A typical website visitor hangs around for a whopping ten seconds before leaving for greener pastures. In ten seconds, you must convince visitors that your site is worthy of further investigation. So don’t scare them off with these 6 cardinal sins of website design:


1. It takes too long to load.

The internet is full of enticing distractions, and users are notoriously impatient. Research from Kissmetrics indicates that visitors expect sites to load in under three seconds. This can be a tall order for anybody with a minimal bandwidth budget and a desire for plenty of rich content. If forced to choose between rich media and short loading times, it’s best to keep it simple — and fast.

Not to mention, keeping your site simple makes it easier to optimize the user experience across a multitude of browsers and devices. Which brings us to our next cardinal sin…

2. It isn’t responsive.

If your website looks sleek on a desktop only to break when rendered on your mobile device, it’s not doing its job. In fact, Google reports that mobile searches now outnumber desktop searches.  So, odds are your customers are visiting you from their smartphone. And if you want more insight into what browsers and devices your users are accessing your website from, take a look at your Google Analytics Audience metrics.

3. It features autoplay videos.

Few things are more annoying than being bombarded by pop-ups and videos that begin to play the moment you enter a webpage. Digiday claims that autoplay is the most-hated digital advertising tactic.

Do use video on your website and in your email campaigns to share ideas, add value, and show your products and services.  Don’t ever autoplay the video with sound.

4. It abuses pop-ups.

While internet users tend to hate pop-ups, pop-ups do have their place in the lead gen process. In fact, pop-ups on your site can be your secret weapon to capturing new leads, growing your list of subscribers and customers.  Tools like OptinMonster and SumoMe give you simple, elegant ways to capture leads from your site with slide-ins, pop-ups and subscribe bars.

Where pop-ups go wrong, however, is when they interrupt the user before they are even engaged with your website and your brand:

  • If a visitor has to close several pop-ups before hitting a product page, for instance, you are doing pop-ups wrong.  
  • If your pop-up is unrelated to the content on your site, you’re doing pop-ups wrong.

Keep your pop-ups polite, and offer value once a visitor is engaged to avoid this cardinal sin of web design.

5. It’s a keyword-riddled disaster.

In the early days of search engine optimization, many people associated keyword stuffing with high search engine placement. Although this was once true to some extent, Google has long since changed its formula, favoring quality content with well-placed keywords over fluff pieces crammed with awkward keywords. Not only do sites with primitive SEO fail to rank high on Google and other search engines, those who somehow stumble across these sites invariably grow frustrated and leave.

If your SEO strategy currently consists of links and keywords shoved in haphazardly, the reason for your lack of return visitors and conversions is simple: your content is written for old SEO bots – not people. Conduct a thorough overhaul and develop a more sophisticated SEO strategy, complete with careful keyword research and sharable, digestible content.

6. The links don’t make sense.

Bad links are nearly as obnoxious as excessive, awkward keywords. Do your links lead visitors to random, confusing pages? Do linked phrases have little to do with the pages on which visitors eventually wind up? If so, it’s time to revamp your linking strategy. Instead of bombarding visitors with links, choose a few meaningful destinations. Connect these to phrases that actually make sense. The goal is to drive visitors further into your site, boosting engagement with your site’s content, but that’s not possible if visitors don’t understand why they ended up on a particular page.

As you improve your website, think about your personal experiences as an internet surfer. Which sites do you frequent? What distinguishes them from the sites you ditch almost immediately? Ultimately, like most visitors, you probably stick around when sites load quickly and aren’t annoying to use. Avoid these 6 sins of website design, and you’ll have no trouble landing those sought-after conversions.