Jarrod Medrano // Feb 17 2012
Whether you are designing a website, a banner, or a flyer for a magician, you’ve probably thought this to yourself at some point: “Why isn’t this design working? Is it because nobody likes magicians?” The answer to that question is yes, but chances are, you are also making one of these six common design mistakes. You would be surprised how often fixing the small stuff can spur you on to creating a great design.
Say you are creating a landing page for a product. You could have a beautiful landing page with lots of great information on it, but if the user can’t find out where to buy your widget, they will quickly abandon your page. The call to action should be the most prominent item on your page, and the user shouldn’t have to scroll down to see it.
One of the most basic mistakes new designers make is not aligning things correctly. For example if you have a heading, a paragraph, and a button, they should all line up vertically. Breaking the user’s line of sight will make your page confusing and difficult to read.
If you have 3 boxes, the space between each box should be equal.
The easiest way to make something look tacky is to add several outlandish fonts and colors that don’t match. Less is always more. It may be helpful to start out in black and white, and then add colors gradually. Generally, you’ll only need one to four fonts in any given design.
So you’ve designed your page and everything looks great, but nobody can read it because you are using black text on a purple background. If you want to play it safe, a white background with black text will always work. You can sometimes get away with the reverse, but you will always take a hit in readability.
Contrast can also help the user differentiate between parts of your website. If your sidebar looks the same as your main content, the user won’t know where he’s supposed to look.
Sometimes the things you can’t see are as important as the ones you can. This one is easy to miss, but it can potentially ruin your design. Trapped white space is like a hole in your shirt. Everybody will stare at the hole, not the shirt around it.
Arrows are everywhere, and we have been trained to follow them, sometimes to disastrous results. If you put an arrow on your website, make sure that it is pointing inward. Keep in mind that an arrow is not always an actual arrow. It can be anything that directs the viewer’s eye gaze. It could even be as simple as a picture of a bird or a man.
Subtle differences can often make or break your design. If you have the feeling that something is not quite right, but you can’t quite figure out what it is, you might be making one of these mistakes. Leave a comment if you’ve seen other basic design flaws that often go unnoticed.
Jarrod has lent his extensive experience in web design, HTML, CSS and more to Portent for over 6 years. Read More