other way around as you may have done in the past (i.e., designing for desktop and then adapting to mobile as an afterthought later). When you take a mobile-first approach to your web design, it forces you to prioritize the essentials thanks to the limited screen space. When you develop your design for desktop, you can then add in elements that make sense for the added space.
2. Making website copy too hard to read
What’s the point of a website that’s challenging for your customers to read or understand? Isn’t that like hiding the front door of a retail shop? Instead, pay attention to color pairings, particularly how the color of your text interacts with the background to affect legibility.
Keep in mind that there will be customers with reading or visual impairments, even if it seems fine to your 20/20 vision. Try to stick with contrasting pairs (light and dark tones), and if all else fails, you can always fall back on the black and white format. Using cursive or showy fonts is also generally a don’t when it comes to readability. In general, it’s also best to avoid including large blocks of text, which can intimidate readers.
3. Skimping on photography
Sure it’s tempting (not to mention easy and cost-effective) to use to stock photography in your web design, and this can work well for certain visual elements. But it’s worth spending the time to dig deeper into resources such as Stocksy or Death to the Stock Photo to find images that are more creative and interesting than typical royalty-free images that can be kind of cheesy.
When it comes to product shots, it’s worth hiring a professional photographer to ensure the imagery you’re using is slick and on brand. You have one chance to impress a first time customer: make sure you don’t put them off with low resolution and low quality images that make your brand look dated and cheap.
4. Too much clutter, not enough whitespace
The most effective and compelling modern websites typically feature a clean, uncluttered layout, with plenty of whitespace. A simple navigation structure will also help turn visitors into customers.
Contrast this with the rookie mistake of using overly busy backgrounds that distract customers from the top-priority elements of the site. If your goal is conversions, you should surround your email or sales call-to-action with negative space, not cram the entire screen full of every image and link possible. A disorganized and cluttered layout can convey a downtrodden, outdated image.
It’s also important to pay attention to the visual hierarchy of your site – i.e. what comes first, second, etc. This means staggering how much attention each of your essential elements receives so that your users’ eyes easily follow a clear path, rather than featuring competing elements. Along these same lines, another common pitfall is to make certain elements too large or featuring too much color contrast. Choose your attention-grabbing tactics carefully, and don’t over do it.
5. Using personal preference to guide color choice
Maybe you love a bright, happy yellow or the combination of turquoise and coral has always been one of your favorite pairings. Before injecting personal taste into the design direction for your website, you need to pause and ask yourself whether these hues truly reflect your brand and the desired message you’re looking to convey to customers. Specific colors have a proven effect on psychology in marketing, and just because you love something doesn’t mean it’s right for your brand. This site gives an overview on the meaning behind specific primary colors and the effects these colors can have on people.
A word of caution: choosing colors by logic alone won’t work. Web design is part art, part science. Even if the attributes and meaning of purple and red, for example, represent your brand personality to a tee, listen to your designer if they tell you it’s not working!
Revamp an outdated website
Revamping a tired, outdated website with a brand new look and feel — or scrapping what you had before and starting from scratch — can seem like a daunting task. But being aware of these common pitfalls can give you a leg up on the competition and a head start on the journey ahead.
Shayne Tilley is Head of Marketing at 99designs, the global creative platform that makes it easy for designers and clients to work together to create designs they love. Wrangler of collaboration, diversity, and creativity to help bring more opportunities to people all around the world.
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