Aesthetic Web Design Errors

Have you ever seen a website that just made you say ‘Ugh?!’ You know, the ones with all the style and taste of a trailer park yard sale? It makes you wonder, with all of the time and effort put into making websites, why couldn’t they make it pleasing to look at? And, if not pretty, at least not ugly?

Maybe the problem is that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder.’ With such a subjective standard are there any hard and fast rules even the aesthetically-challenged can adhere to? Hoping to gain some insight, I turned to the group mind and asked several web professionals about the worst aesthetic web design errors currently on the net.

This is part of our Website Design Errors series. Check out the entire Web Design Errors series here.

Aesthetic Design Layout

There are many schools of thought on what a website should look like. And that’s great! I love to see stylish, new and innovative ways of conveying information on-line. How boring would it be if everyone used the same layout? Here are some things to avoid at all costs.


-Avoid pages that scroll down forever. A well designed web-site says what it needs to without lots of scrolling, unnecessary pages or useless content. – Tracy Willis, Directeur de SwF Customer Front End Systems, Group IT at Orange-France Telecom Group

-Horizontal scrolling. People are much more accustomed to seeing pages scroll down than to scroll left to right. Keep with convention and keep all of your content on one page.

White Space is Good!

-Be sure to keep a certain amount of spacing between your visual elements. There is no need to fill up every corner of a website with words, video, pictures, or any other content.


-Playing music on your site for no apparent reason! Especially if it’s an old MIDI-file, and if there’s no mute button or if it is hard to find. Søren Sprogø, Owner at Afdeling 18

Popups and widgets

-Use of JavaScript pop up windows and JavaScript widgets – pop up windows are for Netscape in the 90s. They should be extinct by now. And don’t place those useless JavaScript clocks or counters on your Web pages! Jonathan Cheung, Web Developer at Sony Electronics.

Note: Many browsers have pop-ups blocked by default or users may turn this on as a security feature. What may seem to be a good use of technology to you may be considered an error to others when your pop-up doesn’t ‘pop.’ This also goes for hyper links that open browsers in new windows.


-Low quality, irrelevant or inaccurate graphics. Take a look at the glossy photos on some hotel sites, and then compare them with real travelers’ photos on Tripadvisor. All of these really detract from a website’s attractiveness and inaccurate graphics will quickly lead to complaints and poor credibility. Tracy Willis

-Ugly! Cluttered, bad colors, bad photos, distracting backgrounds, THE BLINK TAG, etc. If I can’t bear to look at your site it isn’t going to do its job of communicating your message. David Kennel, Systems Administrator at LANL

What elements make a website ugly to you?

Contribute to the conversation by adding your comment below.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jill February 3, 2009 at 6:41 pm

Thanks for this article. I know I need to work on my site, especially with pages too long and the horizontal scroll.

Would like to see more tips! Great site.


CWD February 4, 2009 at 8:59 pm

You’re welcome, Jill. There are more tips in the Web Design Error series of articles. If any topic comes to mind, just drop me a line or leave a comment and I’ll be happy to write something up!


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