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Web design: The good, the bad and the ugly

We discuss the good, the bad and the ugly in web design

  1. Readability
  2. Navigation
  3. Responsiveness
  4. Imagery and Video Content
  5. Brand Identity

Good web design and user experience (UX) can attract more visitors, improve engagement, and boost sales. However, not all web designs are created equal. Some are good, some are bad, and some are, unfortunately, ugly.

It’s almost immediately noticeable when you land on a website that is poorly designed or not optimised for UX. Poorly designed websites can leave a lasting impression, but it’s not the impression you want… Slow, broken and cluttered websites drive customers away and can negatively impact your brand’s reputation. Well-designed websites are engaging, easy to navigate and can leave a positive lasting impression. People choose to invest in organisations they can trust. A clear, informative and helpful website can be the key difference between your organisation and your competitors.

We’ve put together a list of the good, the bad and the ugly in web design, including our website must-haves and pitfalls. The Crucible team is made up of expert website designers, developers and digital marketers. As a digital agency, we aim to provide the best and most up-to-date advice for organisations looking to power up their websites.

Readability

A highly readable website is clear, easy to understand and engages users. Good readability helps users find key messages and actions easily, improving a website’s UX.

Punch Media Website Design

The Punch Media website is especially effective at ensuring the website is easy to understand and clear. Their chosen typography is clear and easy to read and they have used colour effectively to highlight key messages. Headings, subheadings and paragraph text are distinguished through consistent colour and size helping users understand context easily.

💡 Actionable Task: Use legible fonts and keep them consistent throughout your website.

Yale Art School Website Design

The Yale Art School website, on the other hand, is an example of what to avoid, especially when considering readability. In 2010, the website was declared “the year’s suckiest website” by Vincent Flanders. Interestingly, Yale has opened up the website to faculty and students to act as the institution’s Wikipedia, where anyone has the ability to add, delete and edit content. Although given that its target audience are artists, printmakers, sculptors, and other creatives for whom this style reflects eccentricity rather than unprofessionalism and for some ‘ironically bad’, the website is difficult to understand and navigate.

💡 Actionable Task: Use contrasting colours like black text on a white background, making it easier for users to scan and read text.

Users should be able to find what they’re looking for effortlessly. Use clear and intuitive navigation menus, a clear and structured information architecture. Incorporate effective calls-to-action to guide visitors through your site.

Wild Deodorant Website Design

The Wild website has been thoughtfully designed with the user at the forefront. Their time is prioritised and users can quickly and easily select their desired products with minimal distractions, getting them to their website goals faster.

Gardening Direct Website Design

The Gardening Direct website hasn’t provided a useful hierarchy to the design, to help the user understand what aspects are most important to interact with. Simple changes can drastically improve a site’s navigation, which can be optimised for the user experience and their journeys by further segmentation of products and better differentiation between pages. Landing on the homepage of the website, users might feel quite overwhelmed by the number of options available making it harder to find what they need quickly and easily.

Craigslist Website Design

Another example of an overwhelming website is Craigslist – known for its lack of aesthetic quality and, depending on the user and whether they have visited the site before, its surprising ease of use. That being said, the Craigslist site has also been lauded by some critics as being clear, straightforward and usable. Understanding whether this sort of site is right for your users is where defining good user personas comes in.

💡 Actionable Task: Conduct a usability test with representative users of your website to ensure they can easily navigate to key sections.

We go into more detail in our B2B Websites That Convert Handbook, which is completely free to download. Simply hit the button below and we’ll send it over to your email!

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Responsiveness

It’s no surprise that websites must be responsive for mobile and other device viewports to be successful across a wide user base. In fact, 58.99% of global website traffic in 2022 was mobile. Website designers and developers are putting more emphasis than ever on creating responsive designs from the get-go to ensure it is truly mobile-friendly.

Patch Plants Mobile Website Design

For example, Patch sells and delivers plants to your door and the website has been designed mobile-first, with responsiveness as a priority. The majority of their audiences will be browsing their products on their mobile phones or tablets, so their website needs to be able to cater to all screen sizes and uses. The website is modern, clean and easy to use and on mobile devices, it is clear and frictionless with an extremely simple product search function.

Goodreads mobile website

Designing a website which is responsive for all platforms can be challenging and sometimes even larger organisations get it wrong. Goodreads is the one-stop shop for book lovers all over the world. Millions of users access Goodreads every day to review books and get recommendations. It’s an effective website on desktop, however, its mobile site is difficult to navigate on smaller screens.

Typically, sites which have more options and functionalities become more challenging on smaller screens – so complex management portals can become unwieldy to design for mobile devices. However, the volume of purchases made via e-commerce on mobile continues to skyrocket, proving the importance of such planning.

💡 Actionable Task: Test and then re-test your website on multiple devices to check for areas of improvement.

Imagery and Video Content

First impressions matter and your website’s visual content will be one of the first things users will judge your site on. High-quality images, balanced colour schemes and engaging content help make your website visually appealing to your target audience. The images you choose to use on your website should represent your organisation. For example, if you are selling property, you should invest in high-quality property photography.

T2 Website Design

T2 is a tea brand that sells speciality tea and tea products both in-store and online. The T2 website is successful at incorporating high-quality images of its products that align with its brand identity. Visually, the website is colourful, bright and engaging, and as a user, it’s easy to understand what the images are being used for. The site is effective at balancing the type of content with its brand identity such as the wellness imagery on the homepage. It is tailored to the ‘wellness’ space but the images still resonate with T2’s brand identity.

Zara brand identity

However, visual identity can be challenging for large brands that need to be able to cater to a much wider audience. Zara is regularly criticised for its use of bizarre imagery to showcase their clothes. Their ‘quirky’ product imagery has generated discussions online, often going viral and attracting new users to the site but shoppers are left confused and frustrated when browsing the site. Although out of the ordinary, this style of imagery manages to highlight a unique brand personality in itself.

💡 Actionable Task: Curate a mood board of images, colours, and visual assets that align with your brand identity.

Brand Identity

Your website should represent your brand, from the colours you use to the tone of voice in the website content. Consistency is key, and your website design should align with your overall brand identity to create a seamless experience that is tailored to your target audience.
By maintaining a consistent brand identity across all of your marketing channels, including your website, social media channels and other collateral, you’ll be able to build brand recognition and stand out in your industry. This will help you stand out from competitors and make a lasting impression on your audiences.

Red Bull Brand Identity

Red Bull has an extremely prominent brand identity from its catchy slogan ‘Red Bull gives you wings’ to the way the brand identity is woven across the entire digital strategy. They are master storytellers, promoting high-quality sports and event videos. What’s truly impressive is even with the vast amount of content they’re creating and sponsoring, the Red Bull tone of voice remains consistent.

Babylon Health Website Design Patient Access Website Design

However, defining a unique brand identity can be challenging, especially when the industry you are in is extremely crowded. The healthcare sector is extremely competitive so standing out can be difficult, but it’s also essential. The well-known healthcare platforms, Babylon and Patient Access share an almost identical heart logo with similar colours. Using distinctive colours and designing a unique logo helps to differentiate you from the competition. See here our article rounding up the top 10 healthcare websites for inspiration.

💡 Actionable Task: Create brand guidelines that outline brand colours, fonts, logos, and tone of voice. This helps to keep your brand identity consistent across all online and offline marketing channels, including across your website.

Simple changes have the ability to dramatically influence your website performance and your brand’s reputation. Identify areas of improvement on your website and focus on actionable steps to help improve its UX and UI.


Crucible is a London-based, digital agency that specialises in web design and development. Our team of experienced creatives, designers and developers are well-versed in building stunning websites for our clients. Our team is happy to help! If you’re looking for advice or need some input with your website project, get in touch below!

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