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Spotting The Worst Website Design Advice

Dave Orecchio
by Dave Orecchio on Jul 24, 2017 10:33:00 AM

When it's time to make tough decisions, many people like to follow others on an issue. But sometimes, following the crowd can lead you astray, especially with the fast-paced world of digital marketing.

In web design, you may see popular practices online that seem to make sense for webmasters. However, much of what's trendy and popular doesn't constitute best practices for web design. Since we are Inbound Marketers, we focus on websites that attract the right visitors, converts them into a lead, nurture them to become a customer and keeps customers informed so they promote your business to their colleagues. So when we criticize common website design practices, it is because they often do not help to produce a positive ROI for your business in the way of leads and sales opportunities and some practices can detract from the user's digital experience.

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Here are some common website practices that are simply wrong when it comes to the design of a high-quality, "Inbound Optimized" website and ideas for the correct approach:

Bad Website Advice #1: Pack In the Features

One bad piece of advice is to simply overload the site with flashy javascript-driven animation features and other low-value content that does not contribute to communicating your message or positioning effectively.

One of the biggest problems with unnecessary features is that anyone with a slow computer or internet connection will have a poor experience on your website. Even those with the highest speed machines can be confused and disoriented by too much "bling" on a landing page or website page. To further expand on the issue of website speed, search engines like Google are now penalizing sites which are slow to load, impair the user experience or don't create engagement. 

A much better approach is to keep the pages visually appealing to the reader, and let the content speaks for itself. In general, it's much better to design a subtle, calm website than it is to overload pages with technically impressive (to the web designer) animations versus delivering value to the reader.

Bad Website Advice #2: Don’t Worry About the Writing

In the same vein, some web designers don't pay enough attention to the text on the site as long as the pages are visually appealing. The visual appeal does make a difference -- and web users do like the attractive design -- but that doesn't mean that the text on the site doesn't have to be well written.

In fact, time and time again, companies find that grammar or spelling issues on a page lead to loss of credibility for the business. The majority of web readers are informed enough to spot poorly written text -- and many of them will notice it instantly. Their perception of the website (and the business) will decrease, and they're likely to look elsewhere for credible, authoritative information.

When we work with a client to design a new website we always tell them that despite their (and our) best efforts, through the implementation process we are looking at the pages so often that we will miss common mistakes. It is just human. We ask each client to identify one or more people, especially those that are good copywriters, to review every page. The a copywriter will always find errors. It is worth the time and effort to review multiple times before the website launches. 

Bad Website Advice #3: Sell, Sell, Sell

So maybe you have clean copy on a site, but when it comes to what you're writing, content and substance matter a lot.

Too many websites take a direct "over selling" approach. They shout about the branding of the company and make dramatic claims about a product or service. The site seems to resemble the spiel of an overcharge used-car salesman. There is nothing worse than turning off prospects by overselling. 

Here's better advice -- instead of this kind of empty content strategy, build each page to tell a story educationally. Think about what your ideal customer will want to learn, and structure pages accordingly. Your business is better than your competition because of facts about your product, the way you help clients or other differentiating details. Educate the visitor about these facts in a positive way and help them create a positive vision of your company in their mind's eye. Companies realize that by investing in authoritative thought leadership, they're building an audience the organic way, not with a high-pressure approach.

Bad Website Advice #4: Use Old-Style SEO Techniques

Another piece of bad advice for websites revolves around the history of the Internet, and how things have changed very quickly in recent years.

Back in the 90s, and even into the last decade, keyword stuffing was a commonly applied approach. Google algorithms used to rank sites according to keyword placement, and as a result, aggressive webmasters were jamming keywords in everywhere they would fit, in meta-titles, tags and the on-page copy. It made a lot of websites look downright strange since they were written for machines, not humans.

Google doesn't rank pages by just keywords; they rank them based on how well they satisfy the search intent of the visitor. Google and other search engines have built elaborate algorithms that notice and reward good quality content, not text that’s inundated with keywords. That is why planning your website pages based on the way a visitor would want to learn about your company makes the most sense.

Additionally, when crafting high-quality content for blogs and premium offers that address problems of your visitor, it is best to begin with a content strategy that is designed to appeal to your ideal buyer. The right content will organically rank with search engines and attract your best prospects without keyword stuffing techniques.  I am a big fan of Rand Fishkin of Moz. I love his presentations at the Inbound Marketing conference each year. A recent "Whiteboard Friday" presentation drills into the new and most powerful ranking factor is "Searcher Task Accomplishment." In essence, Rand says that it is most important that when a person conducts a search and clicks on your link that they find content that satisfies their need. This reinforces the point that you should never write content just to rank for a keyword and that those efforts without satisfying the needs of the searcher will be detected by search engines and fail. 

Marketing Context

On a closing note, it's important to realize that the web doesn't exist in a vacuum. Instead of just following what everybody else is doing on the web, think of it as one channel in a multi-channel world. Think of web design in context, and things like responsive mobile design and inbound marketing best practices will inform how you build a landing page and every other page of the site to attract, convert, close and delight customers. Your extra effort will pay off big as people navigate to your site and have a quality experience like you wish to represent your company brand.  

If you have recently experienced bad website design advice, please share them with our readers by commenting on this post. We would love to hear about them and share best practice solutions. 

Interested in other website design articles, check these out: 

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Bristol Strategy is a full funnel inbound marketing agency and inbound sales agency offering the full complement of  Inbound Marketing services that enable our clients to surpass their business objectives by transforming the way they engage with their buyer on-line.  Reach out to us to learn more about how our experience and capabilities can help your business grow. 

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Dave Orecchio
Written by Dave Orecchio
Dave Orecchio is one of the earliest adopters of Inbound Marketing. As one of Hubspot’s first customers and CEO of a Boston-based startup, he experienced the benefits of this effective digital marketing methodology. Dave now provides Inbound (marketing & Sales) services to businesses to help them grow and realize the positive results that an integrated program can provide. Dave is a high-tech marketing and sales expert with more than 25 years of business experience.
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