Deadly Web Design Mistakes

Many years ago, I posted an article on my site about poor web design choices. It’s time for an update! Use the following as a checklist against your own site and see where you can improve your company’s appearance online and avoid these web design mistakes.


  • How long does it take your site to load? If you have a ton of images, unnecessary scripts, very long pages, and other things dragging you down, folks just aren’t going to stick around. With over half of ‘net users on mobile devices and tablets, this is more important than ever to your business.



  • A black or very dark background with white or light text over it is difficult to read. It doesn’t encourage viewers to stay on your site and almost makes you look a little bit impressed with yourself. I work with a lot of artists who want a black background for their images, but there are other ways to get around this challenge in order to make your artwork look good. Don’t make your readers struggle to read your copy. This goes especially for blog sites. Any time I see a blog with a dark background and light text, I’m out.
  • Worse than a black background with light text? A dark background with dark words. I don’t even know why anyone would do this. I hope this practice has almost gone the way of the dodo bird (youngsters, look it up), but I still do see it now and then, especially on sites that are very overdue for updates. If I have to select your copy to be able to read it, it’s not worth the effort.
  • Complicated tiled background images are distracting and can increase a site’s load time. If you want to use an image for your background, please learn the right way to make your graphics small and seamless.


People visit your site to learn about you. If they cannot easily read your text, what is the point of investing in a site in the first place? Please, for the sake of all of your readers, avoid these mistakes:

  • Centering all of the text. It’s hard to read and looks unpleasant.
  • Text with too much emphasis. If everything on your page is bolded or italicized (the STRONG tag), then nothing stands out and your point is lost.
  • Flashing text. This is an old 90s practice and I rarely see it anymore, though it’s worth noting here. Don’t do it, please. How can people read your text if it keeps going away?
  • All CAPS. This goes along with the emphasis point above. It’s hard to read and nothing stands out if everything is capitalized. And of course, it also appears to the reader that you are screaming at them. Nobody wants to be screamed at.
  • Exclamation! Points! I’ve read a lot of websites, blog posts and email newsletters where every single sentence has an exclamation point at the end. If it’s all exciting, then nothing is exciting anymore. Be judicious with your exclamations.


You content should be written for your audience in an engaging and pleasing way. It should not make your readers’ eyes cross. Here are a few things to avoid:

  • Pages of nothing but links. Links pages aren’t useful anymore from an SEO standpoint, so there’s not a whole lot of reason to do it. If you want to offer resources to your readers, give them a link to a site, along with some info as to why you’re recommending that link.
  • Humor. Make sure you know your audience. You want your “voice” to be authentic, but you also want to make sure you’re not offending people. If your site isn’t a political satire site, for example, leave off the Ralph Nader jokes.

Multimedia: Images and Sound

Used sparingly and in a compositionally pleasing way, static and moving images can illustrate the point you’re making with your copy. Thing about this list so you don’t come across as overbearing on your pages:

  • Image overload. Images of all forms, including icons, should not be present in large numbers. If you’re unsure, stick to no more than 2-3 images per page and sprinkle them throughout the copy so that the page looks balanced.
  • Overly large images. Your images should not be of print quality (200+ DPI) — these take a long time to load. Stick to 72 DPI, which is screen quality and your users will see your point more quickly. Use Photoshop or a similar program to optimize your images.
  • Embedded audio. When a user visits one of your pages and is bombarded with elevator music or your band’s latest track on a loop, it could ruin the browsing experience for them and send them packing. Let your user have control over what they are hearing and don’t slow down your page by loading default background music.

Be nice. Be real. Be happy.