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5 reasons your website design falls flat (and how to fix it)

You’ve landed the client, you’ve taken the brief, and you’ve created the most gorgeous, innovative, and on-trend website. Quite frankly, it simply rocks! But why isn’t it hitting the mark? The bounce rate is high and the time spent is lower than ideal.

It’s happened to the best of us, the design has led the project and now is time to investigate why it’s not delivering.

Your website design can be right on-trend and have all the hallmarks of a great site, but does it work functionally? Have you taken the time to get to know your users and what your client wants from them? Ultimately understanding your key users and responding to their needs and desires will lead to a site that is intuitive, logical, and delivers a user experience that will keep them coming back.

To help you through the usual pitfalls, we’ve lined up the top 5 reasons your design falls flat and explain how you can fix it.

Thanks to our friends at Optimal Workshop for sponsoring this blog post!

1. You don’t understand your user

Who are you designing for? Yes, you received the brief, the job, and the payment from your client, but this is only a piece of the puzzle. Your real audience is the end user. The ones who will interact with your client. What will make them want to know more, buy more, or just spend their valuable time and attention? What makes your user tick? What drives them to come visit your website in the first place? And what can you do with your design to make them stay?

Lots of questions, and your client should be able to lay most of these answers out for you. They should know their clients/customers better than anyone (if they can get out of their own way with how the design looks).

📌 How to fix it

Although it would be best to do user experience (UX) research upfront, before starting on the design, it doesn’t always work out that way. To get a clear picture of your user, it’s important to ask your client various questions before starting up your Mac.

But if you need to retrofit a fix to your design, try searching questions like: What do your users like? Not like? What do they expect to see? And what is really going to turn them off? Do they have accessibility needs?

Having a clear picture of who your users are will help define you define a layout, colors, fonts, and even the wireframe. Tree testing and card sorting are easy tools for identifying opportunities for improvement.

2. There’s a lack of user engagement

User engagement. That’s the golden chalice. The ultimate goal is to capture the user’s attention and get them to spend time on the site, completing tasks, and filling their carts with your clients’ products.

But why isn’t this happening? Did you know that if we don’t grab our user’s attention in the first 3 seconds of landing on the site, then we will lose them (probably for good)? Making sure that first click opportunities are right there and easy to find is key.

📌 How to fix it

Look at your key landing pages, including the homepage, and check out where users are clicking. Is there a clear next step forward? Is it easy to find and follow? Does the website answer the questions of why a user will land in the first place and address what your client wants the user to do? Create signposts for users to follow that are well labeled and make the next step clear.

3. It’s just not intuitive

How’s your Information Architecture (IA)? Have you thought it through? Have you considered how your user thinks and the words they use? Is your IA in a language that makes sense to the users?

If your users aren’t intuitively able to find their way around your website, they will get lost. Think of the navigation as a signpost directing the user to find what they are looking for. If the website is not designed in their ‘language’ or doesn’t appear how they expect to find it, they will move on (likely to another site).

📌 How to fix it

Research your user, and understand what they are looking for and how. What are common terms they might be expecting to see? For instance, make sure the “About Us” or “Contact Us” sections are easy to find on the home page. And when they click through, ensure the content found on the page addresses their needs. Be clear, concise, and make it easy for users to follow.

4. The site is low on usability

Oh no! Your site looks gorgeous and on brand, but it loads way too slowly, especially on mobile. The bounce rate is super high for mobile users. What’s gone wrong and how can you fix it? Likely the site is full of high-resolution images and packed with multimedia. While this is great for engagement, it could be significantly slowing your site down.

📌 How to fix it

Take a look at the site design. Are the images beautiful but all high resolution? Try reducing the resolution or pick the very best and lose the rest. Multimedia is brilliant in this world of video, however, these can be housed outside of your site, reducing the strain on your loading time.

5. Your design doesn’t accurately reflect your client’s business

Who is paying the bill? Sometimes your client may get too caught up in an awesome-looking website that has all of the bells and whistles, losing sight of what they are selling and who they are selling to.

When designing your website, never lose sight of the end-user and their needs. Fonts, organization, and labeling are all important. Your client’s website is a microcosm of them—a storefront that should look and behave like them. When a user arrives at the website, it should feel familiar, otherwise, those precious first 3 seconds will be confusing and your user will disappear.

📌 How to fix it

To help users see what they expect to see, create clear and consistent logos, colors, and fonts that align with the client’s existing branding. Only use images and content that tell the client’s story. Delete all random images that serve no purpose other than reducing your website speed. Although various landing pages can differ depending on their purpose, they should all feel part of the same family. This doesn’t mean you can’t push the design a little, but keep it close to your client.

Want to know more?

Do you want to understand your users better? Optimal Workshop is a user research platform that helps designers understand users’ wants and needs. We have the UX research tools to help you build a website with an information architecture that is intuitive and design sites that not only look great but deliver on first click, usability, and user journey completion. Get to know us a bit better!

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