Avoiding The Three Cardinal Sins of Web Design

  • Thursday, January 10, 2019
  • Design

Your website is something of a digital first impression – the first interaction many prospective customers will have with your business. What that means is that if it’s poorly-designed it’s going to drive away people who might otherwise become loyal to your brand. Unfortunately, there are a lot of ways you can go wrong.

Let’s talk about that – today, we’re going to go over some of the biggest mistakes you can make when designing your site.

Unreadable Text

At one point, most websites generally had small fonts and large bodies of text. Then smartphones and tablets happened. Suddenly, people were browsing on small screens – and the web design process had to evolve to account for that.

Unfortunately, plenty of people are still behind the times in this regard, publishing websites with fonts that are nigh-impossible to read on the small screen. We’ll revisit the role of mobile on the web later, but for now, it’s enough to say that if your fonts are too small to read, you’re going to see massive bounce rates.

Smashing Magazine recommends that the smallest your body text should be is 16 pixels – anything lower than that is a mistake.

Size isn’t the only thing that matters, mind you. You also need to ensure that you avoid using ugly fonts like Comic Sans, Papyrus, or Curlz MT. Not only do they tend to create a negative perception of your website, many of them are also difficult to read.

Finally, pay attention to how the color of your font interacts with your website’s color scheme. Avoid putting light font on a light background, and ensure you have a working understanding of what colors and shades clash with one another.

Low-Effort, Low-Quality Content

It’s been said that content is king on the modern web – it should come as no surprise that our second cardinal sin pertains to that. Too many sites either suffer from a dearth of content, or from a ton of bad content.

The jury’s out on which is worse.

At minimum, your site should clearly articulate who you are, what you do, and how to get in contact with you. It should establish your brand’s voice, and allow prospective customers and clients to put a human face to your business. People are interested in who you are, what you value, and why you do what you do just as much as what you can offer them.

If you want to go down the path of content marketing – providing high-value stuff like blog posts, white papers, and so on – you’ll want to focus on a mix of news and evergreen content. Commentary and advice on what’s going on in your industry, how-to articles, general interest pieces based on your demographic research; these are all important parts of your website.

One common mistake I see people make here is they either focus too much on their call to action, or they don’t bother with it at all. Ideally, you need to be in the middle of the road, between these two extremes. Don’t treat every article as a sales pitch, but don’t be afraid to offer a soft call to action at the end of a piece – a gentle reminder of who you are, what you do, and what you can offer.

Terrible Usability

Last but certainly not least, we’ve everyone’s favorite buzzword: usability. You probably have at least some notion that your website should be intuitive to users on both mobile devices and desktop PCs. What you may not know is what that entails.



  • A streamlined interface. Consider how a user might navigate your site – or better yet, show it to a friend or family member. Watch what they do, and make an effort to eliminate any usability bottlenecks – overly-confusing menus, poor contrast, pages that aren’t optimized for mobile, and so on.


  • Optimized for mobile. Avoid using popups, implement stylesheets that adapt to different screen sizes, and ensure your interface is designed to allow people to tap and scroll with ease.



In Closing

A good website is extremely important in this day and age. Your goal is to make the best first impression possible. The easiest way to do that is by understanding what can go wrong when you’re putting things together.


The mistakes I’ve collected above aren’t the only ones you can make. They’re just some of the most obvious (and most common). Focus on learning to avoid them first, and you can move on to the little things afterward.

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