How to avoid a web design disaster

Anthony O’Rourke

Guest blogger


We’ve all visited a website that simply doesn’t work. It might be too cluttered, too confusing, or the design might just be out of date. There are many ways a website design can fail, but with forward planning, thorough research and lots of testing you can ensure that you avoid a website design disaster.

So, you launch a website and allocate an advertising budget to drive traffic to the site. At the start of the campaign you see a huge increase in visits to your site. Job done? Maybe not. You soon see a high bounce rate or users falling short of making that final purchase decision. Somewhere along the line the consumer journey or the path to purchase has fallen short. Now what? With websites, first impressions last, and if your website is difficult to use or confusing on the eye, you may have just lost a user forever.

What is bad web design?

Here are the top seven web design disasters that drive people crazy, according to The Next Web.

• Requiring visitors to sign up before browsing your site
• Not developing a site for multiple screens
• Having complicated forms to fill out
• Using hard to read fonts
• Implementing a search bar that doesn’t work
• Bombarding the visitor with a wall of text
• Displaying your products with low-res images

I would also add the following six web design mistakes.

• Broken links
• Images not displaying properly or at all
• Tabs that open in the same window (this one is a personal pet hate)
• No user feedback when an action is completed
• Subscription based websites that have a sister website, who’s content is exactly the same but with no subscription
• Ignoring the three-click rule (users should be able to go wherever they want on a site within three clicks, although critics of the rule suggest that the number of clicks is not as important as the success of the clicks.)

All of these factors are extremely frustrating, and could potentially have a devastating effect on your business. Your website is your business shop front; it takes a long time to build a good reputation and a second to destroy it.

The rules to avoiding a website design disaster

Although design is extremely subjective there are some general rules that apply when developing any website:

Research: Know your audience, who they are, what they look like and what their habits are. Build a detailed persona and   possible user scenarios based on your research.

Build a sample site: Develop a prototype of your website. This is a great way to see what’s working and what isn’t quickly.

Have a clear purpose: Make sure you are catering to the needs of the user. Are your users task orientated or are they looking for entertainment? Each page of your website needs to have a clear purpose.

Effective communication: Communicate clearly, and make the content easy to digest.

User interface (UI): Give your website the visual wow factor. Typefaces, colour schemes, images, buttons and visual feedback.

User Experience (UX): Make sure your website is easy to use and navigate around.

Load time: Ensure load time is as effective as possible, nobody likes to see the wheel of death while waiting for a site to load.

Mobile friendly: Users view websites on mobile devices with multiple screen sizes, now more than ever. (48% of people say that if a site doesn’t work well on their smartphones, it made them feel like the company didn’t care about their business).
Testing: Test, test again, test again, test again, test until it’s right, and until it works.

Keep up with the pace of change

Design rules keep changing and it’s more important now than ever, with saturation in almost every market, that a website stands out from the crowd. Make sure you keep up to date with what’s evolving and changing. What works now may not work in six months’ time; it’s important for any business to adapt to these changes, and also, sometimes, to break the rules.


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Anthony is Creative Director at Isobar.

Isobar is a global, full service digital agency with 68 offices in 37 markets and a wide mix of international, local and government clients.