Today we design websites to be fast and sleek, but some best web design practices of the past are now considered to be web design mistakes! It’s not so much that web design mistakes were made, but technology changed, making some past web design practices obsolete.
The best way to minimize impacts resulting from future changes in usage is to keep websites simple, and design for speed! Why? Because we are now in the age of website performance, mostly because our friends at Google have decided that’s the way it’s going to be! Yeah, I know! Personally I don’t really care what they want and I build websites as I see fit, simply to meet the design requirements of my clients and their audience. Problem is, page performance is a ranking factor, so if SEO is part of your marketing plan you’ll need to fall in line.
When I first got started with custom web design we weren’t using phones for surfing the web. Back then most of us only used our phones for calls. It’s not only mobile technology though! It’s the mindset of how we search and use the information we want and need. It really boils down to changes in usage brought about by improved technology and accessibility.
Today, we use the web differently than most of us ever imagined. Exactly what the future holds, I can’t say for certain but you can bet they, whoever “they” are, will continue to push for performance, speed and access for all! How about hands free web surfing? Though not widely used, voice activated search is much more common.
UPDATE NOTE 2022
Accessibility is next. We are all hearing about how we need to make our websites accessible to those with disabilities. There are even law suits on the books, but it’s mostly targeted at government, institutional & large corporations. Soon, it will filter down to us little guys, so we might as well strap it up, be proactive and get ahead of the game. It won’t be long before we will hear how this also becomes a ranking factor.
I remember, as a young man in the working in the construction industry I thought it was a waste of money to to things such as adding wheel chair ramps at crosswalks. Same goes for restroom accessories. Then, 35 years later I found myself caring for my elderly parents and became so grateful for anything to make their lives easier. Personally, I need to think the same way when building websites and do my part to help solve the problem. Therefore, I’ve enrolled in a 4 day training boot camp to learn how to improve accessibility on my website builds.
Looking back at how we created websites in the past compared to how we’re building them now, I’ve developed my own methods to avoid future web design conflicts. The goal is to make our current designs last as long as possible before redesigning. By following current best practices, thinking ahead, and avoiding mistakes, we’ll get more mileage before changes are needed.
I Want It Now or I’m Leaving!
Today it’s about creating a simple, but high performance website experience for mobile users. Rightly so, most of us are now designing for mobile device screen sizes first. As a user, when I visit a webpage I want to find exactly what I’m looking for and I want it NOW! If you make me wait, I’m leaving! If I can’t find it instantly, I’m leaving! It only takes a split second and a potential lead or customer is gone!
My Obsession With Speed
My obsession with speed is why I’ve trained up and become a web page speed optimization expert. In fact, as of May 2022, I’m completely rebuilding this website for speed, from scratch. If you are reading this post anytime after July of 2022 go ahead and test it! You will see, my pages will load in an instant, not in 2 or 3 seconds as was acceptable in the past. You also won’t see many design enhancements. The thing is, if you are using your phone, most design effects are useless anyway, so why bother.
Special Effects Now a Web Design Mistake?
Since our website visitors won’t wait, is there any reason for adding some of the cool features such as scrolling effects or animations? Our web visitors don’t care!
Since our visitors don’t care about special effects and it only slows down our websites, why build it? I’m sorry, but any feature or design element that slows my client’s site or is not beneficial to visitors, is now considered a web design mistake!
Today, we must build websites for speed! If your website needs to rank high for SEO, the mapping structure needs to be outstanding and your site must load very fast! This brings us to our next potential problem, which is WordPress!
Too Many WordPress Plugins
Years back, as a web novice I was adding plugins without much thought. Now I know better, but that was a big web design mistake! Now, I carefully weigh the advantages and look if there’s someway to achieve similar but acceptable results without adding a plugin. Too many WordPress plugins or poorly coded plugins slow down websites and add unneeded bloat. Plugins are great, but we should all be cautious!
Is WordPress a Web Design Mistake to Avoid?
In the past, I was advising 95% of all clients to use WordPress. Even if there was no specific need for a CMS, WordPress was still the way to go. Now, many experienced designers believe, if the client only needs a brochure website and don’t want to blog, build it with good old fashioned html and css. Since the site is static, there’s no database, the website will load very fast.
What is the future for WordPress? I don’t know but as long as there’s a need for content management, I believe there will always be a place for WordPress. WordPress might not be a web design mistake now, but the core developers are working very hard to avoid it turning into a mistake later. In fact, we now have the WordPress block editor and even though it’s not fun to build with their blocks, the end result is a faster website. So, I got onboard and now I build most new websites with blocks.
Regardless of which editor you are using, it still requires a good amount of work to configure WordPress to run fast. Don’t misunderstand, I love WordPress but we’ll see what the future holds.
List of Web Design Mistakes to Avoid – for Now!
- Don’t automatically choose WordPress unless there is a need. We can build some attractive but speedy websites using simple html and css. I love WordPress, but this is a consideration.
- Before adding a plugin, consider if it is really needed. It’s a tradeoff of speed vs functionality.
- Don’t get carried away with web designs. Keep it simple and use more subtle design effects. Some creatives can create amazing designs with a little color and typography effects.
- Be careful with large images. This is probably the most common web design mistake. Make sure images fully optimized before loading on the site. If you have lots of images, it’s better to use a content delivery network.
- Avoid sloppy website structure. Make your site’s navigation obvious and simple for all device users.
- If you need to achieve high organic search engine rankings, learn the basics and hire a trusted SEO consultant. These days, SEO is much more complicated than it once was. Duplicate content issues on our own websites is common, especially if using WordPress.
- If using WordPress I suggest avoiding page builder plugins. These are often problematic and slows page loads. However, if you must, choose Beaver Builder or Oxygen. They are the fastest of the bunch. Avoid Elementor!
- Unless you don’t plan on attracting mobile users to your website, avoid using full size video backgrounds and limit the use of large image backgrounds.
Be Careful of Old Multiple Column Layouts
This is not so much a web design mistake, but many older websites designed with columns now need to be edited. I was looking at some old sites with the popular three horizontal widgets type layout. Designers like to use the three column design with the important call to action widget placed right in the center! It was the perfect layout before mobile devices came about! Now, we must plan and design so the intended column will stack up on top and above the fold when displayed on mobile devices.
I know I’m not alone in this, but I’m now finding myself designing more single column page layouts. I’m slowly abandoning the old two column layouts because they just aren’t so useful anymore. I used to like having the old narrow column on the left or right. Some older sites look like a web design mistake and now need to be redesigned so these columns don’t mess up the mobile presentation of the website.
In conclusion, web design mistakes of the past must be edited as we move forward in the future. We didn’t even begin to cover everything in this post, but perhaps it will stimulate more thoughts on how we might improve our web designs for the future. There will be more changes and I can only continue researching future trends in order to keep up with technologies.
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