April 4, 2019 Last updated March 28th, 2019 2,795 Reads share

Common Website Design Flaws: Are You Driving Visitors Away?

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Website design flaws are all too common throughout the online community. Businesses and organizations of all types inadvertently drive their visitors away before the visitor can fully understand and appreciate their services.

Organizations looking for help will often come to web design agencies with their broken websites and end up requiring a lot more help or even a complete redesign to remedy their mistakes.

That’s why we’ve compiled some of the most common website design flaws for your organization to avoid. These design flaws include:

  1. Starting with a CMS that is difficult to use.
  2. Only viewing the website on a desktop.
  3. Not checking the content for accessibility.
  4. Forgetting about user engagement.
  5. Directing people off your site.

No matter if you decide to work with an agency or develop your website in house, keep an eye out for the following mistakes that others often make. Let’s dive in to learn more!

Design Flaw #1: Starting with a CMS that is difficult to use

All too often, organizations will just go with a popular open source CMS to build their website because they are not aware of the other options. Open source CMS refers to a website building platform with source code that is freely accessible to download. These CMS platforms are available to anyone and the brand names are well-known. WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla are all open source CMS platforms.

The problems with using these open source platforms include ease of customization, usability for non-technical users, and ongoing security updates.

Don’t limit your CMS options to only include open source providers. Check out some of the closed source or proprietary providers as well. When you invest in a closed source CMS, you’re not only paying to resolve some of the problems listed above, but you’re also investing for a lifetime technology support partner. The closed source platform team is well-versed with the software because they’re the ones who developed it.

Ease of customization: Open source platforms tend to offer hundreds of website themes to choose from. However, once you choose one, you’re limited in your customization options. To further complicate things, you also often need to download plugins to access other customization features. These plugins are made by various developers around the world, so they vary in quality and usability.

When you consider proprietary CMS platforms, don’t be discouraged if they have fewer themes to choose from. These themes are usually completely customizable to meet the needs of your organization. Plus, any add-ons are developed in-house by the CMS provider, so they’ll be easy to incorporate into your website.

Usability for non-technical users: While open source platforms will often advertise their ease of use, the truth is that only their basic interface is simple to use. And the only reason it’s simple to use is because of the incredibly limited functionality. To increase functionality, users must add plugins. However, these plugins quickly complicate the interface and make the CMS difficult for non-developers to use.

Organizations should be able to make quick edits to their website as necessary without calling on a developer. Look for a platform that offers features like a drag-and-drop interface and front-end editing. These features make it easy to edit your navigation menu, add a gallery, or even embed social media feeds quickly and easily.

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Ongoing security updates: The popularity of sites like WordPress and Drupal actually works against them in terms of security. Because their source code is open to the public, it’s very easy for hackers to infiltrate websites built on these open source platforms. While these platforms frequently offer security patches, it’s up to the user to run new updates. When they don’t run them (as is often the case), these sites remain vulnerable to hacking.

Not only is the source code for proprietary platforms not available to the public, but they typically roll out security updates automatically. Users don’t need to worry about running the update themselves or being left vulnerable. Look for a CMS platform that regularly monitors security and manages security updates for you.

While researching proprietary CMS platforms, make sure you find one that meets all of your needs. Check out Morweb’s article about CMS features to know what features to look for in your CMS.

Design Flaw #2: Only Viewing the Website on a Desktop.

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Mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones contribute to so much of our web browsing screen time now that we must adjust our websites accordingly.

There are a few mistakes that people make when considering how their website will be viewed by its users. The first mistake is not checking to ensure their CMS offers mobile-responsive templates; the second is assuming a mobile-responsive template will do all of the work, and the third is not double checking all of the website features on mobile.

Ensure your CMS offers mobile-responsive features. This is a pretty straightforward mistake to avoid. Before investing in a CMS platform, be sure it offers responsive design features so that your website will scale correctly when viewed on any device. Users should find it easy to execute your call-to-action, fill out forms, log into portals, and navigate your site from their smartphones.

Don’t assume the platform will do all the work. While incorporating mobile-responsiveness to your website, don’t assume that your platform will automatically make everything look good. You always need to double check. Make sure it’s easy to choose different views within your CMS to see how your screen looks across multiple devices, from a tablet to a smartphone.

Double check all of the site features on mobile. Your site shouldn’t just look great on mobile: it should also work effectively! For instance, use tools like Lighthouse Audits to check the speed of the loading page. If it’s too slow, mobile users will quickly exit the page.

Without a mobile-responsive site, you risk losing your site’s mobile traffic, which can make up 57% of total web traffic!

Design Flaw #3: Not Checking the Content for Accessibility

Accessibility compliance is often overlooked when launching a new website. While ADA regulations are not yet required for the private sector, website accessibility should be a priority for every organization.

Some simple steps you can take to improve website accessibility include:

  • Adding alt-text for non-text content. This means that content like images and videos should have a descriptive text alternative. If your video has audio, it is a good practice to also include subtitles.
  • Carefully crafting titles for pages. All website pages should have titles that accurately describe the content on that page. Headings should also follow the correct rank to communicate the organization of the content on the page.
  • Including audio controls. Any audio included on your site that lasts over 3 seconds should include a mechanism to pause, stop, or control the volume on the audio.

If your organization requires ADA compliance (and even if it doesn’t!), we recommend talking to your developer about the other elements that should be included.

ADA compliance is all about making your website accessible to everyone. A more accessible website has the potential to reach a broader audience.


For instance, an accessibility widget makes it easy to increase or decrease the font size, adjust contrast, highlight links, change the font to non-serif, and reset it back to normal. You should also make sure any login pages you have are easy to use for anyone. Check out Swoop’s guide to user authentication to explore new ways to keep your user’s account safe.

Design Flaw #4: Forgetting About User Engagement

When we design websites, we often think about the different requirements and ideas we have for it. If we do this too much, we run the risk of forgetting all about the user experience and providing potential engagement opportunities for our visitors.

When you create a website for your organization, provide opportunities for your visitors to actively engage with your content.

This may look different for different types of organizations, but here are a few of our favorite ideas that anyone can adopt:

  • Design effective donation pages. If your organization is a nonprofit, and you rely on donations to operate, effective donation page design can make a huge difference. Seamless navigation—from your call-to-actions throughout your site to a quick giving process on your donation page—encourages visitors to complete the giving process.
  • Set up an online store. Online stores not only make it easy to support your organization, but they also provide a purpose for your users. Website visitors can follow your site’s navigation to purchase some cool merchandise through your online store.
  • Create event registration pages. Encourage website visitors to get involved with your organization’s activities by including event registration pages on your site. If the event requires they fill out a waiver, look into digital waiver software that you can embed on the page so that everything can be done through your website. Click here to learn more about these waivers.


Encouraging people to visit your site is only half the battle. You also need to encourage visitors to stay on your site with easy-to-find engagement opportunities. This will help them become more involved with your organization.

Design Flaw #5: Directing People Off Your Site

Organizations can build a great website with all of the best elements—they may include the right typography, interesting visuals, and effective call-to-actions—but many times they’re still driving visitors away by directing them to another site.

When you link to a page that is not on your website domain, you’re instructing visitors to click those links and leave your website. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have outside links, but only that you need to take some precautions so that you can keep visitors engaged on your site. These precautions include:

  • Strategically placing social media buttons. It’s great to connect your site visitors to your social media pages so that they can follow your organization. However, be sure to place these buttons on the side of your site or towards the bottom, never at the top. Placing them at the top provides visitors the chance to leave before engaging with your website.
  • Opening off-site links in a new tab. Choose to open links that go to different domains in a new tab or window instead of the same one. This allows visitors to see the helpful resources you link to and easily switch back to the tab where your website is located without having to press the back button several times.

Be careful when you add links to your website that may direct people away. You don’t want to distract them from your organization or from your site’s domain. One of the goals for your website should be to keep visitors engaged for as long as possible while providing content that is helpful and mission-oriented.

Creating and maintaining a website is a huge project no matter what type of organization you’re a part of. To look up some of the terms that we discussed in this article, or those that an agency will discuss when creating a website, Tweak Your Biz has a great glossary article linked here.

Avoiding mistakes in the creation and upkeep of your website can help keep visitors on your site longer, further engage them in your organization, and help you appear more professional.

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Murad Bushnaq

Murad Bushnaq

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