Now that Adobe Flash has been retired, you don't have to worry about slowing down your website with heavy and often useless animations. However, there are still a handful of web design elements to avoid. Avoiding common web design mistakes is crucial for web designers to prevent a poor user experience.

Using the following website elements can frustrate users, hurt your SEO efforts, and create a barrier to conversions.

1. Inline frames (iframes)

Inline frames aren't always bad. Sometimes, they serve a purpose. For example, YouTube videos are embedded using iframes. However, using iframes to display native content is a bad idea.

Avoid building a website design that uses iframes as an inherent part of your design. For example, don't make pages that display your main navigation menu with an iframe in the middle to display all of your content.

Inline frames can cause several serious problems:

Getting iframe content indexed in the search engines will confuse visitors. When iframe content is designed to be viewed within an iframe, it will look terrible when viewed on its own.

Although iframe content doesn't always get indexed, sometimes it does. When your iframe pages start ranking in the search engines, people will click on those results, but they won't experience your layout as intended. They'll see the iframe content on its own webpage, outside of your intended layout. Your site will appear unprofessional, and visitors will bounce.

External content can turn into a malicious attack. Inline frames that pull content from external websites are dangerous. Whoever owns the external website can change the content at any time.

For instance, using an iframe to display an innocent recipe for apple pie might turn into a malicious web form of phishing for your visitors' personal information. Worse, iframes can be used to run a keystroke logger.

As web standards change, iframe content looks worse. Certain web standards can make iframe content look worse over time. It's not worth reformatting the content constantly.

Inline frames block usability and conversions. Sometimes, iframes create double scroll bars, which can be a huge barrier to conversions.

Links become complicated. When you have a content opening in an iframe, you have to remember to assign a target to each link. If you set all links to open in your iframe, you'll need to assign targets to all of your main pages and external links so they don't open in your iframe. If you forget to assign targets to your links, you can end up with a mess.

Instead of using iframes, use HTML5. It's SEO-friendly, user-friendly, and clean.

2. Opening PDF files in the same window

When you need to link PDF files on your website, set the target window to _blank so it opens in a new window. Some browsers will automatically download a PDF file, but most will open the file in the browser.

Opening PDF files in a new window helps to keep visitors on your site, even when they're not interested in the file. When they close the window with the PDF file, your website will still be open for them to browse.

3. Bitmap images (.bmp)

Bitmap images are a thing of the past, as they should remain. Although bitmap images serve a purpose, they aren't ideal for visually appealing websites.

Stick to the standard .jpg, .gif, and .png file types for displaying images on your website, especially when focusing on modern web design.

4. Uncompressed photos and graphics

Large, uncompressed photos and graphics will slow down your website. A slow website makes visitors bounce and can hurt your SEO rankings.

Google uses page speed as a ranking factor, so make sure to compress all of your images before uploading them to your website. If you don't have a local image optimization application, try using the web-based Optimizilla.

5. Stock photos

Stock photos began with good intentions – to provide images to people who can't procure their own. There was a time when stock photos added class and professionalism to a website when used sparingly, of course.

Although it used to be a space for professional photographers, the stock photography industry has become a platform for mediocre photographers to make money selling average images.

Today, most stock photo sites are full of basic images that all look the same: smiling business people wearing a headset; women laughing while eating a salad, and kids wearing superhero capes.

When you need a photo to represent something, you can't count on a stock photo being accurate. Few photographers put extensive thought into their photos. For instance, you'll see construction-themed photos depicting workers engaged in dangerous activities who aren't wearing proper protection.

Stock photos have become so bad that people make fun of them with the hashtag #badstockphotosofmyjob.

Try to source your photos from high-end stock photography sites. If you can't find what you're looking for, hire a photographer to create your desired photos. If that doesn't work, skip the stock photo. It's better to not use any photos than to use the wrong photos.

6. Fancy fonts

Fancy fonts have a place on some websites. For example, if your website is related to weddings, you can use a fancy script font to make your site stand out. However, you don't want to use fancy fonts for your web page content.

All of your web content should be easy to read and presented in a simple font. Sometimes, fancy font headings are appropriate for creative websites but not for business or serious websites.

If you want to be persuasive, use Baskerville for your font. A writer and filmmaker named Errol Morris created a New York Times quiz that was actually an experiment to see which font was most persuasive.

Over 45,000 people took the quiz. The results showed that Baskerville was most agreeable, while Helvetica, Georgia, and the dreaded Comic Sans were the least agreeable.

7. Excessive or poorly designed pop-ups

Email marketing is a must in today's world, and pop-ups are a great way to get people to sign up for your mailing list.

According to, the average pop-up conversion rate is 3.09%, but around 3% of people achieve more than 11%.

Pop-ups can be effective, but not when users are bombarded with multiple pop-ups at once or pop-ups that are poorly designed. explains that high-performing pop-ups contain the following elements:

  • Clear context
  • A time delay before appearing
  • A clear headline
  • A clear value being offered
  • A call-to-action (CTA) that matches the offer
  • Exit pop-ups have an overwhelmingly valuable offer

If you're going to employ pop-ups on your website, make sure to create them intentionally.

8. Horizontal scrolling

Once in a while, you'll come across a website intentionally designed to scroll left to right. While these sites seem fun, the novelty wears off quickly.

Avoid horizontal scrolling on your website, even when it's part of your design idea. Stick to vertical scrolling. While creativity is sometimes good, scrolling is too fundamental to the web browsing experience to change.

9. Fancy, complicated navigation

With few exceptions, websites don't do well with busy, chaotic, random, or hidden navigation. For instance, imagine a website that presents visitors with an image of planets in space on the home page, and each planet is a link. However, none of the planets are labeled and some of the tiny, scattered stars are also links.

This type of design will seem fun for a minute, but if visitors can only browse the website with this navigation, they'll click around a few times and bounce.

Avoid complicated navigation and stick to basic menus. You can make your menus look great by playing around with the spacing, colors, fonts, and more. Just like scrolling, navigation is fundamental to the web browsing experience and becomes a burden when it's too creative.

10. Using a hamburger menu for your main menu

Hamburger menus were created to make navigation mobile-friendly.

Most people use mobile devices to access the internet, but many people still use desktops and laptops.

If you're going to use a hamburger menu, make sure it only shows up for your mobile visitors as part of a responsive design.

11. Parallax scrolling

Too much parallax scrolling can not only harm page speed, it's a web design mistake that can be distracting from the content's main purpose. Some parallax is helpful, some is distracting and loads poorly.

12. Infinite scrolling

Infinite scrolling is appropriate for social media but not your website. With infinite scrolling, you lose the opportunity to have a footer. Your footer is part of your conversion strategy and is heavily used for navigation.

When visitors are searching for links that aren't in your main menu, your footer is the first place they'll look. With infinite scrolling, they'll never get to the bottom of your site.

If you have a footer and infinite scrolling, visitors will see your footer pop up and disappear as they scroll, which will only frustrate them further.

13. Text saved as an image

It's best to hire a professional graphic designer to create your visual elements or images. If you create your own images, there is a web design process for saving and optimizing your images to ensure that text doesn't appear fuzzy. With .jpg files, antialiasing causes this problem.

Photos are better than .jpg files, while graphics are better than .png files. However, if you're not able to get your images smoothly, hire a professional graphic artist.

14. Vague headings

Visitors will scan your web pages to see if they're in the right place. Your headings are an opportunity to grab a visitor's attention and show them what your web page is about.

15. A pre-made privacy policy

Your privacy policy needs to reflect your use of data. A stock privacy policy is unlikely to reflect the specifics of how you collect, store, and manage data.

When starting with a pre-made privacy policy, use it as a template. Modify the verbiage to reflect exactly how you manage visitor and customer data, including how you will respond to GDPR-related requests to permanently delete someone's data.

16. Homemade product photos

The way your products appear to visitors can make or break your sales. If your product images are taken at home, on the kitchen table with your iPhone, you're not going to get the sales you deserve.

Hire a professional to take photos of your product. Professional photographers will know exactly how to position your products and use proper lighting to make your products look good.

Get a professionally designed custom website from our expert design team

Having a great website will transform your business. Your website is often the first interaction you have with your customers and is an opportunity to make a great first impression.

Your website isn't just a static calling card – it's an opportunity to build rapport with your market and influence them into action. Whether you're collecting email addresses or generating sales, a better website will produce better results.

At, we'll build a website that will help you grow your business and your revenue. Our team of expert developers brings plenty of experience to the table in virtually every industry. If you're ready to improve your results, contact us today to learn more about our web development services.

Timothy Carter
Chief Revenue Officer

Timothy Carter is the Chief Revenue Officer. Tim leads all revenue-generation activities for website design and web development activities. He has helped to scale sales teams with the right mix of hustle and finesse. Based in Seattle, Washington, Tim enjoys spending time in Hawaii with family and playing disc golf.

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