Design Mistakes That Hurt Your Web Site’s Conversion Rates

March 21, 2022

To run a successful business in today’s world, you need a strong Web site that reaches your potential clients and customers, both locally and across the globe. Your Web site can make the difference between a loyal, lifelong customer and a one-time shopper.

Whether your Web site gives you a competitive advantage that helps you capture your target audience’s hearts—and wallets—depends on both its overall user experience and its user interface. Together, the user experience and the user interface determine the quality of the users’ interactions with your Web site and, thus, their response to the site. A successful Web site must take into account both the user experience and the user interface to ensure that the user’s entire journey is satisfying and enjoyable.

To ensure that your organization’s Web site converts, you must avoid some common design mistakes that I’ll describe in this article.

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Losing Sight of Your Goals

The most important things you must do when creating a Web site is clearly define, then adhere to your business goals, while also considering the user’s needs. When you define both properly, the structure and narration of each Web page falls into place much more easily.

Some of these business goals might include increasing customer calls, selling more products, collecting email addresses from more visitors, or gathering more feedback. So there is no universal Web-site template that would successfully fulfill the goals of every company. Each company is different and every industry and every target audience has different needs. Therefore, the best thing to do before changing a Web site is to do a deeper review of its analytics data and conduct usability testing to discover and understand the customer’s behavior and learn what they really need to make a decision about whether to contact you or buy something from the site.

The users’ needs depend on where they are in the buyer’s journey—or whatever journey they’re on. During the phase when they’re building their awareness, they might want to know more about the company. During the consideration phase, they’re evaluating what makes your goods or services better than those of your competitors. If, for example, a customer were shopping for a new swimsuit before going on vacation, she might have reached the decision phase and would need to know how long delivery would take.

It is important to have a deep understanding of your users to know what information and what kind of experience would be most helpful and enjoyable to them and, therefore, would most likely lead to conversions and help your organization reach its business goals.

Having No Call to Action

To get the user to take action, you first need to define what action you want users to take. A call to action (CTA) should, of course, relate to these business goals and the user’s needs. If a call to action isn’t sufficiently visible, clear, brief, and understandable, users would be less likely to take the desired action.

The form of the call to action should depend on your business goals. For example, if your goal is to collect email addresses from your visitors so you can engage with them later, you could place a visible banner at the top of the page, with a call-to-action button that is labeled Join now. When you want visitors to contact you by phone, ensure that this option is more visible by highlighting it in some way, enabling it to draw more attention than, for example, your email address or contact form.

You can check whether your CTA is strong enough by measuring its success or failure with Google Analytics or another Web-site tracking tool. Determine your CTA’s conversion rate by comparing how many clicks it has received to the number of visitors to the site. You can also A/B test different CTAs to learn which has a higher conversion rate. That is the best one for your Web site. When you want to A/B test a CTA, don’t focus only on its text. Also keep in mind its form, color, and placement, which can also influence its conversion rate.

Writing Too Much Text

When your Web site’s content is too long and its purpose is unclear, it is very hard for the user to find the most important information to decide whether they want to buy your product. Because the site’s content must convince the user to buy your product, you need to highlight the most important information and clearly communicate the product’s benefits.

This is where UX writing—a branch of UX design—comes in. The UX writer’s job is to make the text understandable and helpful to the user. Sometimes it is possible to say something more concisely by keeping only the essential parts of your message. As a result, your users may absorb more information, which could convince them to make a purchase. The UX writer is also responsible for taking care of microcopy—for example, the labels of navigation links, buttons, or fields in forms, as well as error messages. The goal of all of this text should be to make the user experience smooth, avoiding the frustrations that could otherwise result in potential customers abandoning the purchasing process.

Consider using a heatmap and conducting usability testing to discover what information is most important for the user to make a decision. On the heatmap, you can see the areas on your site where users are clicking or interacting with elements. To determine whether the content on your site is too long, you’ll need to look at the users’ scroll depth, which can tell you whether it would be wise to add a new section at the bottom of a page. If, for example, only 5% of visitors would see the new section, creating it would not be worth the effort.

Failing a Scan Test

Another design mistake becomes apparent when a Web page doesn’t pass a scan test. When a Web page has a clear structure—with headings, subheadings, and bulleted lists that highlight important information—and uses simple words, this makes it easy for the user to read and absorb the information by doing a quick scan. If something grabs their attention, they’ll stop scrolling and read in greater depth.

For example, the same picture could have different effects depending on how you place it on a page. It could catch the user’s eye and convince the user to click your banner. On the other hand, placing the picture next to text could make it too overwhelming or distracting and cause people to ignore the text. This is another very good case for usability testing. For example, you could do a so-called five second test, showing the picture for five seconds, then asking the participant some questions about the content you previously displayed. In this short time, you can confirm which element grabs the user’s attention. There are some online tools that let you conduct such tests remotely and very easily.

Lacking Visual Hierarchy

Even if a Web page is long, giving it a clear visual hierarchy can help users easily scan the content and find the information they need. Pay attention to the visibility of key elements. As you design every section, consider which element should be the most visible—a photo, a heading, or a call to action? Try to refrain from the overuse of gradients, blinking elements, and other decorative elements on your site. If you don’t know which element should be the most important one, always refer back to the business goals for the Web page.

Difficulty Navigating

If a landing page doesn’t answer users’ questions, they’ll want to search for more information. Enable them to do that. Provide a section with related products to give them some other options. This could increase the value of their shopping cart.

To ensure better navigation for the whole Web site, provide a clear menu with categories for the products or brands in your portfolio. Make users’ paths to the products they want as short as possible. While a search bar is always helpful for people who have become lost, people must know exactly what they want and what to call it to use search effectively.

Breadcrumbs may look a little bit outdated, but they can still be useful for people who have become lost when browsing. With breadcrumbs, users can easily see which category they’re in and navigate to a similar category page to see comparable products. Breadcrumbs are especially useful on Web sites with a complicated information architecture—for example, an ecommerce site with many product categories.


A Web site that has a great user interface, is attractive, and is easy to navigate could still be targeting the wrong users and provide a terrible user experience. Perhaps the user journey that you’ve implemented is incomplete, leaving people unable to find what they’re looking for. In contrast, a wireframe could represent the most elegant navigation of a user journey and, thus, potentially provide a great user experience, but have a terrible user interface with difficult-to-read fonts and colors that makes no concessions to mobile access.

To engage your target users and meet their needs, make sure that you’re balancing the concerns of both the user experience and the user interface. If you can avoid the design mistakes that I’ve described in this article, you’ll be able to keep your customers coming back for more.

Of course, you must never forget about the business goals behind a Web site. Whenever you’re making a difficult design decision, always refer back to the business goals for the site. In the end, the Web site must serve the needs of the business. But never underestimate the power of user feedback. Conduct as much usability testing as possible. In this way, you can verify all your hypotheses and determine which solution would be best for your users or customers. 

Digital Product Designer at Boldare

GdaƄsk, Pomorskie, Poland

Claudia WensierskaClaudia is a senior product designer at Boldare, a leading international design and digital product-development company. She has more than four years of design experience, with a strong focus on meeting business goals and optimizing conversions.  Read More

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