July 17, 2024
design fails

Worst design fails, and how to avoid them

Within the world of the internet, there are many great things. You can order food, shop in your underwear, and connect with people from all over the world right from your living room. Unfortunately, with these amazing things comes some pretty terrible things, too. Today, we’re going to be focusing on some of the worst design fails ever, and how you can avoid them.

Some of these fails are generic, and will have specific examples. Regardless of which category each one falls into, the point of this list is to avoid each and every one of the following fails completely. After all, that’s why they call it a fail.


Over designed websites are the worst thing to happen to any website. Fortunately, these websites are being weeded out slowly, but they definitely still exist, and they’re still pretty terrible.

The reasons to avoid such a terrible decision are pretty obvious. For one, too much on one page can greatly slow down your loading speeds, and it sends the reader away almost immediately. Secondly, it confuses everyone. Looking at the image above, if you manage not to get a headache and pass out, you’ll have a hard time finding what you’re looking for.

Granted, web design isn’t always easy. After all, if it were easy, we wouldn’t have a need for web designers at all. The moral of this story is to make it simple, make it clean, and for the love of God, make it easy to navigate.

Auto-playing audio and video

We’ve all been there. It’s late, you’re tired, you’re just ready to go to bed, and out of nowhere, amongst your dozens of tabs you have opened, a video starts playing. Now, you get to play the always fun and engaging game of “guess the tab” and try your best to shut down the video. It feels like you’re trying to defuse a bomb. Only in this case, you don’t know where the bomb is and you feel like crying.

If ever you find yourself wondering if an auto-playing video or audio file anywhere within your web design, stop yourself. Unless you want to slow your loading times down, and make literally everyone on the internet upset, avoid this design fail.

Websites that aren’t mobile friendly

We live in a time where everyone uses their phone for just about everything. Even if they aren’t dependant on their phones, they use them at least a few times a day. The way the web is evolving means that more and more people will be using their phones for tasks that used to be impossible using mobile web browsers. It should be a crime to not at least think about mobile users when designing a website.

Each year, the amount of mobile users goes up by a healthy amount. In fact, as of the start of 2019, over 63% of internet users are on mobile devices. Pretty soon, mobile users might make up most, if not all of your visitors. With that in mind, it’s absolutely worth spending some time to avoid this design fail, and making your website mobile friendly.


As helpful as sidebars used to be, and arguably still are, they’re just not good looking. Most of the time, the sidebar takes up a good portion of your main interface, and it gets quite distracting. Call it a trend if you want, but major websites like Amazon and Ebay have ditched the sidebar for a more streamlined look.

The idea is to have your visitors interact with your website. As easy as it would be to just throw up a sidebar and have all the navigation options users might need right in front of them, it takes away from the experience.

Passive-aggressive CTAs

Listen, I love conversions as much as the next guy, but being passive-aggressive about a CTA is a very quick way to turn a potential customer away completely. It might seem like a good idea, but using a CTA like, “No thanks, I don’t want to grow my traffic” actually comes off as desperate on your part, not the potential customer.

I think the overall theme of this article, aside from design fails, is to stop and think before you act. Think about how you would react in your visitors’ shoes. If you can honestly say that you wouldn’t like it, then odds are that your visitors won’t, either. A passive-aggressive CTA is a great example of this analogy, but being passive-aggressive in general works here, too. Stop, and try a different approach.

Trying to keep up with all the trends

Trends are important in any type of design. In fact, keeping up with trends should be the main objective of any designer, whether it’s web, interior, clothing, or anything else. So why, you may ask, is it such a bad thing to keep up with many trends at once? The short answer is that it takes the focus off of the content of the website.

Yes, using a color gradient is cool, and encouraged. Maybe even a few custom doodles to bring your website to life and give it a unique look. What’s not encouraged is pumping your website full of so many trends that it looks like the front cover of The Cosmopolitan. You’ll end up misdirecting your visitors. Keep it simple, and focus on the content. If the content of your website is quality, then the rest of your site will follow suit with little to no effort from you.

The conclusion

When you really take a look, design fails are everywhere, and they always will be. To be fair, there is a place for design fails on the internet. They give us opportunities to learn, and in a way, they make good design stand out more.

Of course, this is just a small list of design fails to avoid. There are many more out there that you should try your best to avoid. And, as important as it is to stay up-to-date with web design trends, perhaps the worst mistake any of us could make is using too many. Web design is all about balance. You find that balance, and you, my friend, have found the keys to success.


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