It’s no secret that first impressions matter. The first few moments of any interaction critically influence future behavior. When it comes to users, studies have found the look and feel of a website have the biggest influence on people’s first impression of your brand. In fact, it only takes 50 milliseconds for users to form an opinion about your website. Time is precious. In literally the blink of an eye, a user determines whether your site is worth their time. If your website isn’t current, with rock solid usability and best practice design patterns, you risk delivering a poor user experience. That negative impression can be difficult to overcome, often because the user has left you, forever, in search of a site that better meets their needs.

But knowledge is power, and you can always make things better. Here are five UX design pitfalls and how to avoid them.

Don’t Complicate Things

Minimalism is has more to offer than just a visual aesthetic. An important aspect of intuitive design is applying standard design patterns that, because they’re familiar, make it easy for users to accomplish their given tasks. Avoid using visual elements that don’t serve a specific purpose; most users find these elements noisy at best, and confusing and frustrating at worst. Stay away from introducing unfamiliar design patterns unless you’ve done user research and are confident your users need it and will understand it. If you want to maximize usability and reduce friction for your users, use patterns they’re already familiar with and know how to use when developing a website. There’s often no need to reinvent the wheel. Consistency is better.

Make Scrolling Worth It

When designers talk about content “above the fold,” they’re referring to what is visible on the web page before scrolling down. The good news is, the web is packed with long-scrolling pages, and users will readily scroll. The caveat there is that the content above the fold has to be good. Users generally won’t go to a page, see frivolous or unhelpful content, and feel compelled to continue scrolling in hopes that better content is waiting for them further down. What’s at the top of the page helps users decide if they want to keep scrolling, go to another page, or abandon the site altogether. Keep valuable content or calls to action above the fold to encourage users to navigate deeper into your site, and avoid the dreaded bounce.

You Are Not Your Users

There’s a classic saying in the UX world that warns, “You are not your users.” You may feel like you know your users really well. You may think you know what they want. The problem is, even the most well-intentioned assumptions have a good chance of being inaccurate. Rather than designing solely based on assumptions, it’s better to conduct even a basic amount of user research to gain a deeper (and real) understanding of your customers and what they actually need. What motivates them? What would delight them? What problems are they trying to solve? How do they think about your company, your products, your services? Avoid using specialized jargon. Organize your site in a way that makes it simple for the visitor to find what they are looking for. Base your designs off real user insights gained from your user research, and you can avoid missteps and costly rework down the road.

Mobile is Mission Critical

Between December 2013 and December 2015, smartphone internet consumption grew by 78%. It’s not slowing down, either. As people are increasingly dependent on their mobile devices, it is more important than ever to design mobile-friendly websites. Since mobile devices have much smaller screen sizes than desktops or laptops, they offer a particular design challenge, but it’s an important one to face head on. Ideally, you should design first for the smallest screen your analytics tell you you need to realistically support, ensuring those users can quickly and easily accomplish their key goals. From there, you can design “up” into larger viewports and take advantage of the increased screen real estate. The good news is, the efforts required to design an efficient and usable mobile experience often translate seamlessly into really awesome UX even at full desktop size. You often find “less is more,” and there’s really no need to fill up that extra space with junk.

Don’t Let Anyone Get Lost

Have you ever gone to a store and nothing was where you expected to find it? It’s not a pleasant experience, and what are the chances you’ll go back? Just like the layout of a store, a website’s information architecture (IA) is a key component of user and customer experience. Don’t make it difficult for users to find what they want, or they’ll be off to your competitor’s site in a heartbeat. Understand who your audience is, why they are likely visiting your site, and how they (not you) think about what you offer to design an IA that will speak to your users. Need help designing that IA? Your users are only one test request away — ask them what they think. They usually have extremely helpful input.

The Takeaway

Firstly, relax. There is no such thing as a perfect website design that works every time for every customer looking for every product. User experience is a complicated mix of factors including brand, usability, visual design, information architecture, performance, accessibility, workflows, and much more. Incremental changes often pay huge dividends. The key takeaway is to keep UX on your radar. Try to make things better everyday, one fix at a time. Look for (and steal) great ideas on sites you like. Regularly test your designs with users. Attention to some key UX principles will allow you to make a good first impression and keep users coming back.

And if you need help? We’re only a phone call or email away, and a website audit is a great place to start. Let’s chat about how to improve your site together; we love talking with people about user experience and helping to make the web better, one site at a time.