Designing a website can be a deceptively difficult task. To your average person it can seem so easy, especially with the recent popularity in minimalist designs. Take a look at DT Media’s homepage. It’s a grey bar with a bit of text, and a lot of empty space. It certainly looks good, but it’s so simple! It’s easy to think “Why would I pay a designer to do that when I/ my children/ my grandma/ my neighbours dog could easily do that for free?” Many other people thought the same thing …and the result? Well I won’t post any examples here out of respect for the website owners, but a quick Google search will show you what I mean.

Instead I’m going to make a list of the most common mistakes found in ugly designs, and use them to create the most horrifyingly awful website possible. If your website includes any of the following points, it’s probably time to hire a new designer.

1. Obnoxious Backgrounds
There are a few challenges to think about when choosing the right kind of background for your website. Is it too busy? Do the colours work with the rest of the layout? Does it make it hard to read text? Will it look good on different sized monitors? Well bad designers throw all of that out the window. Say hello to bright colours, busy images, multicoloured gradients, and the best of the worst; tiled blinking .GIF backgrounds. It’s enough to make anyone’s eyes burn.

2. Bad Font Choices
People love to get crazy with font choices. Power up Microsoft Word and take a look at the all the options you have. Exciting isn’t it? You might like the fun and friendly look of the curly one, or the super-fancy-detailed one. Unfortunately, not all of these fonts are suitable for a professional website, and many of them are a nightmare for designers to work with. Another common font mistake is to use too many. It’s generally a good idea to pick 2 – 3 fonts that work well together, and use them consistently for specific purposes. (ex. font 1 is used for headings, font 2 is used for body copy, font 3 is used for quotes.) A bad website will mix and match different kinds of fonts all over. It’s pretty confusing, and damn right ugly.

3. Bad Colour Choices
This is another example where “less is more.” A general rule for colour in design is to pick 2 – 3 colours; 1 main colour and accents that work well with it. It’s certainly okay to use more than 3 colours if it’s done tastefully, but it’s not surprising when some websites end up looking like rainbow vomit. This is also where the knowledge of colour theory comes in handy. Some colours go well together, others don’t. Mashing a bunch of random colours together “because you like them,” doesn’t usually end well.

4. Bad Image Choices
We’ve covered how to choose good quality images in a previous article. To quickly sum it up; avoid using small/ stretched/ blurry/ grainy/ badly lit photos. All of that aside, the worst websites have this strange obsession with clip art. Not just any clip art, the cheapest, the cheesiest, the most bafflingly outdated looking clip art. Nothing says “my website was designed in the 90’s” quite like bad clip art, flashing banners, and those sad animated GIFs.

5. Over the Top Special Effects
With technology and the web evolving so fast, it has become much easier to include special effects on our websites. In the hands of the right person; effects like drop shadows, borders, and gradients can add some nice subtle details to a design. In the wrong hands… things tend to get out of hand quickly. Bad designers don’t know the meaning of subtlety. And did I mention lens flare? Good old lens flare.

6. Poor Layout
It might surprise you to hear that the majority of design isn’t the pretty things like colour, or the images. It’s all in the layout. The rest of it is merely the cherry on top. There are rules and guidelines to follow when designing a layout. That doesn’t stop bad designers from creating cluttered, poorly aligned monstrosities. To create a good web experience we need structure, organization, and clarity. Sections should be aligned with each other and have even spacing on all sides.

So what happens when we combine all the worst mistakes in web design? Ladies and Gentleman, I present the worlds worst website design.

The worst website ever

This is admittedly a pretty extreme example of bad design. Chances are you won’t see many sites like this without looking. However I wish I was joking when I say sites that look like this are out there. Although this is only the very very (very) tip of the iceberg when it comes to web design, I hope you’ve learned a little bit about what to look out for.


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