Although the web has been around for 20 years design faux pas continue to become an everyday occurrence. Below I list five of the most common, mistakes which should be avoided at all costs when designing a website.

1) Failing to ask, why do we need a website

For most companies, having a website has become a fundamental part of success. Yet, surprisingly there are companies who subscribe to the “we need to have one” school of thought, rather than defining a set of clear objectives they would like the site to achieve.

Developing a website to solely extend a company brochure is common practice, but in our experience may not always be the most practical or effective use of resources or the web.

Perhaps your resources might be put to better use by sponsoring a charitable event, at least that way you would attract a crowd and maybe a few reporters. The savvy way to start any website project is to meet with all of key stakeholders and brainstorm specific ways in which you would like the site to provide true value to your customers and visitors. Best practice dictates that, this is how you should start your web design process.

2) Creating a website that pleases the board

Of course it’s important to create a website that pleases the board and it’s equally important that they like the new website, but it’s more important that the site is created to please your customers and visitors. The about us, company values and company history all have their place on the site but should not be the majority of the content. It’s important to focus on developing a site that engaged with your target audience. The board of directors are not your primary audience.

3) Outsourcing to a web development or digital agency

Sometimes a company will choose to outsource the development tasks to a number of agencies which, more often than not helps to complete the work quickly and professionally. But, this can also lead to a number of design consequences and pitfalls if handled incorrectly. When selecting to outsource the development of your website, limit the number of agencies you partner with. This will help to ensure your website doesn’t end up looking like Joseph’s amazing technicolour dreamcoat. An incoherent design will not only irritate your users it will also make navigating around the site a logistical horror. That said, design consistency will improve usability helping to increase user confidence, which will ultimately lead to increased conversions and a higher likelihood of them returning to your site time and time again.

The key to avoiding design inconsistencies is to ensure that one governing agency is solely responsive for creating the design for the entire website. In some cases this may not be possible, in this instance we strongly recommend appointing a group design lead whose job it is to champion the design and ensure the guidelines are adhered to by all parties.

4) Undervaluing the role of content

Regardless of whether you are creating a website for the first time or undertaking a redesign, it’s paramount to understand the role content will play to the success of your site before you even get started. Many a time, websites are developed firstly with content following a close second, rather than the other way around. Remember content is king to which, the website is queen. Content and not design is the reason people visit your website.

When creating a new website it is very important to understand the web is a unique market place which requires exclusive content. Some companies may find it easier to recycle content from other sources such as datasheets and brochures, the result will often lead to a content weighty site that doesn’t meet with the users expectations.

Ultimately, content should always play the lead role when undertaking a website re-design. Sadly, this is seldom the case and when a new site showcases the same old content it usually fails to meet the needs and expectations of users which, can turn out to be very costly.

The best way to overcome these issues would be to consider investing a content team or individual whose only role is to generate fresh new web content. In an ideal world this person or team should have the experience of creating content specifically for the web, as opposed to other marketing sources. The application of the editorial guidelines can also help to ensure that the content created by a team for a large website remains consistent across the board.

5) Speculative Market Research

The concept of market research is nothing new, by some accounts it dates back to the 9th and 10th centuries, yes many companies still fail to go the extra mile to identify how users will operate within the design. Often companies will spend a great deal of money and time on focus groups where they discuss the sites design, rather than employing usability engineering approach to actually literally see what happens when people interact with a site. Undoubtedly, focus groups have their place and are very useful for gathering information about users’ needs and concerns. It’s also important to give users a chance to test a prototype design and see whether this works for them.

The best method involves a combination of market research with usability engineering so that you can quickly identify which elements may confuse and irritate users or, simply just don’t work as intended.