Choosing a web designer can be tough when you’re not sure what to look for in their portfolio.  Designs must be functional yet aesthetically pleasing.  Here are our top 10 web design mistakes to avoid.  If you see a web designer using these techniques, you should usually avoid them.

  1. Use of Flash – Flash is a type of online animation which was particularly popular at the turn of the century but went out of favour due to ostentatious designs, poor usability, poor accessibility and poor search engine crawl-ability.  Flash requires a web browser plugin to view or a grey screen will be seen.  Downloading a plugin is no problem for many but may be a potential stumbling block for some website visitors.  Apple iPhones and iPads do not support Flash and up until recently Android devices didn’t (this has since been rectified).  JQuery and Javascript can provide some of the types of animated functionality that Flash can, so this should be looked into as an alternative which solves most of the problems that Flash poses.
  2. Style over function – You will always get some web designers who seem to have skipped the classes about user experience, following design heuristics and providing a functional yet beautiful website.  It’s important that a well-rounded web design professional is hired to design your website (or a team with specialist skills).  Try to avoid web designers who feel the need for each of their new web design creations to be completely innovative which navigation in strange places and a generally poor user experience for their visitors.  Web designers who want to reinvent website navigation should be avoided because website visitors expect your website to work like to last 100 website that they’ve visited.  There’s a reason why all bicycles follow a certain design pattern, beyond the obvious ergonomic design considerations.  Ask yourself if these types of websites serve more to satisfy the web designer’s ego or their clients’ business objectives.
  3. Avoid web designers do don’t know Information Architecture – Information Architecture (AI) is basically about ordering and including information on your website.  It facilitates navigation and site structure.  AI is fundamental to any website and if your web designers has skipped this class then this may lead to a poor user experience, especially with more complex builds.  You wouldn’t build a house without first hiring an architect, there are certain underpinning principles to follow.  So don’t make this mistake with web design.
  4. Underline your hyperlinks – The real hardcore usability professionals argue that all hyperlinks should be blue and underlined.  Though we must strike a balance with our designs, we must consider that a blue, underlined hyperlink can and will reduce cognitive memory load and, thus, make tasks easier whilst browsing a website but blue doesn’t always fit a design.  If it doesn’t then consider a different shade of blue or at least underline hyperlinks and make them, in some way, clearly discernible as links.
  5. Print is not web – I see a lot of Jack-of-all-Trades (and masters of none) come unstuck when they start out as web designers and spread themselves too thin by offering print too, for instance, business cards.  If you’re trained as a web designer then you need to realise that designing and printing business cards and leaflets requires a different skillset.  Web designers should specialise in what they do best and if you’re growing a web design business then don’t get a business card designer in to grow your business, get an Information Architect, Graphic Design, Copy Writer, etc.  to compliment your skill set.  Don’t choose a web design company that is spread too thin.  This brings me briefly online the poor copy that I often see on websites.  Mr Web Designer….please oh please get yourself someone who can write copy and stop providing websites so cheap that you can’t charge your clients for this.  Hiring a web designer who doesn’t know usability or information architecture, who can’t write copy and won’t charge enough to outsource it, is a rouge in my opinion.  It’s like a bricklayer, designing a house, then doing the wiring too.   These guys are bringing our industry to its knees and flooding the market with poor skills.
  6. Think from your users’ perspective – Web designers who take on big builds but don’t test should be avoided.  I’ve worked as an Internet Marketing consultant, with many web design companies who have delivered and had the cheek to handover (to clients), websites that weren’t even tested at the technical level, never mind with real users.  In fact, typical design heuristics were not even followed in some instances.  This is a problem at the web design training level and shows the lack of regulation in the industry…and the need for it.  Sure, we have W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) et al standards to follow but just how many so-called web designers are entering the market with 3 months training and experience and letting themselves lose on client projects? I wouldn’t have them work on mine.  If you’re going to send any significant amount of targeted traffic to your website then it better be tested and easy to complete tasks on.  Nip any problems in the bud. Choose <a href=””>Internet Marketing Platinum</a> if you require expert user experience consulting and digital marketing exerptise.
  7. Search function…poor navigation? – It common in the usability field to consider the requirement for a search function on a website, to represent a problem with your navigation.  I’m referring to the NEED for a search function, rather than the mere presence of one.  I reiterate there’s nothing wrong with having a search function on a website but over-reliance on one is a definite no-no as it’s a sign of an underlying problem which needs to be rectified.  Don’t let your web designer cover up their poor navigational menu and call-to-action building skills with a search function.  Make it the icing on the cake as opposed to a primary navigation functional requirement.
  8. Think of a website like it is a website – What do I mean by this? I’m talking about my biggest bug bear.  This really winds me up! I regularly consult with clients that their website should not be a restrictive, passive experience like watching a video or viewing a slideshow.  Website should be more dynamic in the delivery of their content.  Show visitors signposts to take the next step and respond to calls to action but don’t provide restrictive, linear navigation to actually force their path throughout your website.  Website users can be categorised into different experience levels, novice to advanced.  So cater for each level.  Provide everything that they need and don’t have a useless overly graphical initial front page leading to the homepage (often referred to as a ‘Splash Page’) which doesn’t even show any navigation and is extremely restrictive for website visitors who just want to click to see your phone number.  Consider that a splash page will require two clicks (at least) to allow retrieval of a phone number from your website.  Yes, you may think that you have information that they just must find out about and that the best way to facilitate this is to have a big splash page every time a new or repeat visitors hits your website…but you’re wrong.  Find a different way to impart this information to them.  This is one of the design heuristics, which are tried and tested, which I blog about regularly.  Don’t forget them and don’t use a web designer who won’t try their best to talk you out of having a splash page and explaining the pitfalls in an unbiased manner.  Please note, this doesn’t mean don’t use landing pages.  Landing pages, with minimal information, just enough to get the job done, are good things and aren’t splash pages.
  9. Use of fonts – This should be an obvious one but it is obviously still an area where too many web designers fall short in their efforts.  Use simple font families in web copy and use a sufficiently sized font so that website content is legible and easily readable.  If you’re aiming for a certain level of web accessibility (AA is advisable is most instances, AAA may prove to be restrictive in terms of usability) then include on screen text resizing functionality (common for charity websites and public sector website where the target visitor tends to be everyone).
  10. Content management systems (CMS) – In a bid to be competitive and provide a service which is often overkill (or not truly fit for purpose) for their clients or perhaps to keep costs down by just hiring a developer in a particular CMS, all websites now seem to be CMS driven.  But it is necessary for all builds? I don’t think so.  We recently designed a bespoke static html/css website which fit a client’s requirements and budget perfectly.  The client owns Dreamweaver, can use Filezilla FTP Client and actually finds it easier to make the changes that are required.  We have provided countless CMS driven websites which we’ve ended up updating for our clients anyway.  Yes, creating a new page may be slightly more time-consuming with a static website but there are disadvantages to CMS driven websites too.  The point is that there is no silver budget in web design and a client should always be asked what they actually want and what they actually need.  Also, it should be discovered what they are likely to need in the future in line with the growth plans of the business.  If the client who we designed the html/css static website for would have told us and he was setting on 3 members of staff within the next 6 months and they’d all be administering the website then the design would have been static.  Additionally, if the client wanted to blog then a CMS would also have been recommended.  But we see too many businesses with website that are a year or so old now, with a blog with a single post, dated last year, written by their web designer, stating “We’re proud to announce the launch of our new website!”