Summary: A site can do most things right, but these 5 awful website content mistakes can still make you look unprofessional and tank your business's credibility.

You have been invited to an event to give a presentation.

You've refined and prepared your speech to the finest detail.

The day of the presentation has come and you ace it.

You get off the stage and realize your pants zipper was open t

(definitely not based on a true story)

Even though your presentation was banging, people will most likely only remember you as the speaker with the fly undone.

Bummer.

Even a small mistake can cause the message you want to convey to be lost.

And that's just as true for your website.

So without any further ado, make sure you never make these 5 content mistakes on your website.

Mistake 1. Unexpected locations for content

An open kitchen drawer

You're late for a birthday party and you just remembered that you still need to wrap the present you bought. You rush to the drawer where the scissors are always stored.

But then, you notice the scissors aren't there.

"Why aren't the scissors here? Where did I put them? Argh!"

Website users are just like you looking for those scissors.

They're usually in a hurry and want to find information quickly and efficiently. And on top of that, they have expectations of where that information should be located.

But many sites offer poor page or category names that don't accurately describe the content within them. Or they arrange information based on how the company - rather than the user - thinks about the content.

The result?

The user has to stop and think about where they need to go to find what they're looking for.

This disconnect between the structure of your website and the expectations of your users (how they think your website should be structured), will lead to time loss and frustration.

Don't make your user muddle through your website. Make sure your website has a logical and clear structure.

Key takeaway — Make sure your website has a logical structure that has been thoroughly planned and takes into account the needs of your users. Want to learn how to do just that? Read my article on how to use a visual sitemap for your next web design process.

Mistake 2. Inconsistency in styles

An example of how we interpret whitespace as a pattern

Our brains are wired to look for patterns.

In the image above you probably see four sets of dots, rather than eight individual ones. You automatically interpret the whitespace between the dots (or lack thereof) as a pattern.

That doesn't only apply to whitespace. Your brain also looks for patterns in terms of font size, font type, and text color.

So say you visit a website's homepage. On that homepage, you see multiple titles of a certain size and color. You'll expect that pattern to repeat throughout the entire website. If you land on an about page and the titles are another size or color, you'll become confused.

Why? The pattern is broken.

These types of inconsistencies (even small ones) hurt the usability of your website. They force the user to recalibrate every time the pattern is broken. It becomes more difficult to quickly and efficiently scan your website for information.

It also makes you look unprofessional. It gives the impression that your website was just thrown together in a hurry without any thought process.

Key takeaway — Make sure your website uses font type, text size and text color consistently to allow your information to be easily scannable.

Mistake 3. Bad text size and contrast

A comparison between text with sufficient contrast and text that doesn't have enough contrast

People come to your website for information. But if they can't read it, you're out of luck.

This might sound obvious, yet this is a common mistake you see on many websites. The readability of the text is so often sacrificed on the altar of 'better design' because it 'looks better'.

And while your eyes might be working perfectly fine, my parents (who are a bit older but perfectly healthy), for example, have it much more difficult to read text online. Let alone people with actual visual impairments.

So don't make this obvious mistake.

Make sure everyone can read your text by ensuring its contrast is high enough. How high? According to the W3C standards, text has to have a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1.

Sounds pretty technical, but you can use a free online tool such as the WebAIM Contrast checker to find out if your text passes that simple test.

Oh, and while we're at it: make sure your text is a large point size. This makes sure everyone can enjoy your content without having to strain their eyes.

Key takeaway — Make sure your text has enough contrast so your information is easily readable. Use tools like the WebAIM Contrast checker to check the contrast of your text.

Mistake 4. Bad photography

A comparison between bad stock photography and more real-life situations

"Let's just throw in a stock photo there to spice up that page" is probably what most businesses think if you take a look at their existing websites.

Take for example the left picture of the example above. When have you ever seen people cheering together behind a single laptop? It screams forced and unauthentic. The right one, however, could actually be a real-life meeting if this was an employee of the company.

Users pay close attention to photos and other images that contain relevant information but ignore fluffy pictures used to "jazz up" web pages.

Profile picture of dr. Jakob Nielsen, principal of the Nielsen Norman Group
Jakob Nielsen
Principal of the Nielsen Norman Group

Research by the Nielsen Norman Group shows that users ignore fluffy pictures that are fake and unauthentic. You should therefore only really use imagery that strengthens your message and highlights the personality / humanity of your company.

Avoid using imagery that is completely unrelated to the message you are trying to convey. Don't use stock photos or unprofessional photos once shot by one of the coworker's nephews. Use only authentic imagery that strenghtens your message.

Key takeaway — Use imagery that is authentic, human, and showcases the personality of your business. Only use it to strengthen your message, but never just to fill up some space.

Mistake 5. Stuffing your text with keywords

A common misconception is that you if you stuff some keywords in your text, you'll rank higher in Google Search.

Hate to break it to you, but that's not how that works:

Filling pages with keywords or numbers results in a negative user experience, and can harm your site's ranking. Focus on creating useful, information-rich content that uses keywords appropriately and in context.

The Google Icon
Google
Google Search Central

You should always think about your user first. After all, that's who will be using your website and consuming your content, right?

Ask yourself:

  • What do they want to know?
  • What questions do they / might they have?
  • How can our product or service help them?
  • How can we help them?
  • ...

If you create content by putting your user first, you'll delight your audience. That's great quality content that will actually be consumed.

Key takeaway — Always create your content from the perspective of your target audience. After you've done that, you can optimize it for SEO.

Conclusion

Your website is, in most cases, the first touch-point a potential customer has with your business. And usually that means they're looking for specific content to answer questions they might have.

That's why you better make sure to avoid these 5 website content mistakes to make sure you don't come across as unprofessional.

Maarten Van Herendael

Maarten Van Herendael

Maarten is Heave's founder. His passion is to help businesses like yours do great things with a website that looks better and sells more. You can find Maarten on LinkedIn.