Sorry to break this to you, but good website design isn’t necessarily just about what’s pretty. For modern businesses, there is something way more important than the appearance: Whether or not the design helps achieve business objectives (like making money). If not, the design is just no good. There is no other way to say it.

So are you absolutely sure that your design is good for business? Here are seven signs that say otherwise:

1. No custom homepage

Custom homepages are the new standard for online business sites right now. The days when it was good enough to just have a bunch of standard elements and widgets on the homepage with only one simple “welcome message” are long gone.

And you don’t even have to go far for examples. Just check the homepage here at DT.

By crafting a page that is entirely custom-built, we keep the focus on a primary goal. We don’t have to entertain any other side-goals we may have for the website as a whole (like growing our social media profiles or generating leads). We can focus on just telling our story.

That is actually the core guideline when building a custom homepage – pick just one goal that you want to achieve, and focus on just that.

Here’s another example at OkDork – Noah Kagan’s website. The homepage focuses on converting visitors to leads, nothing more.


Speaking of leads…

2. No list-building mechanism

I can still remember designing websites with my friends in the early 2000s. Back then, we used to kind of neglect newsletter signup blocks. We just slapped a small widget together saying “subscribe to our newsletter” somewhere in the footer. And our clients were happy with this.

We just didn’t know any better. We didn’t understand the power of an email list and the value of being able to contact your audience or customers directly.

The importance of email is even more true today. With platforms like Facebook and Twitter constantly making changes to their feed algorithms, it’s becoming more difficult to appear in your audience’s news feeds or streams. Email may be the most reliable means of communication with your customers.

Design as a Competitive Advantage View Reading List

Therefore, if your design doesn’t feature a newsletter signup form in a prominent place, include it right away. Solutions like GetResponse offer nice plugins and embed codes that make this really simple, so you don’t even have to deal with figuring out any source code yourself.

3. Too much focus on pixel-perfection

If you find yourself spending considerably more time on making this one small element look awesome rather than on making this element help you convert visitors to leads, you’re in trouble.

Pixel perfection has been a pet peeve of many designers. For some reason, we just can’t stand it when something looks even slightly out of place.

However, spending too much time on making that element perfect turns out to be really counterproductive as it brings no noticeable benefit to the business behind the website (be it yours or your client’s).

So do the opposite, spend most of your time optimizing the conversion process (to leads or clients), rather than the pixel-perfect-looking-things process.

4. Tackling multiple goals from single pages

This is mostly a challenge with client projects, rather than with our own sites. Clients are naturally tempted to want to pursue a load of different goals from their websites, and preferably all at the same time.

Some things clients usually ask for:

Convincing clients to mainly focus on just one thing can be a difficult task, but we really need to do it. The problem with this sort of multi-purpose page is that it introduces confusion and doesn’t make it clear to the visitor what they should do next.

In web design, great results are achieved when you follow this gold-standard rule: one page, one goal.

5. Not using landing pages

Speaking of pursuing single goals from single pages, there’s no other type of page that is better at achieving this than the concept of a landing page.

As HubSpot defines it, a landing page is: […] any page on the web on which one might land that 1) has a form and 2) exists solely to capture a visitor’s information through that form.

Good landing pages are simple. They feature close to no elements apart from the ones that actually aid in the main goal of the page.

Most landing pages don’t have sidebars, footers, even branded headers, and it’s not uncommon to see landing pages that don’t even link the logo of the site to the homepage.

Here’s an example: Client proposal tool Bidsketch’s landing page offering proposal templates for web designers:


As you can see, there’s hardly anything there in terms of design. What is there, however, are elements that make the conversion more likely – things like a good headline, convincing copy, and the subscription form itself.

6. Not optimized for mobile visitors

Nowadays, 80 percent of internet users own a smartphone. Even more importantly, for 60 percent of global mobile users, their mobile device is their primary or only device for accessing the web.

What this means is simple: If your design is not optimized to be viewed on mobile, it’s high time to stop living under that rock of yours and finally take care of this!

Users on mobile rarely have the time to struggle with your design. For the most part, they’re on the go, and in a hurry, so if your site doesn’t provide them with the answers they’re after … well, they’ll simply go somewhere else.

7. Poor Search Engine Ranking

Whether we like it or not, search engines are still the best source of traffic online, and SEO is likely a major component of your client’s or your own marketing strategy. Therefore, if you want to keep your site alive, you need to work on your SEO.

And that’s often the problem. For many designers, taking care of SEO is nowhere near synonymous with good design. SEO is hard. It requires you to take chances and make compromises here and there. But at the end of the day, it just has to be done.

One of the most basic indicators (and the easiest to measure) of your design not being up to par is, in fact, when your rankings start to decline. And I’m not talking about some individual incidents. I’m talking about regular long-term decline.

The rules of SEO change quite often. Any decline in rankings can be caused by an algorithm update, by the design itself containing something that’s no longer considered a good practice in SEO, or by any other factor. Anyway, you need to keep your finger on the pulse at all times and pay attention to all the new developments in SEO as much as possible.

One way you can take care of this, at least to some extent, is to use an SEO grading tool like the one available at Quick Sprout.


8. ?

What would be a good #8 on this list? Do you have any ideas of your own, or maybe some mistakes you made in the past that you’d like to share (like my mistake of neglecting email signup forms)?