The Best Converting Websites Don’t Make These 4 Design Mistakes

The Best Converting Websites Don’t Make These 4 Design Mistakes Featured Image

You’re up to speed on the latest design features. And that site of yours sure does look pretty…

There’s no doubt about it: A beautifully designed site puts forth a professional feel and gives you the upper hand over poorly designed competitor websites.

But did you do your research first before implementing that awesome design? A savvy marketer and their digital marketing agency know that current research shows that some of the latest trending design elements may actually be a hindrance to your conversion rates.

Here are 4 commonly used design elements that the best converting websites avoid in order to keep conversion rates as high as possible.

Rotating Picture Sliders

They sure are pretty and what better way to get several marketing points featured in that prime piece of real estate above the fold, right?

Wrong. Research says otherwise.

While it would seem that fitting several marketing messages into this space would be brilliant, offering too many messages can be overwhelming to your visitors.

Take for example a study conducted by Notre Dame. One of the main goals of your website should be to get visitors to engage with the site. However, this study revealed that rotating picture sliders yielded very little engagement.

In fact, only 1 percent of visitors actually engaged with the picture slider at all.

Notre Dame Website Slider Study
Image courtesy

Those are horrible statistics. The chart above shows that visitors really only engaged with the first slide and paid next to no attention to any of the other four.

That should give anyone second thoughts regarding combining several marketing messages in one space.

If visitors aren’t even engaging, then the space is just wasted.

There are several reasons why rotating picture sliders may not work:

  1. As mentioned, rotating picture sliders may offer too many messages. When you’re cramming so many messages down your visitors’ throats, you’re offering no message at all.
  2. The human eye focuses on movement. Because of this, visitors may be more focused on the movement than the actual messages presented.
  3. Rotating picture sliders may have developed the same effect that banners have on visitors — banner blindness. This means that they are largely ignored.
  4. Most designers set their picture sliders too fast. There’s not enough time for visitors to actually read each slide before being pulled into the next slide.
  5. The above point creates frustration. The last thing you want to do is frustrate your visitors. They want to feel in control of their experience on your site. This takes away control.

Usability expert, Jakob Nielsen conducted a study to see if visitors could remember a few basic questions about the slides that were presented to them in a picture slider.

He found that the visitors had a very difficult time answering these questions because there was not enough time to absorb that which they were viewing.

Now all of this information doesn’t mean you have to immediately part with your rotating picture slider. (But you should split test the effectiveness of its removal.)

Here are a couple of ways you can optimize your slider:

  1. Make sure that visitors can actually absorb each slide’s message by slowing down the speed.
  2. Give your visitors control by providing prompts should they choose to move on to subsequent slides.

The Hamburger Menu

It’s really pretty new. The menu derives its nickname from the fact that it appears to look like a hamburger patty between two buns:

The Hamburger Menu

The thought is, again, that it creates good use of space.

The problem with this thinking is what if your visitors don’t know what it is? What if they don’t click it?

The main navigation bar is the central hub to your entire site. It’s what helps your visitors find what they are looking for and get around your site.

If you hide this important piece behind a hamburger menu icon, you’re risking that they will never see your navigation menu at all.

What could that mean to you? Possible lost sales.

The hamburger menu isn’t a complete design faux pas. It may have its purpose, if used in the right way.

Mobile site designs do very much need to make the most of the little space that is given to visitors. So consider testing its use here. However, it is recommended that you do at least include the word “Menu” so that visitors will know what this icon represents.

Stock Photography

Again, this is another commonly used design element. Maybe you’ve used stock photography on your own site. I mean, why wouldn’t designers utilize it? Where else can you find such professionally taken images to enhance the quality of your website?

Some of it is great. But some of it is not so great.

Have you seen this woman before?

Stock Photo Girl

Have you been on a site where you’ve seen a picture of an operator waiting to help you online? Only, wait. You’ve seen that exact same operator on several other sites. Like maybe 100 other sites?

Uh oh. Now the jig is up.

How does using stock photography in this way hurt your website’s credibility? People will quickly realize that the operator you are presenting as your own is not really your operator at all.

If she is, she’s a very busy woman. It’s not likely that she could be working for so many sites at once. In such instances, it’s better to use images of the actual people working on your behalf.

Stock photography isn’t the kiss of death in all cases. Just be sure to use it wisely.

Left-Hand Menu Bars

Now, this isn’t a newer design element. In fact, it’s really pretty old. A lot of sites were using left hand navigation bars a decade ago.

Just take a look at the heat maps below, which reveal that very little focus is given to the left-hand menu.

Heat Maps

As you can see, most of the focus is given to the main content and the main navigation menu bar above it.

This comes as somewhat of a surprise considering a left-hand menu bar would seem to enhance navigation with a secondary set of choices.

But that’s the problem: Sometimes too many choices can be overwhelming to visitors and they may just be tuning this menu out and focusing on their primary goals.

Another thought is that using it creates a columned effect to the Web page. Columns can break up the flow. You’ll see a lot of sites these days using the entire layout of a site from left to right with no columns whatsoever.

If you think breaking design up into columns doesn’t have an effect, guess again. Even the smallest creation of columns in a form can slow down visitors.

That’s when designers put the form field label to the left of the field as opposed to above the field.

UX Matters did a study on this very subject and found that it slowed visitors down because form fields go from top to bottom. Therefore, placing the field name above the field kept that even flow.

But again, this is something worth testing. There are many e-commerce sites that use a main navigation menu along with a secondary left-hand menu bar that lists all of their products beneath a product category.

They can’t all be wrong. So this is something that you should surely test.


So what is the moral of this story? Do a little research before you implement new design elements. The design of your website is the foundation of your business’ presentation to the world online.

Sure, some of them are sharp and trendy, but sometimes certain design elements can have the opposite effect of what you’re trying to accomplish online — sales.

Designers may have the best of intentions when making the most of limited space, but trying to squeeze so much into a small space, or trying to make the most of that space, may do more harm than good.

It could actually be killing your conversions.

Just because something is trendy doesn’t mean it’s effective. This does not mean that you should shut out every new trend, but it does mean that you should at least split-test it to see if each design element will work in your favor.

If you’re not sure if a design element is worth testing, or if you you need help implementing split-testing, Digital Current can help. Our strategists can help you put together a website conversion strategy that will boost traffic and your bottom line.

Reserve Your 1-On-1 Conversion Strategy Consultation Now

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