15 Tech Pros Share Common But Counterproductive Website Design Elements

A company’s website can contribute to or detract from a positive customer experience. While a well-functioning, clear and modern interface may lead to more inquiries and sales, customers aren’t likely to stick around and make a purchase if a website’s design is unattractive or difficult to navigate.

As successful tech leaders, the members of Forbes Technology Council approach business websites with a critical eye, and they have seen many common mistakes that can ultimately affect a company’s bottom line. Below, 15 of them discuss business website design elements that they find off-putting or counterproductive and offer alternative suggestions that are bound to please users.

1. A Disorganized Layout That Doesn’t Reflect The Brand

Off-putting design elements include a website that has too much content, lacks organization and structure, or doesn’t reflect your brand. Tap outside professionals to help you design your website right the first time. That way, when visitors reach your site, who you are as a company and the value you provide are clear, and it’s simple for visitors to navigate and find the information they’re looking for. – Martin Owen, Quark

2. A Clumsy UI Peppered With Pop-Ups

Watch out for a clumsy user interface that is not self-explanatory and not intuitive. If you visit a page and your only intention as a user is to leave as soon as possible, I have bad news for the designers of that website. I would single out pop-up windows and irrelevant ads as elements that really decrease the engagement of the viewer, driving them away from the valuable content you want to deliver on your website. – Lara Sokolova, LANARS

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3. Overuse Of Animation

Your website’s primary goal is to make it easy for visitors to understand your services, find what they are looking for and engage with you quickly. When overused, animation makes it extremely difficult for visitors to know where to look. When used sparingly, animation will pull their eye to the most important information to help tell your story and drive engagement. – Sunil Misra, Emtec

4. Important Information Hidden In Subpages

It’s likely your website is harder to read than you think. Industry research indicates the average user spends 54 seconds looking at your website. Company websites tend to have important information filed away in subpages, making it difficult to get people to stick around. We recently made our website more direct and interactive, which has led to a drastic increase in our time-on-site numbers. – Scott Hambuchen, First Orion

5. Self-Centered Content

One of my favorite quotes recently is, “Communication is not about what you say; it is about the results that you get.” A company’s website is a sales/marketing channel and should be focused on the results the company is achieving for its customers. Over-designed, hard-to-navigate and self-centered websites are off-putting. – Mike Grushin, Next League

6. Too Many Levels

Ensure your website doesn’t have too many levels or require a lot of clicks to gain information. In website design, you have to pay attention to the number of clicks it takes to get a result, as well as links that lose visitors. You have to set a goal of keeping the visitor engaged. The rule that should be in place is “no more than three clicks to get a positive result.” The website should be an adventure to explore and should inform and entertain. – Jim Parkinson, North American Bancard

7. High Response Times

While design elements usually refer to visual artifacts, a key design element that constrains the usability of a website is responsiveness. Even when browsing the most attractive websites, users will not tolerate slow response times. Implementers must give careful thought to the website’s infrastructure and ensure that it can always scale to handle large workloads and keep response times low. – William Bain, ScaleOut Software, Inc.

8. A Primary Focus On Making A Sale

Don’t emphasize conversion over education. Whether it’s the way the chatbot is set up or an overly aggressive info wall, a website design that’s primarily focused on making a sale can be a turn-off for users who are interested in learning more about the product before making a purchasing decision. – Lewis Wynne-Jones, ThinkData Works

9. Sign-Up Modals

Avoid subscription and sign-up modals that ask users to subscribe to your company’s newsletter. These website components usually appear on the screen seconds after a user opens a Web page, not even allowing users to familiarize themselves with the content and business propositions. Alternatively, businesses should opt for mid-scroll calls to action, which are more productive and user-friendly. – Roman Taranov, Ruby Labs

10. Poorly Timed Chat Bubbles

Chat bubbles on the wrong page are the worst. When used correctly, products such as Intercom and Drift can convert a visitor into a lead. However, when overused, a chat bubble can break the flow of understanding of a product and its value proposition. A good rule of thumb is to pop a bubble when the visitor has had time to understand the product and form a question—one they can type into the chat. – Jason Gong, Firezone

11. Poorly Designed Sales Propaganda

Too many business websites have a combination of poor typography burying even worse sales propaganda. Remember that a sale is built on trust. So many websites seek to sell to people when they should be telling a relatable story or guiding the user to the solution that the business just happens to have on offer. Avoid the digital version of used car salesmanship: poor design and ever poorer language. – Denver Hunter, PenServ Plan Services, Inc.

12. An Immediate Request For The User’s Email Address

My biggest pet peeve is when I go to a website for the first time and am immediately asked to enter my email address. I understand the importance of customer acquisition, but it’s really off-putting when businesses are so “in your face” about it. – Ruchi Goyal, Accenture

13. Infinite Scroll

While it’s an effective model for displaying a lot of content, infinite scroll is something I have come to oppose ever since I started to develop tendon inflammation. There is too much scrolling on too many sites, and it only accelerates repetitive stress injury, forcing me to abandon the use of business applications that rely on infinite scroll over search. – Ali Shaikh, Graphiant

14. Missing Or Hidden Contact Information

Companies increasingly hide telephone numbers and addresses, which makes it more difficult to talk with the team. This design element may appeal to those who do not like personal contact, but there are downsides to hiding behind a webpage and putting up barriers between you and your customers, suppliers and the general public. Digital is not a panacea. – Blair Currie, Snibble Corp.

15. Content That Hinders Accessibility

Splash pages and flash are off-putting. But many of my pet peeves are actually accessibility and usability issues. These can include auto-loading music and video, unstructured HTML layout, complicated navigation with tons of dropdowns, missing alt text, missing or unorganized headings, poorly named links, poor text contrast, and non-HTML content that’s not optimized. All these elements make it almost impossible for screen reader software to read a Web page. – Neil Lampton, TIAG

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