The 7 Biggest Website Design Blunders for Startups (and How to Avoid Them)


If you want to start a business, you better have a website. At the same time, too many startups make the mistakes of diving in headfirst even after acknowledging that basic fact. In the process, they make mistakes that are difficult to rectify at a later time.

The truth is that you don’t just need a website, you need a good one. That means strategically approaching the concept, understanding its nuances, and building an online presence designed to fit into both your brand and audience pain points. At the same time, it also means avoiding these 7 web design blunders other startups frequently commit.

1) Building From the Inside Out

You know what you need. You know what you want on your website. So you build it from an internal perspective, adding content where you think it makes sense in a way that seems logical to you.

The problem: you cannot expect the same from your audience. Build your website from an insider perspective, and chances are your visitors jump off after not finding what they’re looking for.

Avoid this Blunder By: Doing Your Research

Fortunately, this mistake is easy to correct. You need to understand your audience’s perspective. Yes, your own opinion matters too. But your audience matters more. Before even starting the design, understand basic facts about your likely visitor demographics and pain points. That way, you can build the entire online presence from your audience’s perspective.

2) Failing to Consider Multiple Devices

When you build a website, chances are you’re working from a desktop computer. As a result, everything you see–images, layouts, and more–will be optimized for that device.

But here’s the problem: your audience interacts with online materials differently. More than half of all web traffic is now mobile. If a visitor on a smartphone sees your desktop-only site, chances are they jump off quickly.

Avoid this Blunder By: Committing to Responsive Design

Traditionally, the answer to this blunder has been building a mobile-friendly site in addition to your ‘regular’ alternative. Those days are long over. Responsive design automatically adjusts layout, images, and text to the screen size of your visitors. In an age when Google will soon start to rank all of its search results based on mobile friendliness, responsive design has become the new norm.

3) Considering SEO After the Design

Building a website is essential. Search engine optimization is a marketing tactic. So naturally, you should build your site first, and then start to think about SEO, right?

Wrong. Considering that 51% of all organic traffic to the average website comes from Google, you have to prioritize it from the start. If you don’t, you quite literally risk losing half of your traffic.

Avoid this Blunder By: Building Your SEO Strategy From the Start

Again, the solution is simple. Even as you begin to build your website, start doing your SEO research. That means finding the keywords with the perfect balance of search traffic and competition, and building those keywords into your content. It also means building your technical on-page SEO pieces, and allowing Google to crawl your site as soon as it goes live.

4) Overloading Your Website

Don’t let your website become your content deposit. Doing so risks content overload, in which case your audience won’t be able to see the forest for the trees. You can be almost sure that they’ll jump off before they find what they’re looking for.

The same thing is true for your add-ons. Many website builders allow you to add flashy integrations, from animations to embedded maps or social media widgets. Some of them are great marketing tools, but if you implement too many without carefully considering performance, you may slow down your site–losing significant traffic and even revenue as a result.

Avoid this Blunder By: Strategically Considering Content

To avoid this mistake, turn your content into a strategy. Use the audience insights gained in the first step to understand exactly what type of content you should include. Consider add-ins from a performance as well as a feature perspective. Make a content plan before the actual design starts, and stick to it.

5) Getting Your Audience Lost

As mentioned above, this is almost a given if you have too much content. But even when you streamline that part of your online presence, you’re not necessarily out of trouble.

If you’re not careful, your audience can get lost on your website. You likely have some conversion points you want them to get to. If they can’t find them, even the best content is worthless. Again, they jump before you have a chance to convince or convert them.

Avoid this Blunder By: Building a Better Navigation

Here, navigation is key to success. Make sure that you keep it simple, and make every header obvious as it relates to the content your audience will find. Guide your audience through your site in a natural flow, using call-to-action buttons to guide them to the next logical step. A search function can do wonders in making sure that your visitors can quickly find what they want, when they want it.

6) Creating a Bland Online Presence

All of the above may cause you to go safe. You keep your website simple, with few pages to navigate. You choose stock images that seem like a perfect fit for and representation of your visitors. And yet, your audience still doesn’t respond to it. What happened?

Most likely, you went too far. A bland online presence will not cause your audience to stick with you. Given increasingly short attention spans, they’ll leave, find something more exciting to look at, and probably not consider your business again.

Avoid this Blunder By: Treating Visuals as a Core Design Piece

The easy answer to avoiding this blunder is enhancing the visual aspect of your web design. Bold colors can do wonders, as can dynamic images and animations. Of course, you cannot go overboard and have to avoid overload. But simply making sure that your website is as visually appealing as it is functional can do wonders.

7) Taking on the Project Yourself

First, a note: if you have web design or development experience, building your own website is perfectly fine. Most startup owners, of course, don’t. They try to use out-of-the-box solutions that claim to serve their needs.

Reality, unfortunately, often looks different from expectations. If you take on this type of project yourself, you risk never getting out of the weeds. And if you do use a ready-made solution, your website might look identical to your biggest competitor. The lesson is simple: never take on a project as complex as website design by yourself.

Avoid this Blunder By: Getting Help Where Needed

Instead, find external help where your own expertise lacks. Sail on Land, for example, specializes in helping startups like yours. If you’re on a tight budget and worry you won’t be able to afford an external solution, a combination of agency help and self-service can work almost as well and certainly works better than attempting to go it alone. A CMS like WordPress allows you to add and update content yourself while the agency can handle any necessary configuration and design changes.

Don’t take startup web design lightly. Too many new businesses do, turning it into the achilles heel of their intended growth. Instead, approach it strategically. As long as you make sure you avoid the above blunders, you’ll be well on your way to a successful online presence that can serve your startup for the foreseeable future.

About The Author

Mike Ciance

Mike Ciance

Mike is the Founder & CEO of Sail On Land. With more than 9 years of experience building websites professionally, he's worked on everything from small websites to enterprise-grade web applications.