10 Costly Design Mistakes You Should Avoid At All costs

You make mistakes, I make mistakes; we all make mistakes. We are human that’s why – it’s  hard-wired in our DNA. But mistakes can be costly, especially when they happen in the line of work. As a web designer, you’re not spared – you’ve made, make and will still make mistakes in the days to come.

But what if you never made any mistakes – or at least ten of the gravest design mistakes? Most probably, you’d still have that one lovely client you lost. Perhaps you’d have made big leaps in your career. Perhaps you’d never have learnt, and your career would be stagnant – boring even. So, making mistakes is both good and bad, but when these mistakes start costing you business, they are outright bad.

In our post today, we will learn how to avoid ten costly design mistakes that if committed, would mean only one thing – financial loss on your part. With the way the economy is, the last thing you want is to lose money due to preventable mistakes.

With this post though, you will learn something new, save time and money, and generally have it good in your web design business. That aside, here’s mistake numero uno you should avoid at all costs:

Using Cheap HTML Editors

A good example is the FrontPage HTML editor. I’m not hating, you might have a great time with FrontPage, but in my experience, it sucks big time but that’s not the point. They might seem to make your work easier, but most HTML editors have a downside to them.

Most times, they leave you with bloated, poorly-crafted and buggy code that’s incompatible with some browsers. Do I need to tell you that you’ll have a difficult time understanding code “vomited out” by a cheap HTML editor? This will cost you time since you have to dig into the ugly code, find the bugs and fix them – after spending hours visually putting together your project.

On my web design blog, I advise my readers to write code from scratch using tools such as Notepad++ or SublimeText. This is the best way to build awesome websites and develop your web design skills..

Building sites using visual HTML editors such as Dreamweaver, Bluevoda and the rest is redundant and feels “unnatural”, at least to me. You should get into the code, and to make your work easier and speed up the design process, you can use frameworks and wireframes.

Building Websites Incompatible with Major Browsers


Remember the days or yore when designers proudly announced that their website would only work best with one type of browser? You had to download the recommended browser, install the same and revisit the website only to experience little if any changes in usability.

Those days are long gone, what with new web design techniques that let you build sites that are compatible with all major browsers including good old IE.

Design your site to work well with Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, Opera and Chrome, and you won’t ever have to worry about leaving a ton of money on the table. An easy way to test is with a third party service like CrossBrowserTesting.

Failure to Use ALT and TITLE Attributes for Images

Why does it matter? It is not like people will see these attributes – all they care about is the part of the image they see. You’re right, nobody cares about your ALT and TITLE attributes but search engines.

Search engines don’t “see” your images like you do, they rely on the ALT and TITLE attributes to determine what your images are all about. You need these attributes to rank higher in image searches.

The ALT attribute plays another important role as well- if your image fails to load for one reason or another, the text contained in the ALT part of your image is shown in its place. Better than displaying an empty block of space that would make for poor user experience.

Failure to Use Appropriate Anchor Text

When adding links, don’t ask your readers to “click here” to visit a link – usually it doesn’t work. Use contextual anchor text that lets the user know where they are headed once they click your link. Your readers will love you and search engines will reward your content, and the site or page you are linking to. Along with relevant anchor text, add the title TITLE attribute to your links to create tooltips that add to the overall user experience.

Poor Navigation


Nothing can kill a website faster than poor navigation. Complicated navigation systems with drop-down menus that go several levels deep is not the way to go if you’re looking to create an effective navigation that bolsters user experience. If your navigation sucks, nobody is going to stick around long enough to buy. A few pointers:

  • Use a simple, clear navigation structure
  • Use text as opposed to images for menu items
  • Place your navigation bar on every page
  • Add navigation links on your footer
  • Add a sitemap to your site
  • Add a search bar on your site to give your visitors more navigation options

If the client cannot find the content they need fast enough, you’ll have lost that client – forever.

Not Adopting Responsive Web Design

Ethan Marcotte completely changed the world of mobile-first design. He brought us responsive web design about five years ago, which is like an eternity in the fast-paced world of web development.

That’s why it irks me to high heavens when I come across a website that won’t fit on my Android device. What a waste of bandwidth and time trying to fit a fixed-width web page on a four-inch screen.

If your website is not responsive, try to create a mobile-friendly version for your mobile visitors, which is a huge and growing demographic. Nearly everybody accesses the web on their mobile devices, and if your site does not cater to this group of people, you’re missing out on so much business. There are many 100% responsive grids and frameworks to get you started off in the right direction, so you ought to be well-covered in this area.

Building a separate mobile site for your main site could be your only option, but keep in mind you will need to manage two separate websites for the same client. Doesn’t sound like something you would want to do, now does it?

Using Lots of Colors and Fonts

Do you remember when you first discovered Paint and you’d spend hours on end drawing random shapes and filling them with colors? That’s probably a long time ago, and besides it’s not the point.

Using more than three color schemes on your design will usually result in chaos – you will ruin the same user experience you are trying so hard to create. Three shades of colors should be enough. Choose colors carefully to strike the perfect balance lest your readers run for their eyes as soon as they get to your website.

Same goes for fonts. Many different fonts will create disorder and probably induce seizures. Hehe. Using many different fonts will scare away the clients especially if you use fonts that don’t compliment each other or even the general design. Two, three carefully selected fonts should do the trick. Thanks to external fonts such as Google Fonts and Cufon Fonts among others, you can easily import and use any font on your design.

Broken Links and Orphan Pages


People hate broken links. Search engine spiders hate broken links. They suck big time and if not checked, broken links will definitely cost you money – nobody enjoys clicking links that lead nowhere. Search engines hate broken links, and if they’re rampant, you will earn bad link profile and lose search rankings. That’s money down the drain right there. Take a few minutes and run your site with the Check My Links Chrome add-on, or the Broken Link Checker plugin if you’re using WordPress.

Orphan pages are web pages that don’t link back to your home page. So John Doe might send Jane Doe a link to your content, but if you don’t provide a link to your homepage, how will she find more information about your business? Add a home button to every page, use breadcrumbs, add homepage link to your logo or better still, add great navigation on every page.

Leaving Out Social Media

I work with WordPress themes and one of the first things I check is social media integration and how the social system works on different devices. If a theme can’t pass this simple test, it receives little love.

That’s because social media is an important part of any website – you need the shares, likes, tweets, Google +1’s etc for more traffic and engagement. Social media is everywhere and it is here to stay. It is the second largest source of web traffic only second to search engines, so leave out social media integration at your own peril.

Falling for Design Fads

Design trends come and go, but fads don’t stick around long enough to be followed by the masses. Falling for design fads will waste your time and money, once the fad dies. For instance, some designers argued responsive web design was just a fad so the majority did not adopt the trend until it was too late. Some are yet to adopt responsive web design and it’s just sad.

CSS3 might have started out as a fad but it’s quickly taken root – it is here to stay. Using animated gifs was a fad that did more harm than good, but did you see the sheer number of web designers who adopted a fad that was a complete no-no? Nobody gives a hoot about animated gifs anymore, not even on social media.

Overall, the secret is to stick to core design principles of image, layout and typography instead of “…mindlessly applying meaningless iconography or tricky CSS and Photoshop effects…” among others.


Now, relax and take a breather. All web designers must find the perfect work-life balance, or you’ll crash and burn to ashes. Ten great tips to avoid some of the industry’s grievous mistakes. All the best!

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About The Author
Freddy Muriuki
Freddy Muriuki

Freddy is a WordPress theme reviewer at WP Theme Raves, writer, web developer and founder of Vista Media Enterprises, a nice place dedicated to the online entrepreneur looking to boost conversion rates using effective web content.