There are no doubt a great number of talented and skilled web professionals out there. It would be a lie for us at SmartGuys Design to say that we don’t have some really great competition! Many of whom have greatly inspired us and left their creative impact on the web! But there are without a doubt a lot of bad web designers out there whom just aren’t thinking artistically or in regards for coding semantics and whom are truly creating Bad Design.

We at SmartGuys Design want to draw attention to a few of the red flags that we’ve seen in the web design world that will hopefully help you avoid the signs and symptoms of a bad web design.


  1. Pixelation.

    Nothing bugs us more than seeing pixelated images. A web designer’s job is to understand how to use scale and understandings of resolution for images going onto a web page. Images that are scaled up beyond their ideal viewing resolution will appear pixelated. If you’ve got a pixelated flurry of images on your website, brace yourself: you might be victim of bad web design.

  2. Lack of Transparency.

    Another common symptom of bad web design is lack of transparency when there ought to be transparency. For example, if one was generating a logo image, they ought to consider the use of that image and take transparency into an effect. If the image is not designed with transparency, it might look nice on the web page, but the moment it is taken to another medium — or anything with another background color other than white — it won’t look so nice anymore.

  3. Broken forms, broken links, lack of testing.

    Nothing is more frustrating than broken functionality. Have you ever filled out an online form only to receive an error and waste your time? How about clicking important links only to receive a 404, page not found, error? How about opening the page in Internet Explorer and seeing a whole mess of overlap and confusion on the page? These are the signs and symptoms of bad web design. Your web designer likely failed to: test forms, check links, check for browser-compatibility. Just like your kitchen at home needs a little, “TLC” from time-to-time, some maintenance love for your website can go a long way.

  4. Color clashes or bad text color choice for poor reading visibility

    Another sign and symptom of a bad web is designer: color clashes. The eye-ball version of nails screeching on a chalk-board. Aaahhh, my eyes! Color choice is really important. Just like when we pick out our clothes for the day, we want hues to match, or if we’re really hip, we want to even accomplish something by those color choices. Even if your web designer is not this deep, it’s important to make good decisions with color that will be soft on the viewers eyes, or that will ensure the clean and clear visibility of text. If you’re website viewers are straining because of the wavelengths of light you’ve reflected at them via your color choice, or if they’re nose is almost touching the screen to read your text, you’ve been hit by bad design!

  5. No Metadata, Metadescriptions or Keywords.

    Metadata, metadescriptions and keywords provide information about your website to search engine robots and the other digital creatures that trawl through the wired world of the web. These descriptions live in the <head> portion of your website code, and tells search engines (and other web robots) what your website is about. Keywords can exist defined in the <head>, as well as placed within body text. These terms are often chosen to reflect the terms one might use in a search if they were looking for the content. If all of this stuff is missing, search engines have less to go off when placing you amidst search results. This would be considered Bad SEO, a component in bad web design.

  6. Slow or unreliable hosting.

    Bad hosting can make your web experience difficult with poor page loading times and an all-around unpleasant user-experience. If you’re trusting your web designer to do the hosting for you — make sure you’re getting something reliable. If you begin to notice your page load times increasing in ways that are abnormal in comparison to page-load times with other websites — you’re probably hosted on a slow server. If you find your website randomly is unavailable for short periods of time — you’re probably hosted on a poor capacity server. There are many cheap web hosts out there, but finding ones whom provide quality up-time and support are a different story. Get off that slow server and make sure your web designer is giving you adequate hosting with enough bandwidth for your needs!

  7. Hard to locate contact information.

    If people can’t find your telephone number or mailing address, this isn’t good! Believe it or not, it’s not that uncommon. Have you ever had a time when on a website you actually had trouble finding a contact point? One thing to always remember: make it easy for them to find what they need.

  8. Excessive Adobe Flash, animation or the use of other poorly supported technologies.

    We’ve made some flash websites ourselves back in the day. Not even that long ago really. It’s true. At one point in time Flash was a more common approach to the web. Before all of the fancy new browser additions (like jQueryUI or CSS3), it was difficult to create proper animation or visual roll-over effects without a heck of a lot of javascript or technologies like Adobe Flash. But, the world is changing. Many mobile devices and tablets do not support Adobe Flash based animations. The browsers on iPhones for example, have never, and will never, be made to support Adobe Flash technology. If your website is based in Flash, your viewers will see a blank screen. A good web designer will try and choose formats and methods that require the most minimal use of plugins and outside softwares. The more blockages or annoyances you put between your user and their desired content, the more you’ll frustrate people and lose viewers.

  9. Untested for mobile devices.

    It’s important to take the many devices that a webpage can be viewed from into consideration. With a world of smartphones and tablet computers, it’s important to note that not all of your viewers will be visiting your site on a laptop or desktop machine. Some will be doing so from a city bus, or from their couch. One of the fastest growing sectors on the web is mobile. If your web design has not been tested for mobile devices and looks poor, you’re in trouble.  Your web designer isn’t thinking and is missing some crucial details! Considering a large number of your traffic is likely to be mobile, this could make or break your first representation!

  10. Poor Digital Assets (copy text, photography, icons).

    It really is important with your website to take nice photographs, include nice graphics, and to take the proper time to assemble quality ingredients. Just like when preparing a gourmet meal, the better the ingredients, the better the results. A website is no different. If we take a beautiful theme, or a great logo, and fill it with poor imagery and bad photos, we’ll drag down the visual quality and aesthetic of the entire design. Remember, your website is a holistic unit, and the end-result is ultimately made up of the smaller constituents. If your website is full of bad imagery, bad writing and bad graphics, you’re suffering from bad design.

  11. Empty or’Skeleton’ pages, no content.

    Another web design pit-fall is empty, skeleton or no-content pages. All of these terms denote the same thing: a page lacking any real good content, and therefor lacking any real motive for the viewer to be visiting the page. We recommend taking the time to fill in good content, and getting rid of things that aren’t good. The internet is beautiful, but the ease by which information can be copied  and created has watered down the quality. Therefor, we are huge advocates of creating pages with purpose and cutting out the bull. Empty pages and hot air don’t help do anything but take up space. The more worthwhile stuff you give your viewers (like this blog article for example), the more people will have a reason to view your website and find real value in it.

  12. Bad Coding Semantics

    Another prime example of bad web design is the use of bad coding semantics, or the misuse of coding principles, or the complete lack of certain coding principles. Often this involves leaving out opportunities to inject proper keywords in post content and in the code. For example one might use code to display an image in the following way:

    <img src=”” />

    With proper coding semantics and SEO in consideration, one might change the previous line of code to the following:

    <img src=”” alt=”My Business Name Logo” title=”My Business” />

    By adding more information about the image to the code, Google and other search engine-bots when trawling data, will pickup the “alt” and “title information” (My Business Name Logo, and My Business) and will add these descriptions to its cache. This is how search engines work. A good web designer must understand the difference between good and bad coding semantics and how a search engine robot will interpret various website elements.

  13. Mismatching fonts and mismatching font-sizes.

    Fonts are a design element no matter how you want to look at it. They effect the visual representation of things. The large number of fonts out there shows you how important text can truly be to good design. If you see a website with ugly fonts, or with lots of font inconsistencies, you can place your bets on bad web design.

    Font size too makes a difference: Large font sizes are reserved for headings, advertisements or anything else whose aim is to draw visual attention. Small font sizes are reserved for descriptions, paragraphs and smaller tag-lines. The mis-use of font sizes are a common symptom of a wet-behind-the-ears web designer.

Just like anything else, we make mistakes and that’s how we learn. This article should not give the reader the impression that we’ve never made some of these mistakes ourselves. Because we’ve made many of these mistakes! That’s how we learned! If we hadn’t, we would have never learned the proper methods in web design and what a difference these good practices make.

There are surely many more errs than those listed above, however one must understand when building a website that it’s more than just text on a page. A good web designer is thinking in shapes, colors, font choices, spacing, and checking for technical issues of functionality and reliability.

We, SmartGuys Design, wish you the best of luck in avoiding these pit-falls, and hope that now you are more educated and more aware.

If you are suffering from the signs and symptoms of bad design, we recommend a diagnosis by SmartGuys Design for quick and immediate relief!

Please contact us and we’ll tell you how we can help.