The 10 Biggest Mistakes We Make Designing Websites

iD Tech in action

Mistake 1:  Design Starts on the Computer.  Wrong!

When we do it best, we draw it first. Napkins.  Blank paper.  Designs start with concepts and ideas and blanks sheets of paper.  We have to force ourselves to step away from our computers and mobile phones.  We turn on the Enya.  And just draw.  I can attest, you don’t have to be the artist—but you can be the architect. Find a space to listen to your own ideas—places you feel inspired.  On the beach.  At a café.  Over drinks.  In a new setting.  Whatever works for you.  Creativity is a process—and you need to carve out an inspirational place without distraction.

Jimmy Lounge

Mistake 2:  We can research later.  Wrong!

Take several days to just explore your favorite websites.  What are you favorite brands?  What design elements do you like?  Often, my team gets super eager to just jump on the computer and start designing, but we forget to do our homework first.  Spending time to simply explore the web—it’s invaluable.  Look at properties on both your desktop AND your mobile phone.  How is the look and feel?  How is the navigation?  Is there a clear call to action?  Assuming your will be working with a web designer, taking screenshots of your favorite webpages can go a long way in creating ever-elusive clarity between you and your designer.

Nina and Noel

Mistake 3:  I know this business better than anyone.  I don’t need to listen.  Wrong!

We constantly need to listen to our customers.  What do they want?  Why are they calling?  What trouble are they having on the site?  What is the process for taking all the feedback and making it actionable?  I can speak from experience...listening is hard work.  I still get cc’d on every single client email.  Why?  Because I care deeply about what clients are saying and experiencing.  And we can constantly improve their experiences—and our website is a big part of that overall experience.

noel hands

Mistake 4:  Outside Web Designers know more about our business than we do.  Wrong!

Outsourced web designers need direction.  Nobody knows our biz better than we do.  Our website should be a personal reflection of our ideas, products and services.  Too often, our ideas get hijacked because we think somebody else knows better.  Somebody else is the expert.  We have to have conviction in our own expertise.

Wall Mock Ups

Mistake 5:  They need to know every detail!  Wrong.

“Don’t muck it up.”  The simpler and crisper our messaging, the better.  If we try to say everything, we say nothing.  Create a priority list of the top 10 things you want to convey on your site, in order, from 1-10.  Is your site design reflecting those priorities?  Less is more.  Less is more.  Less is more.


Mistake 6:  We need 25 calls to action.  Wrong!

Similar to Mistake 5, Mistake 6 shows that we ourselves do not know what our priorities are. What do we precicely want our clients to do from our home page?  From our landing pages?  In the early days, we had over 25 calls to action on our homepage.  Saying everything is easy.  Saying just what you need to say—that is art.  It’s hard to keep it simple.  But effective.  People are too busy to have to guess how to navigate through your site.  Lead them by the hand.  Step by step.  With clear buttons and simple choices.

Mistake 7:  Stock Images will do. Wrong!

Photography matters more than we think.  Think that stock photo will cut it?  For some reason, we can almost always tell when it’s stock photo—and that can suck the life out of the credibility of your site.  Photography and video says a lot about your company—and how much thought you put into it really matters.  Take the time to get good photography.  Take the time to storyboard your shot selection to match the content of your pages.  Too often, photography is an afterthought.  We’ve learned this lesson the hard way.

Mistake 8: My design team knows all about Search Engine Optimization.  Wrong!

Think your design team is thinking about Search Engine Optimization?  Site speed?  Deep links?  Proper URL structure?  You better find out!   Designers want to design for beauty and functionality—look and feel.  But the content you incorporate into you site, the underlying engineering, and the way the site connects to the web—that is a very different skill set.  I’ve never found just one person who is master of all—good at design, development, SEO, UI, UX, project management, responsive design, graphic design, etc.  Take the time to map out who owns which portions of the development project.  Planning is fundamental in order to avoid costly change orders.

Mistake 9:  I don’t have time to look at Google Analytics.  Wrong!

Sometimes looking at the amazing data provided by Google Analtyics—it can be overwhelming.  But it is crucial and fundamental to look at the data regularly.  Are you looking at basic measures found in Google Analytics such as bounce rate, conversions, etc?  If you aren’t looking at this data, how can you make your site better?

Mistake 10:  “We’re done!”  Wrong!

On the WWW, we are never done.  We have just begun. As soon as we launch our site, it will become dated, and we need to start thinking about changes we want to incorporate into the next iteration of the site.  We don’t have to always blow our site out of the water year after year—but we do have to evolve as technologies change.  Just a year ago, I had never heard of “responsive design.”  Now I’m more of an expert—as is my entire team.  In just 12 months, 12% of our sales are now coming from mobile devices, up from 1% just a year ago.  This is a small example of a ship that would have sailed had we not evolved our site.


Designing a website is an iterative process.  It has to be massaged. The more thought you put in on the front end (planning, research, storyboarding), the less time you will spend in wasted time, money and heartache.   You need time and space to plan and create.  Learn from our mistakes.



PS…the more you learn about perfecting the process, the more fun developing a website will be.  I’m having a blast as we start solidifying our plans for next year.

Oh, and for my next blog post, I will be teaching a tutorial on how to unravel these things:


A photo of Pete

Pete has been at the helm of iD since 2000. He resides in Silicon Valley. Pete has a love of design and is passionate about creating memorable experiences for kids. By day he is CEO, by night he is a youth soccer coach and chef of the house. Pete studied at UW in Seattle and worked abroad in Spain. He is fluent in Spanish, but his kids think otherwise. The best part of the job? Seeing the kids advance from tech novices to studying at top Universities and landing big-time jobs.