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5 Web Design Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make—Ever

Designer's desk with responsive web design concept.

[Updated April 23, 2019]

One of the problems with running a small business is that it is too easy to make design mistakes that make you look small. You may not have a marketing staff or design team or even a personal assistant—which often means you’re the chief marketer, head designer, and full-time writer. All that on top of everything else you’ve got to do. Which means sometimes you make mistakes when you take on those extra roles.

Here are five common design mistakes we see small businesses making on their websites and in their marketing materials. Please don’t make them yourself.

Top Web Design Mistakes to Avoid

1. Too Much Stuff on Your Web Page

You’ve probably heard the saying, “We stack it deep and sell it cheap!” That may work for warehouses (and some catalogs) where space is limited, but it’s the last thing you want to do with your website where there is plenty of room. For two reasons:

  • Readability and Attention Getting. When someone lands on your web page, you have just a few seconds to catch their attention with a catchy headline, an interesting photo or graphic, or a compelling call to action. When all a visitor sees is a mishmash of images and words competing for their attention—nothing wins. And they’ll click away.
  • Search Engine Optimized. Probably more important, by placing each product (or line of products) on its own page, you can provide the additional detail that your customer is looking for, plus it allows you to optimize the page for search engines, which means your customers will find you when they search online. A crowded webpage with too many products and images can’t be effectively optimized for each product, so you lose the opportunity to win new customers.
Don’t overcrowd your web page with too many competing elements and create a “Where’s Waldo” effect, forcing your customers to search for what they need. Most will give up long before they find it. How long does it take you to find the link to “shopping” on the crowded website below?

Web Design Mistake Too Much Content

2. Spelling and Grammar

This one should be obvious, but we’re stunned by the number of spelling and grammar mistakes we see on critical web pages. It’s so easy to fix—simply run spell check. If the program you’re using doesn’t have spell check, copy the text into a new Word document and run your spell checker.

Sadly, many spell checkers won’t catch grammar mistakes like using “your” instead of “you’re”. Or writing “its” instead of “it’s”. Or keep you from making your nouns plural by adding an apostrophe s (our pet peeve). For this stuff you need to have someone proof read your text, an worthwhile investment in your professional image.

3. Unreadable Type Faces

Another one that seems obvious, but isn’t. At least not to a lot of small business owners. Too often people choose crazy-looking or unreadable fonts and swash caps for their text—fonts that make it almost impossible to read the message is trying to communicate. The idea is to get your point across, not confuse your customers. If you think your text may not be readable, you are almost certainly right. Choose a different font.

This example looks nice, but can you easily read it?

Unreadable Type in Web Design

4. Too Many Colors

Who doesn’t love a rainbow? Well, your website visitors for one. Color is a powerful communication tool, but not when you use them all at the same time. This is similar to the advice we give for creating a great logo. Choose one or two colors to represent your company. Then use them consistently everywhere from your logo and business card to your store signage and promotional products. Your customers will appreciate your restraint and more easily recognize your brand. Don’t do this:

Poor Color Choice in Web Design

5. No Contrast Between Text and Background

We’ve seen this advice over and over since our early days in the world of direct mail. And yet, lots of designers like the “sophisticated” look of light text on dark backgrounds, or worse, colored text on a similarly colored background. If your goal is to get customers to read what your write, this technique simply doesn’t work.

No Contrast on Web Page Design Mistake

The text should be significantly darker than the background, creating a nice contrast that makes it easy for readers to get your message. If your mom has to squint to read it, you are making your customers work too hard to get your point.

Small businesses don’t have to look small. Or unprofessional. The first step is to avoid these five mistakes. The worse offense of all is creating a website without a logo. Design a professional logo for your business in minutes using our logo maker.