Is anything more painful than a poorly designed website?

Answer: yes. Many things, actually. But that doesn’t change the fact that poorly designed websites hurt your eyes. Sometimes, they even hurt your soul. (Or so our designers tell me.)

But here’s the problem. You’re most likely not a designer. So if you choose to build your own website (a totally reasonable plan), how can you be sure you avoid fatal web design mistakes?

Easy, peasy.

I already talked to our designers for you and I have their top 8 tips for clean, professional web design. Follow this simple guide, and you’ll avoid the majority of the bad-design mistakes we see non-designers make.

Mistake #1: Horrible use of the space above the fold

When you first arrive on a website, the part of the page you see before you scroll down is considered “above the fold.” (It’s an old newspaper term.)

The space above the fold matters the same way a first impression matters. You want that space to clearly convey (1) your company’s name, (2) what you do, and (3) some indication of how you’re different.

Bonus points if there’s a CTA (Call to Action) above the fold.

Just remember, the space above the fold isn’t the end-all-be-all of web design. Cramming everything in above the fold looks messy and chaotic. You only get one chance to make a first impression. Make it a good one.

Mistake #2: Navigation that’s hard to use

A visitor should never have a hard time finding the main pages on your site. Your navigation (usually buttons along the top edge of the screen) should be easy to spot and should clearly indicate where to find your About, Services and Contact pages at the very least.

Why does this matter?

Because website visitors are impatient. If they can’t easily find their way around your site, they’ll just leave.

Mistake #3: No clear CTAs

A CTA is a Call to Action. CTAs include things like contact forms, newsletter subscription forms and other kinds of information exchange.

CTAs are how you generate leads directly from your website. So, yeah—they’re pretty important.

There should absolutely be a CTA on your homepage (we recommend a contact form), and CTAs should appear on all your Services pages, as well. But remember that, like all good things, you can go overboard with CTAs. Don’t shove them down a visitor’s throat.

Just make sure CTAs are easy to find and readily available in places that make sense. Namely, places where someone might be thinking about contacting you or buying from you.

Mistake #4: Really bad readability

It doesn’t matter how good your content marketing strategy is if visitors can’t read the actual words on your website.

All kinds of things can derail readability, but the two biggest culprits here are font and text size. Some fonts render better for online reading than others. We recommend sticking with Google fonts (simply because they’re universal).

We can’t recommend an ideal size because fonts vary so much. 14 points in one font is huge while it’s tiny in another. The best thing you can do is take a look at your site on multiple different devices (PCs, smartphones and tablets) to see how the font looks on different screens of different sizes.

If it’s easy to read on all of them, you’re good to go.

Mistake #5: Forgetting about the mobile experience

Dovetailing off that last point, the latest data tells us that a whopping 52.2% of all web browsing is done from mobile phones. That means visitors are more likely to see your site on their smartphones than on their computers.

Which is why the term “mobile first design” has gained so much traction in the last couple of years.

Mobile first design means designing your site primarily for the mobile experience. It makes sense as that’s where most of the traffic happens. If you’re building your own site, just make sure you’re using a theme (on WordPress, for example) that’s mobile responsive.

Mistake #6: Way too little whitespace

Whitespace is important in web design. It keeps a page from looking cluttered and it helps make long blocks of text less intimidating to non-readers. So what’s whitespace and how do you include it?

Whitespace isn’t always literally white. It’s just the space on a web page where there’s no text or images.

Resist the urge to fill your website with tons of images. It looks messy. And when you’re writing copy, be sure to keep paragraphs short. (Look at this article. See how all the paragraphs are pretty brief? That’s what you want.)

Mistake #7: Inconsistent branding

The branding throughout your site should be consistent. That means your name should always be spelled the same way, using the same font and the same logo.

If you have multiple logos, pick one. Just one. And if you sometimes use your full name and sometimes just use initials, decide which way you would prefer to write your name on your site and stick with it.

Inconsistent branding is confusing to visitors and it makes a website look amateurish. By contrast, consistent branding is clean, professional and confidence-building.

Mistake #8: Annoying, distracting nonsense

We’re talking about two kinds of things here: pop-ups/pop-overs (those boxes that appear out of nowhere, hijacking your screen when you first land on a web page) and videos that automatically play with sound.

Honestly, we don’t know why so many companies are such big fans of pop-up and pop-over boxes. They’re maddening. We strongly recommend not using either.

And it’s fine if you have a video that automatically plays. Just make sure it’s muted by default. No one likes the experience of browsing to a page and gettings scared out of their skin by sounds they weren’t expecting.

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