Top 5 mistakes people make when designing a website

Design / 07.02.17
James Hobden

Tomango is a leading creative agency offering web design in Sussex. In this article our lead developer James Hobden discusses some mistakes he’s seen.

It amazes me how often I see clients repeatedly making the same mistakes and bad decisions when it comes to designing a website.

The worst thing is that these errors of judgement – whether in the planning or design stages or in the way they manage the project – result in a finished website that’s nowhere near as good as it could be.

Here’s my top 5. Make sure you’re not making these mistakes too…

1. Trying to please everyone, or be “all things to all men”

This is where the client tries to cram everything on to the site, or on the home page, or even on individual pages.

Often it’s down to one of two reasons; either they’re under pressure from other people to push their department/area of the organisation and there’s a bun fight over what’s going to appear front and centre, or the client’s scared to leave anything out.

The result is a jumbled, confused site that’s hard for customers to understand.

What you should do instead when designing your website

Do your research, give the matter some brutally honest thought, and decide on the one thing you need to tell people. This should be your focus. Other parts can be included, sure – but only one thing can be the main message. Organise everything else into a sensible structure and stick to it.

2. Designing for yourself instead of your customers

This is where client lets their own personal tastes, preferences and ego dictate the design of the site, rather than designing a site for their customers.

I get why this happens; you want the design to reflect the personality of the business (which for owner/managers is often their own personality), you want to love the site, and you’re the one paying the bill after all.


Designing something for your own tastes results in a site that’s ill-suited to your customer and less effective as a result.

So you need to decide – do you want to invest your hard-earned cash in a website you can show off to your friends, or one that’s actually going to make a difference to your business?

What you should do instead

Park your ego outside and put yourself in your customer’s shoes.

What do they want to see, what do they need to do, when they use the website? Take the time to develop personas and keep referring back to them during the design process. Keep your customer at the centre.

Leave your ego outside and think about what your customers want

3. Ignoring what you know about your customers

This is where the client ignores what they know about how their customers behave (or don’t even bother to find out).

Decisions are made based on their own experience or preferences, and you get a site that ends up trying to please everyone (go back to point 1 above) or simply misses the target and performs poorly as a result.

What you should do instead

Use Google Analytics from your current site to get insights into how your existing customers behave. What pages are popular? Where do users go from the home page? How many end up converting into an enquiry or sale? Use the data to make informed decisions about what the site should focus on.

Create a series of Personas for your target users. Many truths are uncovered at this stage about how customers need to use the site and what their motivation is. Always refer back to your Personas at any stage of the project where decisions need to be made.

Personas provide all the insight you need to make good decisions when planning and designing a new website

4. Being a control freak/not trusting your chosen agency/thinking you know best

This is where the client positions himself (or herself) as the creative lead on a project, and can’t let go and trust the designer. If you’ve commissioned a design agency because you like their work, why would you not make the most of their talent, knowledge and experience? Most people wouldn’t dream of trying to tell a plumber or a mechanic how to do their job, but for some reason when it comes to design, everyone thinks they know best.

This results in a very subjective approach and leads to poor decision-making based on the client’s own feelings and tastes. It also holds up the project – as design ideas are carefully thought through, before being rejected – and undermines the work of the agency, which won’t lead to a healthy relationship.

You wouldn’t tell a plumber how to do their job, would you?

What you should do instead

Give the design team a clear, honest and detailed brief. If you’ve done your research and are happy with your decision to trust them with your investment, you should also trust them to create something that will deliver on your brief.

Remember that the designer or design team will be able to approach the project objectively and logically, without the emotional involvement you might have. Objectivity usually delivers the most effective results.

When you provide feedback, refer back to your brief, and be able to demonstrate – again, objectively – why you feel your suggested change to the design is right. Always put yourself in your customer’s shoes.

5. Underestimating the work involved in creating content

This is where the client – despite the best efforts of the agency to explain to them in detail how long it will take – fails to pay enough attention to the content.

If the client’s creating it themselves, they’ll often procrastinate over it, leave it til the last minute, rush it, or not be very good at it.

It always takes longer than you think.

This results in a beautifully designed website that’s completely let down by the content. Like a mansion with nothing in it but shitty furniture from a car boot sale.

What you should do instead

Our experience is that the best results come when we’ve got control over all the elements of a project – planning, design, copy, and images – and give the client the opportunity to approve it at the right stage.

Let the agency lead when it comes to content, and either they can create it themselves, or can provide clear direction for whoever you’ve got doing it.

We strongly recommend not taking it all on yourself, and instead investing in getting your copy and/or photography done by professionals. But as the client, you need to understand creating content takes time and effort, so you’ll need to pay properly for it.

Getting started

If you’ve got a brand or website project you’d like to talk to us about and want to find out the right way to do it, give us a call.