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16 Design Mistakes That Make Visitors Bounce From Your Website – And How to Fix Them

Admit it…You’re confused.

You’ve been told again and again: web design really matters. Your website is the window to the world.

You’re pretty sure your website design ticks all the right boxes. You have professional photos, a logo, a sign up form, and your website has a brand image.

And that’s good, right?

But your website is not converting as successfully as you’d hoped, and you start to wonder… could it be the design? Because you know that website visitors have low attention spans and little patience. They want information now, and decision making has to be effortless.

You desperately want them to stay hooked on your pages. You want to seduce the socks off them. You want them to buy, click and share.

But what if your visitors are having a terrible time on your website? What if they are regularly bouncing away?

And what if it’s because you’ve made a few goofball mistakes?

Time to banish that confusion and fix those website mistakes!

Visual Mistakes

Mistake #1: Your Photographs are So Slick They Make People Suspicious

Are your images too glossy? You know, stock photos with go-getting businessmen, fabricated smiles and perfect studio lighting? They’re professional, but unconvincing.

ditch the cheesy shots

Ditch the cheesy shots for real-life photos that help build trust.

Images tell your audience a lot about your brand, so it’s important that they appear genuine. Try spontaneous shots with collaborating team members. Realistic photos radiate personality and encourage visitor trust.

Want to take your own photos? Make sure they’re top-notch. Shaky, blurry shots won’t impress your audience. Re-touch your photos with free photo-editing software such as GIMP.

If in doubt, hire a professional photographer.

Mistake #2: Your Calls-to-Action Suck

Do your calls-to-action stand out or fade away? Lackluster buttons and graphics will leave your visitors directionless. They won’t know where to go next, and rather than take the time to figure it out, most of them will simply leave your site.

Create buttons that visually stand out, demand attention and guide your visitors to take action.

Try contrasting colors that alert and words that entice, and don’t be afraid to increase the size for maximum attention. HubSpot offer customizable buttons with no coding requirements. cta

Create attention grabbing calls-to-actions which demand attention.

Mistake #3: Your Design is Tired and Outdated

You don’t have to be a trendsetter. But a website that is clearly stuck in 1997 won’t give you the credibility you need, either. Fuzzy amateur images, flashing animated gifs and dated fonts turn visitors away. tired looking website

A tired looking website does nothing for your image.

An up-to-date design will show your visitors that you’re current, available and clearly in business. Replacing old graphics and improving your colors and formatting can instantly refresh your website.

Mistake #4: Browsing Your Site is Like Having a Psychedelic Nightmare

Vivid, untamed colors can daze and distract your visitors, causing havoc. Use key brand colors sparingly for headings, boxes, quotes and buttons. When used well, colors can highlight content, differentiate services, attract the eye and improve the user experience. minimal website

Stop chaos with a minimal and user-friendly website. WordPress offer easy, customizable themes.

Branding Mistakes

Mistake #5: Your Design Elements are Haphazard and Erratic

Random-sized headings, mismatched graphics and haphazard styles offer no sense of cohesion. haphazard layout

A haphazard layout can confuse and irritate.

Create a consistent web layout to allow your visitors to get information with ease. Stick to a brand style guide and offer your visitors familiarity. brand styling

A brand styling system can create cohesion. Taken from

Mistake #6: Your Logo is Fuzzy and Distorted

Is your brand image the best it can be? If your logo is fuzzy and distorted, you’re sending out the wrong signals.

Upload a crisp high-quality logo that will ooze professionalism and trust.

Mistake #7: Your Home Page Makes You Look Like a Sleazy Marketer

Is your home page one big sleazy sales pitch? Gimmicky sales messages, flashing dollar signs and over-the-top graphics can make your visitors suspicious.

Create a strong first impression by focusing on how you can help your audience, while displaying your accreditations, social proof, and testimonials. When done correctly, your look and feel can build trust and encourage visitors to stick around, click through to another page, and maybe even become interested in your paid offerings.create a credible page

Swap your sleaze with a trustworthy and credible home page.

Mistake #8: Your Stock Images Send the Wrong Message

What is your company personality? Maybe you’re friendly and approachable, or maybe you’re traditional and serious.

Choose photos with a consistent style that matches your values. Keep your visitors hooked with carefully chosen images that speak volumes about your personality. yoga website

This yoga website shows warm, inspirational images combined with real-life photography.

Usability Mistakes

Mistake #9: Your Site Looks Pitiful on Smartphones and Tablets

As more and more people surf the web on their phones, and tablets, it’s essential to ask: Are your visitors squinting to view your pages on a smartphone? A responsive design adapts to smartphones and tablets so your visitors can view your information effortlessly.

Check out this handy link to find out if your site is responsive. Consider a re-design or choose to build your site using a CMS system such as WordPress.

Without a device-friendly website, your visitors are more likely to hit the back button. responsive design A responsive design works effortlessly across different devices. Most WordPress themes are device-friendly.

Mistake #10: Your Pages Display in Some Browsers (But Not in Others)

Not all browsers are created equal. So when you’re testing out your site, test it in each of the four major browsers: Firefox, Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Safari. Does your layout break in IE8? Do your images overlap or disappear in Chrome? Fixing these bugs will cater to all of your visitors, whatever platform or device they are using.

Hire a techie to sort out your browser bugs. Access these useful browser stats and decide which browsers you want to design for.

Mistake #11: Your Navigation Sends People Down The Wrong Path

Badly thought-out navigation can confuse, annoy and irritate your potential new customers. Can your visitors find what they are looking for? What’s the simplest way people can access your content?

Don’t make your readers trawl through endless pages. Remember that they arrived at your website with a mission: to find a solution or answer to their problems. That’s what they’re looking for in your navigation, too.

Simplify. Create a clear path so your visitors can navigate without complication. Drop unnecessary links or hide your sub-pages with drop down menus.

Here are a few excellent navigation examples. navigation

Providing too many links can cause confusion. Hiding your sub-pages can improve user experience.

Mistake #12: Your Site is Just Too Slow

Are your pages taking forever to appear? Large images and plugins can cause web bloat, and while this might not seem important to you, remember that your visitors are impatient. If your website takes too long to load, your visitors may click away to another, faster site.

Consider reducing the size of your images. There’s a range of free Photoshop alternatives if you’re on a tight budget. If you’re using a lot of videos, try compressing your video or hosting the videos on a service like Vimeo or Wistia. You can also try dropping your third-party plugins.

Highly optimized pages will lead to more engagement and conversions. Test your website with a speed check.

Styling and Layout Mistakes

Mistake #13: Your Formatting Gives Readers a Migraine

Do you have crammed text, or overly spaced-out paragraphs, or huge fonts combined with tiny bullets? Your readers want legibility, which means easy to read text with enough white space around it. Messy formatting can give your visitors a headache.

Create clean, consistent spacing, bullets and visible links to improve readability and likability. Not the techie type? Change your CSS styles with this handy Chrome plugin. stylebot

Change your own styles with Stylebot, a Chrome Plugin.

Mistake #14: Your Layout is So Minimal it Creates Apathy

Less is often more, and clean functional layouts can improve user experience. But what if your layout is so minimal it turns people away?

Add personality to your layout to entice, persuade and energize. Add icons, images or devices. You can buy affordable images and icons from stock libraries such as, but be sure to mix in your own photos as well. Otherwise, you run the risk of appearing too slick by using too many stock images.interesting image

Improve your website layout with interesting images, colors and icons.

Mistake #15: Your Testimonials Look So Bland They’re Ignored

Are your testimonials slinking into the background? Do they fade in with their surroundings?

Format your testimonials so they stand out, intrigue and alert. Choose a different font, color, and background – you might even add quotation marks.

Quotes are a great way to tell your visitors that they’re in the right place, and that you can help them with their problem. Don’t squander this opportunity to impress with visually boring quotes.

And if you’re a WordPress user, you can skip hiring a techie and choose a plugin that will save you time and money. eye popping testimonial

Draw attention to testimonials with eye-popping styles.

Mistake #16: Your Pages Scream Chaos and Confusion

Too many images fighting for attention, clashing styles, flashing animations and a haphazard layout – such distractions  cause unwanted noise. avoid overbearing styles

Avoid visitor confusion with overbearing styles and colors.

Create a space to breathe, add more white space and clean up your design elements. Consider reducing text, dropping images or learn how to change your website style sheet with CSS.

Focus on the one or two actions you most want your visitors to take.This will give your visitors laser-light focus.

Are You Ready to Banish Your Design Mistakes?

You want your website visitors to trust and respect you and your business because that’s the first step to turning them into loyal customers.  But it doesn’t matter how professional you are if your website design is sending a different message.

Sometimes mistakes can be staring you right in the face, but you’re just too close to notice them.  So start by checking your website against the list above. And if your design is falling short, get a professional designer to fix it.

It may not be glamours work, but just remember: every day those mistakes remain unfixed is another day potential customers are bouncing off your website.

Are your visitors leaving your website because of one of these mistakes? If so, which one? What will you fix first? Let me know in the comments below.

About Zac Thorne

Zac Thorne is a designer and marketer. He helps small businesses maximize their website, brand and marketing. Learn how to quickly create high converting web pages withThe Ultimate Landing Page Cheat Sheet at Milk It Design. You can also connect with him on Twitter (@zacthorne).

27 thoughts on “16 Design Mistakes That Make Visitors Bounce From Your Website – And How to Fix Them

  1. Loved these examples. My favorite was #7 “All you do is count the cash. Have cash arriving at your doorstep daily.” Wow!

    My visitors needed to click to various links to get where they wanted go. I’ve shortened the number of clicks, but I plan to redesign it so they find what they’re looking for at a click of one button from the dream landing page. 🙂

    • Hi Elke,

      Glad you liked the examples 🙂

      Yes with #7 I think we’d all like to say goodbye to those sleazy websites!

      Landing pages are a great way to keep your visitors focussed. It’s about clearing through the clutter while persuading your visitors to take action. Sometimes it’s best to test your new pages using Google Analytics so you can see how your visitors interact with your content.

      Good luck with your re-design 🙂

  2. The ultimate test for me regarding any blog post I read is do I bookmark it for my future reference and, also, do a I share it with someone I know can benefit from the information. This post hits that benchmark. Thank you for some great information and the links led me to further information of which I was not aware!

  3. greatread and reminder…Not that I dont agree with #16 I absolutely do..what puzzles the hell out of me is I saw that LIngs car leasing on Dragons Den for making I tihnk 80 grand a month leasing cars…with that exact shitty confusing website….Maybe its a market thing…..

  4. Thanks, Zack. Mistake #1 caught my attention because I use stock photographs on my website. Now I’m wondering if that was the best idea. ha! I’ll have to ask for some feedback from visitors.


    • Hi Rob,

      Thanks for you comment.

      It’s amazing how many good stock images you can find though, if you want people in your shots maybe search for ones which look natural rather than too staged. Also make sure that the style of photos are consistent throughout your website to reflect your brand.

      The great thing is that stock photos are affordable if you’re on a tight budget 🙂


  5. Lol, nice post, I t was really funny, but great examples to make ourselves improve and not think that we have everything solved. Thanks! 🙂

  6. Thanks for the tips. I tried out the handy tool in #9. A great tool that revealed to me that my site was good on all formats except for the mobile phones. I need to do something about that immediately.
    Actually, does any one have ideas on what I need to do to fix the problem? Maybe someone else is experiencing the same issue.
    Excellent post

    • Hi Boomy,

      If you want your existing website to adapt to a mobile phone you would have to hire a programmer to sort this issue. This involves a bit of tweaking.

      Another way to do this is to create a separate mobile site. Enter your website address on this page:

      This company here converts your existing website into mobile version. This isn’t responsive though, it’s actually a separate website. You can update it yourself. I think it’s a monthly cost though.

      Hope that helps 🙂



  7. Pingback: Marketing Day: A New Mobile Ad Report, Polyvore Expands Its Promoted Ads Program & More
    • Thanks Jane,

      It can take a bit of planning to work out your navigation and pages but it’s worth the effort, especially when you’re thinking about how you can improve your visitor experience.

      Good luck 🙂

      • I think nav is so important – I often use it as a clarification process for my clients… what do you want people to see as they decide to take another step and learn more on your site? You can throw everything and the kitchen sink there, because it will be too confusing to be effective. And how you word the nav is also very important. It is really a test to see if you can represent what you do in 5-6 tabs, 2-3 words each!

  8. Pingback: Marketing Day: A New Mobile Ad Report, Polyvore Expands Its Promoted Ads Program & More « TLC Niche Marketing
  9. Very comprehensive list – thanks for sharing! Even after 9 years managing website UX and design for huge brands, I am still sometimes stumped when it comes to my own site. The challenge is that it’s so personal… it’s hard to “cut the fat” with an objective eye. I would take this list, and sit down with someone (who pledges to be brutally honest!) and take a good objective sweep through my website to make the most out of this information. This will be a great exercise on getting clear on our priority, message and value because we have to make sure it is clearly communicated.

    • Hi Ling,

      Yes I agree with you on this one. I have the same problem with my own website – too much analysis! It’s good to get someone to be brutally honest, even though you may not want to hear the negative comments!! Feedback is a great way of improving your website 🙂

  10. Pingback: IMGrowbox Blog – Everything You Need to Grow Your Online Presence » 16 Design Mistakes That Make Visitors Bounce From Your Website – And How to Fix Them | Firepole Marketing Blog
  11. OMG…I hate websites that have those screaming colors!!! I will run very fast if I see one. Also those big buttons are so out-of-date, like back in the 70’s. They have to go! Everyone must use Responsive Design, the only themes I would recommend to my client because if the business cannot respond it’s theme on mobile devices, they can lose a lot of traffic and possible customers. Anyway, great article!


  12. Hi Angela,

    Yes I agree. Banishing confusing clutter will improve your visitor experience.

    Combine that with a website which works well on mobile, tablet and desktop and your visitors are more likely to stick around 🙂


  13. Pingback: 16 Design Mistakes That Make Visitors Bounce From Your Website – And How to Fix Them | IMGrowbox Blog
  14. Thanks for the marvelous posting! I genuinely enjoyed reading it, you might be a great author.

    I will mmake certain to bookmark your blog and will eventually come back later on. I want to encourage you to definitely continue your great job, have
    a nice weekend!

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