website mistakes

9 Dumb Web Design Mistakes Smart People Make All the Time

I take my background in web design and digital marketing for granted, and that’s why I’m often surprised when I see smart people making dumb web design mistakes. I sometimes forget that all of this computer wizardry isn’t second nature to everyone. Or even most people.

Most people who have a website are either entrepreneurs or budding entrepreneurs, and they’re focused on building a business to serve their customers. Their only concern with their website is using it to help them accomplish their goals. And rightly so.

Maybe that describes you—a smart business owner who is too busy serving your customers to worry about the technical mumbo jumbo.

Well worry no more, my entrepreneurial friend, because I’m about to share 9 dumb web design mistakes I see smart people like you make all the time.

Designing for yourself instead of customers

It’s easy to get caught up in designing or redesigning a website. It’s a chance to create exactly what you want, fine tune everything, and present information exactly the way you know it needs to be presented.

There’s only one problem with that.


You need to design for your customer, not for yourself—it doesn’t matter what you like. It’s all about them!

I was recently reminded of this while working with an outside consultant to refine my sales process. You see, I had become complacent in my sales process because a lot of our business came from referrals, so there was already a great deal of trust right from the beginning of most relationships. When I started to reach out to a new niche, I continued operating as if everything was the same. I would tell potential clients what they needed and why they needed it, and while I was correct, it was a mistake that killed sales.

I hadn’t taken the time to establish rapport and learn what mattered to them. It didn’t matter if I was right, they still wanted to feel heard, and I needed to know what they connected with on an emotional level in order to close deals.

Web design (and copywriting) needs to be about the customers, not about you. You can only design and write for them if you’ve invested the time to listen to and truly understand them.

What I would do is schedule a meeting with your top 10 customers to find out what you’re doing well and what they think you could do better. Next, try to do the same with 10 customers who left you for a competitor. You might have to sweeten the pot for this group, perhaps a gift card to their favorite restaurant, but it will be well worth it!

The more details you can get, the more precisely you’ll be able to meet their needs in the future.

Here are a few questions you might ask:

  • What about our product/service do you like most/least?
  • What do you think we do better than competitors?
  • If you could ask us to do anything differently, what would it be?
  • What products/services could we add to become more valuable to you?
  • What products/services could we eliminate to become more focused for you?
  • What do you think our competitors do better?

This will give you valuable insight into how they perceive your company. In some cases, they may simply misunderstand your products/services, which will tell you how to better organize and present information on your website. In other cases, you may have to add new information. Or perhaps you just need to do a better job conveying what you do, how you do it, and why they should care from their perspective.

Boring content

When I read the content on some websites, it almost feels like they’re trying to bore visitors into leaving.

Your website presents your first opportunity to engage with potential customers, and to do that, you need to let your personality shine through.

Drop the corporate speak, focus on the customer, and eliminate industry jargon. Make an emotional connection and give your visitors a reason to give a damn about you!

That goes for everything—blog posts,product descriptions, hell, even your “About Us” page.


Really, LEGO? This is the best you can come up with? You manufacture colorful plastic building blocks that children can use to build literally anything they can imagine, yet your own description of your company sounds as boring as the side effect warnings on a bottle of antidepressant medication.

Or how about this gem?

Elvin's bad copy

I’ll give Elvin a bit of a pass since he is just your typical hard-working blue-collar guy. I mean, it’s not like he manufactures colorful plastic building blocks that children can use to build literally anything they can imagine. (Are you listening, LEGO?) But still. This is not good.

cultivated wit good copy

Ahh…now here’s a good one from the folks over at Cultivated Wit. Granted, they are a group of comedians, so this kind of thing comes natural to them, but you can do it too. I believe in you!

you can do it

Want some examples of powerful writing with personality? Well, ask and you shall receive…these are some of the brilliant people I sometimes look to for writing inspiration:

No clear calls to action (Or too many)

I’ll go out on a limb and assume you’ve invested a reasonable chunk of money and time into your website so you could present a professional image.

If you’ve gone to all the trouble and expense of creating a website that makes you look like you’re the leader in your industry, and you’ve written copy that would educate and persuade even your biggest skeptic, then it only makes sense to make it clear what you want visitors to do next.

Unfortunately, many people fail to do that.

Want someone to subscribe to your email list? Buy your product? Share your blog post?

Tell them!

Make it so clear that even Helen Keller would get it.

But don’t go overboard. I recommend focusing your calls to action on at most, two actions within roughly the area that would visible on a desktop monitor. For example, if you have a long landing page, it’s completely fine to include a “buy now” button several times throughout the copy, and if you can’t resist your urge to add another call to action, you might include a newsletter sign up form in your sidebar, but that’s it!

A landing page with one call to action, repeated as often as necessary, will always outperform a landing page with multiple calls to action. Too many will overwhelm visitors, and instead of picking one, they’ll simply leave.

Links to social media profiles right away

We all want droves of people to follow us on social media, right?

There’s nothing wrong with that. The more people who follow us, the more people we can engage with. The more people we can engage with, the more people we can serve. And the more people we serve, the more money we can make.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting a huge social media following, but the mistake I see so many people make is slapping links to all of their profiles on every social media platform right at the top of their website. It’s the first thing visitors see!

social top

Silly rabbit. You don’t use your website to drive traffic to social media, you use social media to drive traffic to your website.

It’s OK to include links to your social media profiles, but they should be an afterthought, not the first thing a visitor sees. Instead of the top of your website, put them in your sidebar, or better yet, your footer.

Excessive social media widgets

There’s nothing wrong with social media widgets, but don’t make it look like your website is trying to compete in a NASCAR race. One is fine, two is stretching it, and three is too many.

Aside from reminding people of the kid we all knew in school who smelled like liverwurst and tried too hard to become popular, excessive social widgets will slow your website down dramatically, which hurts user experience and organic ranking.

They also create the same problem we had with links to social media profiles. Remember, we want to keep people on our website, not send them somewhere else.

Unoptimized media

Full screen video and hero images have become quite common because of their positive impact on visitors, but if not implemented properly, they can slow down page speed significantly.

You might believe it doesn’t matter since most people have powerful computers and broadband internet today, but that would be a dangerous mistake.

It matters a lot. Some might say hugely.


Computers and the internet are faster and less expensive than ever, but because of that, visitors today have less patience than ever. A difference of just a fraction of a second can have a dramatic impact on how long people stay on your website, how much revenue your site produces, and where Google ranks your pages.

A website that loads quickly is critical, but we don’t have to sacrifice aesthetics to achieve it. We simply need to optimize the media on our websites.


  • Choose the proper format. MP4 is best in most cases.
  • Serve the optimal size (dimensions) based on visitors’ screen size.
  • Eliminate the audio track when possible.
  • Compress the video file. I use Adobe Premiere, but Handbrake is an open source alternative.
  • Minimize the video length.


  • Choose the proper format. JPG is best for photographic images, GIF or PNG for images with large areas of solid color.
  • Properly size images. There is no benefit to using a 1600px wide image if it’s only going to be displayed at 800px.
  • Compress the image file. In addition to being the industry leading image editing program, Adobe Photoshop has powerful compression capabilities, and starts at $9.99/month.


  • Choose the ideal format. MP3 is your best option.
  • Reduce the bitrate to reach a compromise between audio quality and file size.
  • Consider hosting audio files on a third-party hosting service like Lybsin, instead of your web host.

Relying on default WordPress security

Sorry folks, but just relying on your almost certainly inadequate password doesn’t cut it today.

WordPress is an amazing content management system that offers tremendous functionality. This is why it controls 69% of the  CMS market today, and the number of websites running on WordPress is exactly why it’s such an attractive target to hackers. It’s not any less secure than other systems, but it is more likely to be attacked because hacking is a numbers game.

You can make considerable improvements to your WordPress security by using a long, complex password, and by not using the default username, which is “admin” in most cases.

It’s relatively simple to shore up security even further by placing additional restrictions on logins, limiting plugins, and keeping WordPress core, themes, and plugins up to date.

Not using automated backups

I imagine that your website is extremely valuable to you. I know mine is to me. That’s why I’m not content to rely on hope that nothing bad will happen. 

Most web hosts don’t perform any backups at all, and those that do usually don’t go back much further than a few days, so if you don’t have some kind of automated backup in place, you’re taking a huge risk. Maybe it comes from my time in the Marine Corps, but I don’t like to leave anything to chance.

After evaluating several tools, I ended up choosing UpdraftPremium (the premium version of UpdraftPlus) for our automated backups because it has a more robust set of features than other tools.

The cost for the premium version is a bargain ($70-$145, then yearly renewals at a discounted rate) considering that you can have your website back up and running in a matter of minutes. It’s an even greater value when you add in all of the other features. I recommend the UpdraftPremium Developer licence because you can use it on an unlimited number of websites.

We configure it to back up our sites and our clients’ sites daily, and we store a full year of backups in the cloud using Dropbox.

Not tracking data

Google Analytics is a treasure trove of insight. With it, you can tell what content resonates most with your visitors, identify and resolve weaknesses, determine which marketing channels are performing best, and more. Despite all of its amazing capabilities, it’s 100% free!