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5 examples of bad website design and how to avoid it

Obviously it’s important to know what good web design actually means. But it’s equally important to understand what bad design involves so you can avoid it. As an experienced B2B website design agency we’ve seen it all, everything from stunning sites that do everything they’re supposed to for the user and the business itself, to terrible designs that do more to send visitors away in frustration than encourage exploration, drive conversion, and support customer loyalty.

Read on to find out the no-nos you need to avoid, the web design mistakes a design team like ours wouldn’t make in a million years. By the end of this article you’ll know exactly what you don’t want your web design partner to do. 

Differences Between Good and Bad Web Design

Great web design, like all design, is a clever blend of creativity and logic, based on a handful of essential principles. Basically it’s all about the user. Every aspect of a site must be created in a way that pleases users, makes their journey easy and enjoyable, and doesn’t put any frustrating obstacles in their way. So what, exactly, does that mean in practical terms? If you’ve ever encountered a bad website design you’ll know what a relief it is to navigate away to a good one. 

First, let’s look at easy to understand navigation, which means everything is where people expect it to be. The pages are named using the protocol we’re all used to; home, about, contact us and so on. The pages people tend to look out for are prominent. The navigation buttons are clear and function properly, located where you’d expect, in other words where most web designers put them. Changing the way things are usually done in a site design context isn’t creative or helpful. When you mess with people’s expectations some of them will just give up and click away. Imagine if you changed the design of a high street shop so the door wasn’t visible. Crazy, right? The same applies to website design.

Animation is brilliant. Moving images capture people’s imagination in an instant and are great at holding it. But there are times when animation is more of a distraction than helpful, and gets in the way more than influencing visitors positively. A web design professional knows when to harness moving imagery to enhance the customer journey and when it’s better to stick to plain words and still images.

A good colour scheme matters. In this context good means clear, with the right level of contrast so it’s easy to read the content whether you have great eyesight or it’s a bit iffy. Imagine being red-green colour blind, a very common problem. You click through to a site designed in pale pinks and pale greens, and it’s impossible to use. Most of us struggle when the contrast between the text and background is poor.

Colour is also a brand thing. If your brand livery is blue and gold and your site’s red and orange, your designer has made a fundamental mistake. It’s rare, but it happens. There’s also a lot of emotion behind colours. If you’ve ever wondered why so many financial services put navy blue at the heart of their brand, it’s because the colour signifies a sensible, professional business you can trust, maybe a bit dull but who cares when they’ll take proper care of your money.

A clean layout is important for much the same reasons. The best website designs aren’t about cramming every single bit of information and imagery onto a page because you’re scared that not doing it could leave people without crucial information. It’s about deciding exactly what the visitor needs to know on each page, putting the most important content first, and including the rest in a hierarchical way. Bear in mind some people don’t need to know much before they feel happy to buy, others need a lot more information first. Put it into bite sized chunks. Keep things as simple and tidy as you can.

A visually appealing interface is much more than a ‘nice to have’. Humans are highly visual creatures and whether we consciously realise it or not, we’re drawn in by beautiful design and turned off by bad design. An ugly site will never perform as well as an attractive one.

Choosing a design that’s appropriate to the topic or theme matters, too. You wouldn’t design something fun, funky and humorous-looking for a bank or funeral directors. And you wouldn’t go all navy blue and corporate for a kids party entertainer website or an alternative clothing store. 

Keeping design elements and content organised sensibly makes a huge difference to the all-important user experience. When you’re disorganised, the visitor experience is disorganised. The most important content is the stuff that your visitors need to see, not what you want to show them. That’s crucial. Put the content that most affects a person’s decision to buy comes first. Other than that it’s all about ordering the content so it drives people gently but firmly in the right direction – towards a buying decision.

Can you imagine how awful a website would be without all this careful work? These basic principles are not likely to change, simply because they underpin great design of any sort, for any purpose, online and offline. But design trends rise and fall, and this is where the variations come in. If you noticed, a few years ago, a trend for long web pages split into numerous horizontal bands – as revealed by the mass adoption of the WordPress Avada theme - this is the kind of thing we mean. Sites built with the theme fulfil all the basic design principles but the way they’re expressed by the designer is different compared to older websites.

Examples of bad web design

Now it’s time to dive into what bad web design means, along with some examples. Sadly there are plenty of them around, and they’re bad in all sorts of different ways.

Not-responsive design

Responsive design means the web pages display perfectly and work equally well whatever device the user consumes it on. Whether you use the site on your phone, laptop, tablet or desktop you are able to use it in all the ways you expect, seamlessly.

When the design is not responsive it doesn’t work across every device. If you’ve ever found a site on your phone that you can’t read because the text is miniscule and the navigation screws up on the small screen, you’ll know how annoying it is. You click away and you never go back.

Because most of us use our phones to get online, it’s vital to get it right. If you don’t you’ll annoy much more than human visitors, you’ll also be punished by Google, whose search algorithm demands you tick all the right boxes. Get it wrong and your search visibility will plummet along with your visitors.

Poor navigation and operations

Poor navigation leaves users stumped. You open a page. Perhaps you scan it, but you can’t see a menu where you expect one to be. Maybe there’s no ‘about’ page, something both people and search engines expect. And where’s the contact page link? Maybe, like this example, you finally spot the menu at the bottom left of the screen. Because users like to feel they can trust a website and brand before they buy, making life difficult with bad navigation can have a catastrophic impact on your reputation and revenue.

Cluttered design

If you’re old enough to remember what search engine ‘portals’ were like in the beginning, you’ll know what we mean by cluttered design. Yahoo, for example, presented a search page that looked a lot like a tabloid newspaper. It was a mess. So were the rest. No wonder, when Google came along with its super-clean, super-simple search page, it took users by storm. There’s a lot to be said for keeping things visually simple and clear. A cluttered design affects your messaging, navigation, and the entire purpose of the website. This must be one of the best examples of chronic cluttering we’ve ever seen.

Poor linking and CTAs

Internal linking is something Google loves because it indicates you’re being as helpful as possible to your users. Get it wrong and it has a serious impact on visitors. If you’re expecting to be sent to a page about green widgets and the link you click sends you to a page of red ones, you’re not a happy bunny. How can you trust a business that sends you in completely the wrong direction? When you make it a challenge for people to find what they want, you lose.

Inaccurate CTAs – calls to action - can also cause users to get frustrated and leave a site. Calls to action are designed to help people understand what to do next in a multitude of circumstances along the customer journey. Click here to check your shopping cart before pressing ‘buy’. Click here for more details about this product. When you get your CTAs wrong or don’t include any, then compound the error by messing up internal linking, you’ve sabotaged yourself pretty well.

Inconsistent Design

How do you feel when a person is inconsistent, maybe lovely one day and a complete nightmare the next? Not good. Humans dislike inconsistency. It changes the way we feel about people, brands and everything else. It worries and perplexes us.

In an online world where trust is so important, consistent design means a lot. Consistency in web design is one of the most powerful ways to get messages across. If you’ve ever landed on a site whose pages are so different from each other it actually startles you, you’ll know how wrong it feels, even when you know nothing about design. The quality of the whole business comes under question. Take a look at this one, a fine example of inconsistent website design. 

How to Avoid Bad Design for Your Website

Luckily responsive website design, easy navigation, a simple and clean look, good linking and CTAs plus a consistent appearance means you’ll avoid getting things wrong. At the same time it clearly isn’t a job for an amateur or someone who isn’t experienced in website design. Each of the design principles we’ve mentioned involves tapping into a large store of experience, knowledge, technical expertise and marketing insight.

As a business in need of an excellent online presence there are some things you can do to help your web designer achieve the kind of site you want. You can examine competitor websites – especially those appearing above you in the search results, and learn from them. You can think about what your audience will be looking for when coming to the website, what they expect from you, what they want and need most. You can analyse the messaging you want to use on the website and figure out how best to present it. But at the end of the day you need to partner with a reliable, creative and experienced website design company who will bring everything together in a way that pleases humans and gives search algorithms exactly what they need.

Great Design Every Time

Now you know what good design means, what bad design looks like, and how to avoid the many pitfalls that non-designers clearly experience when they approach the job without understanding what’s at stake. We know all about good design and how to achieve it. We also understand bad web design and ways to avoid it. If you’d like to chat about B2B website development from Intuitiv, we’ll be delighted to discuss the potential with you.

Or give us a call on 01844 888 777
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