8 Web Design Felonies You Should Avoid

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web design felony
NY / CC BY-SA 3.0
8 Web Design Felonies that Will Land Your Business in the No-Sale Prison

I’ve just been assaulted. Visually, aurally, and intellectually attacked.

I landed on the web page of a business looking for a product that I was interested in buying. When the page (finally) loaded, I could hardly look at the thing.

The color palette was bright neon and vivid. The text was hard to read. Tinny, midi-style music started playing from my speakers. There were flashing icons and way too much text and hyperlinks for me to try to figure out where to go to find what I was looking for. I couldn’t hit the back button on my browser fast enough.

I felt violated. The page looked more like the project for a grade school computer class than a serious business. I am convinced that no matter how good the products and services this business features on the website, the owner has probably never made a sale.

I wish I could tell you the address of this website as a warning to stay clear, but that wouldn’t be fair to the owner. Besides, you can probably find hundreds of sites just like it on your own.

That’s the bad news.

Too many businesses are guilty of bad web design. The sad part is that the owners work very hard to put their sites together and then spend all kinds of time and money promoting it to get people to visit and make a purchase.

Unfortunately, if they can’t master the basics of good web design, the visitor is likely to banish that website from their favorites on charges of high crimes and misdemeanors.

Here are the top 10 website design felonies and how you can avoid making the same mistakes.

Dark or Busy Backgrounds

The worst offense for me is light text on a dark background – especially if the text is some neon color that the owner thinks will draw attention to the page. Nine times out of ten, I will click away from a site with a dark background. There are some exceptions, of course. If the site features an attractive and cohesive design, I might stick around to find out what it’s all about.

The same goes for busy pictures and graphics used as a background. I recently came across a website that featured artwork of unicorns and rainbows in the clouds as the entire page background. The text was so hard to read because no one color could effectively stand up against the artwork. I was distracted from the marketing message by a design element. Apparently, this website owner belongs in web design jail.

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Banner Ads

Amazingly enough, there are still business websites out there that are trying to promote other products and services with cheesy, flashing banner ads. Throwing up two, three, four, or even more banner ads is a turn-off and make your website look unprofessional.

Lots of websites make money with ad programs like Google AdSense, so I’m not suggesting that you eliminate all advertising from your site. But with Google, you can control the look and feel of the ads that are displayed. So, if you want to use advertising, get rid of the banners and make your ads fit into the overall theme of your site. Otherwise, you risk a penalty for appearing too greedy.

Clip Art

Maybe this is a personal bias, but who ever thought of digital clip art should be taken out in front of a firing squad. Most of the free clip art you find scattered across the web is cheesy and unprofessional. Unless your business is delivering buckets of chicken late at night to college students in a dorm room, there’s no need to put an animated graphic of a dancing chicken on your web page.

Before you add any visual element to your website, ask yourself why you are doing it. If it will add to the marketing and sales message and make an impact on your sales, then go for it. If your answer is, “Because I can …” then dump the graphic and move on.

That’s not to say that graphics can’t play a big part in your website design. In fact, graphic elements that are tightly coordinated can have a tremendous effect on the visual impact of your site. If you’re not someone who can create great looking graphics for your website, then hire a graphic designer or buy a library of professional-looking graphics – just stay away from the off-the-shelf clip art packages.


This one is not only a crime on your website, but in your business and personal life as well. No one wants to hear you go on and on about yourself on your website. If you need to have an “About Me” page to talk about your personal life, then fine. Otherwise, keep the commentary and personal stories out of your business.

Instead of focusing on yourself, focus on your clients and how your products and services can meet their needs. The customer doesn’t come to your website to find out everything there is to know about you. They want to know if what you offer will help them solve their problem.

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Keep in mind that your customer wants to know, “What’s In It For Me?” Get to the point and answer that question instead of blabbering on about you and you just might make more sales.

Spelling and Grammar Mistakes

There just aren’t enough spelling cops around to control this problem! I don’t care what you read or who tells you that spelling and grammar errors are acceptable because they show your visitor that you are a real person or that you have personality.

Enough with this garbage! If you have a personal web page or blog, then blather on all you want with whatever language you feel is appropriate. If you want to create a web page for your business, then come back down to earth and realize that people are turned off by spelling and grammar mistakes. It’s unprofessional and shows that you don’t pay attention to details.

If you aren’t willing to take care of little problems with your website, then how do I know you will take care of any kinds of problems with your products or services? Proofread your entire website before you publish it. If spelling and grammar aren’t your things, then get someone to do it for you. Do it for free if possible, but pay someone if you must.

Inconsistent Design

You aren’t creating your website one page at a time, are you? With all the tools and resources available to business owners today, building a website should be a straightforward and easy thing to do. There are templates and content management systems that will allow you to quickly upload content while taking care of the details like formatting your text and making everything look consistent.

Unfortunately, I still see websites using three or four different fonts on one page, three or four different colors for headlines, and different sizes of text. These things all make your website look inconsistent and doesn’t put your visitor at ease.

Find a good template system, make sure you keep your navigation simple and consistent and decide once and for all to use tools like Cascading Style Sheets to manage your styles and colors consistently throughout your site. If you don’t know how to do this, then find someone who can help you. Your business is at stake.

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Oh, and by the way, avoid using any font larger than size 14. Nothing gives away the fact that you don’t know what you are doing faster than a website that features only three or four words of text written in size 26 font. It is okay if you’re targeting 72-year-old grannies with cataracts in both eyes. But if not, keep your font size reasonable, and you’ll keep your customers around longer.

Image and Video Size

Don’t get busted in a speed trap. Your visitors like web pages that load quickly and cleanly. Using large images on your page will make it load much more slowly, and your visitors may click away if they get bored. Instead, use small, compressed images. Learn how to break images up into smaller parts, if necessary.

Visitors may be much more forgiving for slow-loading video. Be sure to display a message or status bar indicating that the video is loading and asking your visitors to be patient. Even a simple message may make the wait seem bearable.


Not everyone on the planet uses the same web browser you did when you created your website. If you want to make sure that people can visit your site, view what you have to offer, and possibly purchase your products and services, then you should make sure that your website is compatible with as many different browsers as possible.

This is particularly the case when you start to add in advanced elements like scripting. Nothing frustrates a visitor more than fill-in-the-blank forms that don’t work as they should or product demos that don’t display correctly. I know it’s a lot of time to check for cross-compatibility, but it’s worth the effort even if not doing it means only one lost sale.

That’s it! Those are the web design crimes you want to make sure you avoid.

Let’s face it; you’re going to put in a lot of time and effort to create and maintain your website. Don’t you think you should make sure it’s visually appealing and user-friendly? If you don’t take the time to think about what’s best for your visitors and how to lead them toward the sale, then you’ll lose out. They will just go somewhere else.

And wouldn’t that be the biggest crime of all?

About Norman Anthony Balberan

I am a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy graduate turned full-time web developer and designer. Although my professional background is in pharmacy and tech, I have a passion for writing and am excited to share my insights and thoughts through my blog. I write about various topics that I am knowledgeable and passionate about, and I hope to engage and connect with my readers through my writing.

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