As more sites race to become mobile-friendly and build faster sites than the competition, web design now plays a crucial role in SEO. Though your site may look great, it could be harboring some major web design mistakes that impact your site’s usability, bounce rate, and SEO.

Now is the perfect time to address potential web design mistakes – you could be losing traffic and sales at this very moment because of something that would have been an easy fix. Most of these mistakes involve design elements that slow down your website, because 40 percent of users will abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.

Some site owners have opted for a total site redesign, but for those who haven’t budgeted for a new website, changing small elements on your site can be drastically beneficial. By correcting these web design mistakes, you have a greater chance of getting users to stay on your site and improving your website’s rank in search results.

1. Your Design Isn’t Optimized For Mobile


It’s something we see too often – the site looks great on a desktop screen, but mobile navigation becomes more difficult. For example, links so close together it’s hard not tapping the wrong one, text so small it’s barely legible, and users have to pinch and scroll just to get around.

Too many site owners have the mindset that they don’t have enough mobile traffic to make it worthwhile to redesign their site. If you’re one of them, you may be surprised to hear that more than half of online traffic now comes from mobile devices. 2014 was the first year that mobile users surpassed desktop users, which means it’s more important than ever to ensure your site looks great on all platforms.

Try This Instead: One way site owners are combatting mobile unfriendly sites is by building longer scrolling homepages rather than link-based sites.  An example of a longer scrolling page is the website for the Apple Watch, which utilizes the scrolling feature to keep readers engaged and it looks great on both mobile and desktop versions.

Your homepage is one of the most vital elements of your website, so don’t let it be the reason mobile users leave your site. Ideally, all pages on your site should be mobile-friendly but start with your homepage and gradually add responsive design elements to other pages as you go.

2. Your Website Is Aesthetically Boring


One of the worst mistakes you can make in web design is having a website that doesn’t look appealing to readers. The only way you gain traffic and boost SEO is by having content that readers enjoy, learn from, or find meaningful in some other way.

However, there’s more to engaging users than just having awesome content. Your website needs to feel awesome, too. There should have a neat balance of written content and supplemental media so it engages users rather than distracting them. Sites that look outdated or don’t offer interesting navigation features are going to have high bounce rates.

Try This Instead: By including interactive design elements such as clickable charts, menus that hide until a user expands them, and guided navigation, users will have a more pleasurable experience. One website that illustrates this concept well is a design company called Get The People.

The homepage isn’t as informative as it is intriguing, which entices users to keep scrolling and clicking item boxes to find out more. Navigation is simple for users on any device with a hideaway sandwich menu bar located at the top right corner of the screen. Each page makes the reader want to read a little more, which keeps them on-site longer and improves your site’s SEO.

3. That Large Header Image Is Slowing Your Site Down


We both know that header image is beautiful – couldn’t you just stare it and nothing else and still feel satisfied? Well, your readers don’t feel that way. Large header images have become a common trend in 2015, and you’re bound to find them on the majority of sites you visit.

However, those large header images cause a delay in loading speed that can result in a high bounce rate. If your site’s homepage has other large images in the body, this can slow down loading times even further.

Try This Instead: There is no ‘right size’ for images, but a good rule to stand by is to size photos down as much as you can without losing quality to improve load speed. If your header image is what’s slowing your site down, replace it with an interesting callout or typography. It will help your site stand out from the crowd and improve your loading speed, which makes users happy and gives you a better search ranking.

4. Too Many Fonts And Colors


It’s not likely that your site looks this bad (we hope), but mismatching fonts and colors is still a common mistake that doesn’t go unnoticed. Obvious mismatching of fonts and colors is a clear sign to users that the creator of the website was an amateur designer.

Some fonts and colors are just too hard to read, regardless of how unique or interesting they may be. Graphic designers spend hours learning how to pair fonts, effectively utilize white space and pair colors, but you don’t have to be an artist to create a visually appealing website.

Try This Instead: There are plenty of websites out there to help you find matching design elements, like this one about font pairing and this one about complimentary color palettes. Stay up-to-date on design trends to know what users are looking for and know that there are resources available to help you understand web design.

5. New Windows For Outbound Links


Pop-ups are annoying. Tabs exist so we can stay within the same browser while we search for content, so why should your site open a new window for every outbound link? Doing this only encourages users to abandon your site anyway, so don’t let this be the reason your site isn’t ranking on Google.

Try This Instead: Change your links to open in the same window or in a different tab to offer users the best experience. Most users expect links to be opened in the same window, so doing otherwise will fail to meet the user’s expectations and create a negative user experience. Users are more likely to come back to your site or continue reading if they’re kept within the same window.

6. Poor Navigation


This is yet another web design atrocity from the early 2000s that continues to be spotted on websites today. The website pictured above is guilty of multiple web design sins, but the most damaging is the site’s poor navigation.

At first glance, this website appears quite frustrating. The menu isn’t clearly designated and the advertisements mashed together with site content makes this page confusing to navigate. It’s likely that most searchers who stumble across this site would quickly hit the back button before they even attempted to see what content it held.

When a searcher does click on an item to find out more, there isn’t a menu on subsequent pages to make navigation easier.  Instead, users have to press back until they hit the homepage just so they can get to another page on the site.

Web designers are finding new ways to make navigation simpler because it’s one of the most important factors to reducing high bounce rates and improving SEO.

Try This Instead: Redesign your website to make navigation as easy as possible so users want to stay on your site. The hideaway sandwich menu is becoming a popular method of streamlining navigation. Sandwich menus are displayed at the top of the page and are only displayed when a user hovers or clicks on it.

This allows the user to have easy navigation throughout the site and view more content in the same window. An example of a sandwich menu can be found on KFC’s website, which uses both a sandwich menu and traditional menu bar to its advantage. This way, navigation is clear and consistent on every page the user lands on throughout the site.

7. Overused Stock Images


We all know of certain types of stock images that can be found on almost every website, like the friendly customer support representative above. Though Google spam expert Matt Cutts explained in 2013 that Google doesn’t specifically penalize sites that use stock photos, they’re not helping your site.

More websites are opting to include original, high-quality photos rather than stock images to get ahead of the competition. That’s because users tend to click away from sites with a heavy amount of stock images, original images appear more genuine to users.

Try This Instead: An insightful post from KISSmetrics shares some valuable key points as to why you should care about the images on your site:

  • Every Image Should Be Worth Its Weight in Goldimages add to your page’s load time, so why should users wait for images that they’ve seen before or don’t add value? Using an original, high-quality photo of your location, product, or team will help build trust with users that come across your site.
  • Certain Types of Photos Will Make Users Click Away – avoid using photos that could turn readers away, such as poor quality images, enlarged photos of faces, and commonly used stock photos.
  • Images Should Either Demonstrate or Add Story Appeal – images should entice users to want to read more about whatever content is on that page. If the image doesn’t provoke curiosity or explain the page’s content, then it doesn’t belong on your site.

8. Failing to Put Contact Information in Easy To Find Locations


Though this may seem pretty basic, many sites fail to include easily located contact information. Even if your business doesn’t have a phone number or physical location, it’s never a good idea to exclude this information from your site. Ranking well on Google is influenced by a variety of factors – including contact information goes along with one factor called Trust Optimization.

Having an address, phone number, and other contact information that is consistent on your site AND social media pages is a good indicator for SEO. This tells Google that you are a real business run by an actual person, and builds trust with your users. If a site is trying to make money but doesn’t have contact information, this is an obvious red flag.

Try This Instead: Make sure you have clear, easy to find contact information on every page of your website. One business owner reported seeing conversion rates increase by more than 50 percent when clear ownership and contact information was prominently added to a site. Including an address and phone number will also help your site rank in local search results.

9. Not Using a Custom 404 Error Page and 301 Redirects


404 pages usually aren’t a good sign – but for SEO purposes, they can be. Custom 404 pages like Tumblr’s shown above add humor to an otherwise frustrating situation for the user. Users discover 404 pages when they reach a page on your website that doesn’t exist, either because it was deleted or the user misspelled the address.

Some websites opt for a 301 redirect, which takes the user back to the homepage after clicking on a broken link. This method is more confusing, as it doesn’t provide information as to why the user can’t access what they were trying to reach. However, it does lead users back to the homepage which is less frustrating than being taken to a blank page.

SEO expert Rand Fishkin wrote that the best practice with broken links is to use 301s if it receives important links from external sources, receives a substantial amount of traffic, or has an obvious URL that the link was intended to reach. By effectively using 301 and 404 pages, readers will want to stay on your site and the frustration of missing links can be averted.

Try This Instead: Create a custom 404 page for your site that readers will find helpful. Include an error message and a site search box so users can still try to find what they were looking for. Also include a link to your homepage and at some navigation links so readers can choose to get back to where they were previously.

10. Your Site isn’t Loading Fast Enough


As the beginning of this article mentions, page speed is an important (if not the most important) factor when it comes to web design for SEO. A 1-second delay can result in a 7 percent loss in conversions as 47 percent of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less.

If your site doesn’t load fast enough, you’ll create unhappy users who won’t even see your great content – it only takes a one second delay to make them press the back button. That’s not the only disadvantage to slow sites, Google announced in 2010 that site speed would impact search ranking, so faster sites would begin ranking higher.

Does your site meet consumer expectations? Test your site speed here:

Try This Instead: Optimize your images with compression, remove elements like flash intros that only slow down load speed, and design your pages with SEO in mind. The PageSpeed Insights link given above will give you a detailed customized list of what you can do to improve the loading time of your website. Another way to improve site speed is by upgrading to a hosting plan with more server space, it’s possible your website has just become so popular you’ve outgrown your resources!


By avoiding these common web design mistakes, your website will make users happy and have a better chance at ranking higher in search engines. What tips do you have to share about web design and SEO? Let us know in the comments and thanks for reading!