3 web design flaws that undermine your brand image

While a web presence is essential to getting brand awareness and acquiring sales leads, some design faux pas signal that your organization isn’t ready for primetime.

The internet, all things considered, is still new.

With how quickly everything changes, it can be hard to know whether your website’s design is dated or not. What may have been normal 10 years ago has very likely evolved into a faux pas by now. Some design elements we are glad to see fall by the wayside, and others we may not have even realized were gone.

Here are three design trends of yesteryear that just won’t cut it in today’s high-speed world:

1. An infamous font-type

To be specific: Avoid Comic Sans.

The now reviled font was one of five released with Windows 95 and, understandably, was seen a lot in the following years —too much in fact. Comic Sans is, at its base, an easy-to-read, handwritten font. However, it was designed to be casual, almost childlike, and not for professional use.

People began compiling lists of terrible scenarios where people used Comic Sans, and the casual type swiftly became one of the most universally-hated fonts ever.

Of course, while outing Comic Sans as a bad choice for advertisements or company announcements, the internet did find a place for Comic Sans to fit comfortably: tacky valentines.

While these internet memes are only the tip of the internet culture built around this font, all you need to know is that if you use Comic Sans, someone will notice and have an opinion on it.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a web designer today who would recommend the use of Comic Sans. If you lobby for it, they’ll probably give you many reasons why you shouldn’t do it. If for some reason the font has some appeal for you, think about why you’re incorporating it. If your intention is to strike a light-hearted or ironic tone, the font may be appropriate to use sparingly. However, if the impression you want to make is credible and professional, it would be best to stay far away from the likes of Comic Sans (or Papyrus, but that’s another story).

2. Moving elements

Figuring out how to make elements bounce, flash or otherwise move on your website is always nifty—if your web designer is a beginner.

In the earlier days of the internet, you would find sites that made liberal use of moving elements, likely just because they could.


In practice, moving elements usually aren’t beneficial for the people using your site. Often websites that feature bouncing buttons or imagery are viewed as juvenile or spam-ridden.

Your site should be designed to focus on important features without having to animate them. Flashing sidebars to draw people’s attention away from the main content of the page can be ineffective, as flashing or moving elements are often assumed to be ads. You want to entice people to click, not drive them to second-guess their decision.

More sophisticated animation can be created that only moves in response to a user’s interaction, such as hovering over the element or scrolling. This can be an effective way to make your site more interactive; however, if taken too far, it can confuse the viewer, or make it seem like the site has coding flaws.

Elements should only move if they are important and clickable—and that movement should be subtle.

3. Not enough color contrast

Websites were different in the 90s. Even big brands, like McDonalds, had websites that by today’s standards are garish (this design from 1996 was competitive in its time). It was common to visit a site, and then squint to find what you were looking for and it was assumed that if red and yellow were your brand colors, you would just use them together on your site.

If you want your text to be readable, there are certain rules that a good web designer should know. Yellow may be your company’s color, but that doesn’t mean yellow is the best choice for your site’s text.

Text and background should contrast enough that it is easily readable. It is recommended to have a color contrast of at least 4.5 to 1 on your site. The contrast ratio between black and white, for example, is 21 to 1, while yellow and white has a color contrast of 1.07 to 1.

This goes the opposite direction too. If your background is dark, have light text. If your background is a medium color, make sure its text is extremely light or dark to meet the color contrast ratio. Standard blue against white would work fine, but blue against green would not.

While some of these faux pas are more arbitrary (like the hatred of Comic Sans), and some are practical (like color contrast), time has proven them all to negatively impact how people view your site.

What other web design elements do you remember which are now verboten, PR Daily readers? What do you think will become a faux pas in the future?

Kristine Krato is a Jr. Digital Accounts Coordinator at Kolbeco, a brand media company. A version of this article originally ran on the Kolbeco blog.

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