It’s 2015 and the amount of time, energy and money we invest not only in creating an engaging website design, but also marketing that website through advertising and search engine optimization is enormous. It’s higher than ever before and shows no signs of changing course – and rightly so considering current consumer habits. With so much invested in attracting the right audience, it’s arguably even more critical that we use the best practices to make sure each user not only finds our website, but remains on our website long enough to reach our goal.

Ultimately, our goal is to convert visitors from casual onlookers into qualified leads through an engaging user interface design and high quality content. Getting people to visit our website is only a small part of the end goal. We want visitors to not just visit our website, but to read a blog article, fill out a registration form on a landing page and hopefully make a purchase.

Throughout my decade-plus in the web design industry I’ve learned how to create website user interface design that encourages high user engagement and great results for my clients, but perhaps more importantly I have learned how to recognize and correct common web design mistakes that can lead to poor user experience and unusually high bounce rates. Let’s look at what some of the most common mistakes are and how we can correct them.

1. Poor Navigation

A poor navigational experience leaves users feeling lost in the labyrinth and leads to user frustration. Poorly designed website navigation is one of the leading reasons people leave a website. Confusing, complex or inconsistent navigation design often leaves users feeling lost or helpless and sometimes even angry. These are certainly not the emotions we want visitors to experience when interacting with our brand or product.

How to fix poor website navigation design.

What not to do:

  • Do not scatter main navigation around the user interface
  • Do not bury main navigation in sidebars or the footer
  • Do not use obscure or unclear navigational labels or terms
  • Do not use design elements that create confusion for the user as to where they are or what you would like them to do next

How to fix it:

  • Ensure the main navigation is clear, intuitive and use language that your audience expects
  • For larger websites, group navigation together in a central area or use a sitemap

2. Slow Page Load Speed

Making users wait for than a couple seconds for your page to load not only frustrates them, but increases their likelihood of leaving or “bouncing” before you’ve even had a chance to present them with your message or offering. Without a doubt we all lead busy lives and along with the advancement of our constant connectivity the average persons attention span while browsing continues to be reduced. Currently, the consensus is three seconds or less. As short and sad as this sounds, it’s true.

How to fix website page load speed

What not to do:

  • Do not create a bulky or heavy website design
  • Do not load too many external scripts or files
  • Do not cut corners on quality website hosting
  • Do not make too many database calls

How to fix it:

  • Optimize image files or consider using a Content Delivery Network (CDN) service
  • Minify all scripts where possible
  • Ensure your code is efficient, organized and clean
  • Invest in a quality, managed web host like WP Engine
  • Consider using a lazy load feature for pages that require multiple elements
  • User a free speed test service like Pingdom or Google Page Speed Insights to analyze your website code and address all possible issues

3. Confusing Content/Information Architecture

Confusing or poorly organized content will ultimately ruin the conversation you aim to have with each user. When organizing your content consider the user flow and how you’d like each visitor to scan through your pages and how you would speak to them face to face. Make sure the important information on each page is not only easy to read, but also easy to find. Don’t make users work to find what they’ve come to your website for. They’ve had a hard enough time getting there, so make it easy for them to find what they want.

How to improve user experience with information architecture

What not to do:

  • Do not forget to include an introductory message on each page to quickly inform the user what the page is about
  • Do not complicate the conversation by spreading important content out across multiple pages

How to fix it:

  • Group similar and related content in a clear and similar manner
  • Break up large sections of information into bite-sized pieces with informative headings to help users quickly scan pages to find exactly what they’re looking for
  • Present information in a way that helps prevent users from having to search for what they’ve come to your website looking for

4. Obtrusive Audio & Video

People value their ability to choose and make their own decisions. Having audio or video files automatically play when a visitor lands on a website often turns people off and can get the conversation with your customer started off on the wrong track; this is assuming they are not driven away immediately. With the rise in mobile web design we also have to consider that a high percentage of our audience is accessing our website on a cellular network and may not have the bandwidth required to play audio or video.

Avoid auto play video on your website.

What not to do:

  • Avoid autoloading video or audio that intrude upon or disrupt the visitor’s experience on the website
  • Avoid loud and obnoxious music that plays in the background

How to fix it:

  • Allow users to make the choice to view video or listen to audio after they’ve landed on your website – don’t force it upon them
  • If you must autoplay media when users land on the website make sure they have quick and clear exit options

5. Too Many Ads

In some cases people may want to include ads on their website whether it’s to promote another product or service, or generate revenue. In many cases the overuse of ads that flash, pop up and ultimately distract from the key message we want to convey to our user lead to confusion and and increased bounce rate. Selling ad space to monetize your website is one thing, but do not make it too easy for visitors to leave your website before completing a goal.

Avoid over whelming web advertising.

What not to do:

  • Do not make ads the first thing visitors see when landing on your website
  • If you must use pop up ads, ensure they are not obtrusive and that they do not cover up important page content that customers have come to your website for in the first place
  • Do not use ads that take up more page real estate than your page content

How to fix it:

  • Oftentimes running ads on your website can be a lucrative way to monetize your web space, but be sure to present the ads in a tasteful and discreet way so that they do not distract users from what they’ve come to your website for in the first place

6. Forced Registration

This one seems incredibly obvious, but I see it time and again when visiting websites. Forcing users to register for something before they’re allowed to see it or understand what exactly they’re registering for is one of the leading causes for an inflated bounce rate. Including such a barrier between users and information will often lead to users going elsewhere to find what they’re looking for. If a registration form is a necessity follow best practices with form design to make the process as smooth and intuitive as possible for your website users. For more on best practices in web form design, check out the Fuelling the Fear of Web Forms section in our article on 5 Web Design/UX Mistakes and How To Avoid Them.

Do not force registration upon website users.

What not to do:

  • Do not request personal information from users before they’ve had a chance to learn more about your product or service and how it may benefit them

How to fix it:

  • Remove the registration requirement completely
  • If you must force user registration, offer them a sample of what they can expect to receive after completing the registration to show them the value in serving up their personal information

7. Boring Website Design and Content

It seems like common sense when you say it out loud (or start typing it), but it happens every day. People don’t always see the value in hiring a professional website design company, photographer or content writer. Data suggests that nearly half of users do not return to a website that does not offer a high level of engagement.

Website analytics data reflects user engagement.

What not to do:

  • Avoid a boring website design that fails to engage users immediately
  • Do not offer content that is not exciting and informative

How to fix it:

  • Hire a professional web design company and trust in their experience and advice, but do make sure you offer your own input throughout the design process, after all, it is your website!
  • Be creative with your website design and offer exciting ways for your audience to interact with your content
  • Offer current and informative content, but don’t try to be too cute

8. Poor Legibility and Typography

Poor typographic choices, abrasive colours and poor spelling or grammar all contribute to poor legibility on a website. These factors can ultimately destroy a positive user experience and increase bounce rate very quickly. Another common legibility mistake is overlooking the rise of Retina or 4K displays. Your website may look great on a standard definition screen, but do not forget to offer people with high resolution displays an optimal experience as well.

Pay attention to typography and legibility to enhance user experience in your website design.

What not to do:

  • Avoid using typefaces that are unnecessarily elaborate, decorative, pixelated or have poor contrast
  • Avoid the over use of bright highlight colours
  • Do not ignore high resolution displays

How to fix it:

  • Hire a professional website design company and heed their experience-based advice on type and colour selection
  • Allocate some of your budget to creating Retina-ready versions of your website

9. Lack of Frequency

After investing your time and money in a professional website design and content development your work is not finished! Once your website is deployed, it is up to you to keep the content fresh and current to continue to offer visitors what they’re looking for. If visitors land on your website only to find the last update was a year ago, they will bounce likely not to return. Remember our goal is to convert users from casual onlookers to qualified and returning leads.

Continue to write original content for your website.

What not to do:

  • Do not use an under construction page if you’re updating your website as users will bounce immediately and are unlikely to return
  • Do not leave too much time between content updates if it can be avoided

How to fix it:

  • Keep your website content up to date and fresh to help maintain user interest and make your website more attractive to search engines
  • Consider adding a blog to your website and publish content regularly that is relevant to your business

There are many more ways that website design mistakes or lack of effort can ruin a user experience and lead to high bounce rates, but I think we’ve covered the most commonly seen issues that web designers and website owners are guilty of today. If you have something to add to this list, please do comment and I’d be happy to add to the list and keep the resource going. If you’re interested in a more in-depth look at what bounce rate is and how website design and development can affect it, check out our article on 5 Surefire Ways to Reduce Bounce Rate.