Written by Alan Smith

A unique and compelling website isn’t an option anymore. Having a poor site causes businesses to lose customers, and that is money out the door. Unfortunately, this occurs with an alarming frequency. Many small business owners design their own websites to save money and have more control over the project. Unfortunately, sometimes they don’t truly understand the concepts of good web design, leading to a website that’s less than ideal.


Web design, at its essence, is a form of art. And like art, web design looks to give its viewers an experience. Web design is meant to combine form and function in a way that makes a website enjoyable, navigable, interesting and usable. To do this, there are certain spoken and unspoken “rules” web designers must follow. Often, people don’t follow these rules, and that’s when websites like this happen (ps. this website is a spoof…but I have encountered sites that give it a good challenge!).

Don’t be that website. From experience, I can say that these are the most common web design mistakes small business owners often make.

1. Too Much Going On

Portray pertinent business information right away on your website. Visitors who can’t understand what your site is about within a few seconds of arriving on your site will leave. While that’s important to keep in mind, it often leads small business owners to cram too much above the fold. Not only is the fold a myth but also a crowded website is never a good thing. Websites with tons of images, text, and other things going on will take a while to load, and they’ll confuse your visitors. Avoid busy designs like the plague.

web design mistakes - way too busy
Way too busy (Image Source: Dokimos.org)

2. Too Little Going On

Websites with next to nothing on them are on the other end of the spectrum. Minimalism in design is a huge trend right now, and it works when done correctly. Some small business websites are overly cryptic and leave too much to the imagination. That’s another big mistake. Your visitors want to know who you are and what your business will do for them. Relying too much on simple imagery with no clear direction will leave your visitors guessing, and that’s not a good thing.

3. Too Confusing

Somewhere in the middle of the too much/too little spectrum lies the dreaded “confused brand” website. The confused site is one which features a variety of typefaces, images, color palettes, and themes, none of which relate to each other. This occurs for a number of reasons. It can happen when you don’t have a good idea of your brand image. You can easily fall into this trap when you like too many design templates and want to use them all. It can also happen when you’re trying to convey too many ideas at once and view your site as individual components rather than holistically. When designing a website, choose one theme, one logo, and one typeface, and stay with them across all other aspects of your site.

4. A Terrible CTA

Your CTA is the gateway to your business. It commands your visitors to do something: Click here! Get a coupon! Learn more about this product! Obviously, it’s very important that your CTA clearly tells visitors what they need to do. There should be enough information that visitors know what they’re going to get from taking action and what information they need to provide. On the other hand, there’s a fine line between being helpful and being annoying. Make sure your CTA is concise and tells customers exactly what to do. Keep form-filling to a minimum, and give them a few minutes on your page before the CTA shows up.

web design mistakes - confusing CTA
Confusing CTA (Image Source: Econsultancy)

5. Poor Use of Content and Whitespace

Content is a crucial part of your website and marketing campaign. Content is what tells readers about your business and the products or services you offer. Pay careful attention to the fonts you choose and how content is laid out on the page.

Typeface conveys your brand image in addition to the actual words you write, so make sure you pick a legible and attractive font. Make good use of white space to bring the eye around your site and make large block of text less intimidating. Incorporating too much text into their websites is a big mistake many people make. Break text up where you can, and use visual elements to represent concepts where possible. Content should always be updated; otherwise, customers might think you’ve gone out of business.

web design mistakes - too many words
Too many words (Image Source: exceler8com)

6. Ugly or Irrelevant Images

Photos and graphics are also an integral part of web design. Images can convey complex thoughts quickly without having to physically read text. That being said, many businesses inexplicably use irrelevant images or low-quality images. Images that aren’t of the highest quality will muck up your website and turn off visitors. Likewise, irrelevant images will only confuse your readers, making them wonder what you’re trying to convey.

7. Hidden Navigation

Navigability issues will kill your website’s popularity fast. We live in an age where everything is delivered to us in an instant, and anything longer will make people abandon your site. Making your navigation menu hard to find is one common web design mistake. Have you ever been to a website and you can’t find the menu or the search bar? It’s infuriating. Make sure the navigational aspects of your website are easily understood and even easier to notice.

8. Missing Your Target

As a small business owner, you understand how important it is to know your target audience. You’ve probably spent hours creating customer profiles and figuring out how to attract consumer attention. This is just as significant in web design. The way your site looks and “feels” will naturally attract a certain type of visitor. Some websites are highly professional, some are trendy and hip, while others are fun and bubbly. Sometimes, a website tries to speak to too many audiences. If you try to please too many types of customers, you’ll end up with a muddled website. Identify and profile your target audience and cater for it.

9. Lack of Contact Info

Strangely, a lack of contact information is another common mistake. The moment visitors decide to make a purchase or use your services is crucial. It’s imperative they have the necessary contact information the second they decide you’re the right company for them. If a visitor has to search through your site for contact info, he or she will likely get frustrated and leave. Your “Contact Us” page should always be just one click away, or your information should be at the bottom of every page.

10. Ads in All the Wrong Places

Advertising is a necessary evil in the web design world – especially on blogs, where it is regarded as one of the main income streams. However, too many ads or noisy and flashy ads will frustrate your visitors and make you lose business. Analyze your ads like a hawk; if they annoy you even in the slightest, they’ll undoubtedly do the same to your visitors. Pay extra attention to pop-ups. While they’re generally making a comeback, make sure they’re easy to close and not full-screen size.

web design mistakes - too many ads
Lots of ads (Image Source: N/A)

Always keep your target audience and brand image in mind in every step of the design process – from planning to post-launch analysis. If you can reconcile the two, you’ll have a beautiful website that speaks volumes about your business. If you (digitally) build it, they’ll come.