6 Digital Design Mistakes You See Every Day
The web has been around a while — over thirty years, in fact. But despite its age, and that some of its childhood peers were the CD and the camcorder, digital design is still well and truly in its infancy.
One quick browse around the web and you get a real feel of how true this is. Within minutes you come across websites that don’t load, and when they do, are impossible to navigate. You find sales pages and blogs that bombard you with ads and popups. And you encounter e-commerce stores that seem built for and by some lifeless robot rather than a real human being.
There’s a tonne of things wrong with web design today, that’s for sure. But these mistakes aren’t as shocking as they first may appear. The fact is, there’s a very fine line between getting it right and getting it so wrong.
This is essentially what we call user experience (UX). A discipline that’s all about striking a balance between beauty and function and finding a sense of harmony in your digital experiences.
It sounds simple, but it’s actually incredibly difficult to achieve without compromising or sacrificing beauty for function, or vice versa. It’s also an incredibly fluid discipline that changes as frequently as the weather.
It’s no wonder, then, that so many design mistakes are still being made today — even the biggest companies, designers, and marketers out there.
Follow our guide to ensure you’re not committing these six common digital design mistakes. Apply a few, and you’ll be doing much better than the average website. Apply them all, and you’ll take your place up there with the best.
1. Visual Overload
This first digital design mistake is perhaps the most common and unforgivable of all: sacrificing speed in the name of visual appeal.
Although you want your website to contain spectacular visuals that leap out the screen, they’re all but useless if nobody sticks around long enough to see them. In today’s mobile society, attention is scarce and almost half of users will bounce if a website takes more than two seconds to load.
By having high-resolution images with large file sizes on your site, you’re immediately testing the patience of your users and inviting them to spend their time and money elsewhere.
Although you do want to find a happy medium, when it comes to web design, speed and performance always trump beauty. Use the Google PageSpeed Insights Test to monitor the speed of your website and tools like Smush to reduce your images down to a reasonable size.
2. Painful Popups
With giants like Google updating their UX guidelines to object against intrusive interstitials, pesky popups are going way beyond mere annoyances and becoming something that can significantly damage your rankings in the SERPs.
Sites that go so overboard on the pop-ups and opt-ins as to harm user experience have fell victim to the expectation-reality gap. This is when a designer or marketer expects a user to do or want one thing, when in reality they want another.
When reading an article, for instance, the user does not want to be distracted halfway through with a pop up offering a freebie — no matter how good it is. They want to finish their article, and then maybe, just maybe, be offered a deal that’s highly relevant and valuable.
The best UX is one that’s contextual and barely noticeable. When designing interstitials and opt-ins, remember to put the expectations of the user first and consider that fewer taps, not more, is always better.
3. Unconvincing Content
Online content and digital design go hand in hand. If you want a great UX, you need great content, and vice versa.
Many businesses struggle to find the balance between the two. They either have a seamless design that’s incredibly thin on content or a content-heavy format that looks and performances terribly. This is the expectation-reality dilemma again; never mind what you want the site to look like or what stories you want to tell, what do your users want?
A good place to start is by making sure you only have one idea/keyword focus per page. That means splitting up your services into individual pages and formatting your content so your users can find what they want quicker. This way, Google will also have an easy time identifying the intention of your pages and ranking you.
4. Claustrophobic Headers
Somewhat of a recent digital design trend is the huge, blocky header that’s permanently glued to the top of the screen. Sure, it may help with ease of navigation on wide monitors, but for smaller mobile displays, it can be a UX disaster.
As a general rule of thumb, you want to avoid sticky headers that cross the 100px to 150px mark. If you really need one for navigation purposes, add some transparency and disable any subheadings on mobile. For the average user today, a sticky hamburger menu is more than enough — anyone can pretty much guess what it contains and would prefer the extra space for browsing/reading.
5. Wafer Thin Fonts
A trend that has emerged recently, particularly in native mobile apps and new-build websites, is the use of thin, light, and crisp fonts. With high-resolution retina displays, it may seem a nice way of adding a touch of quality to your site — but not if no-one can read what they say.
While some thin fonts may render well on a UX designer’s screen, many people will be using devices that won’t display the font so clearly and that may even make it unreadable. First and foremost, fonts are a communication tool and a stepping stone to good usability. Only when that is achieved should they be used to improve the visual appeal of your site.
Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines say no matter how beautiful a font is, it must be legible. Try out a few fonts to find the sweet spot between size, weight, and colour, and make sure to test the results across various environments.
6. Dinosaur Carousels
The scrolling carousel is a bit of a design dinosaur on the web, commonly seen on HTML script builds, free themes, and the site of your local travel agents. They’re a quick and nasty design fix — a bit like wallpapering a room in a floral pattern instead of painting it.
For this reason, they’re still plastered all over the web and used as mere decoration rather than to help users achieve their goals. Common carousels have too many or too few slides, are difficult to navigate, lack useful information, and are in many cases unresponsive.
Maybe it’s time this design dinosaur goes extinct, but by addressing the problems above it’s still possible to breathe life into them and make them once again purposeful. Start by taking a good hard look at yours and asking, what are three benefits for the user? If you struggle to get even one, then you’ve got your answer.
These six digital design mistakes may be unforgivable, but they’re certainly not irrevocable. In reality, they’re huge opportunities to improve your site’s UX. Cefar is a professional digital design agency who will avoid the mistakes above. Contact us today to see how your digital design is holding you back.