Your 3 Cringe-Worthy WordPress Site Design Mistakes (Plus Fixes)

Did you know that your site’s design is paramount since 94% of your visitors will leave your site if it’s poorly designed according to Ironpaper?

A spot on design is no longer optional – it’s a must for any site owner that truly wants to wow their guests. Unfortunately, there are many common mistakes that I see over and over. As a past web developer and a current WordPress wordsmith, these mistakes make me cringe because I know how much they turn off visitors and customers.

As a fellow member of the WordPress community, I think it’s important to share our experience when we can because, after all, we’re all in this open source CMS together. That’s why I’m delighted to share the top three worst offenders when it comes to WordPress design mistakes and how to remedy them with quality plugins and tips. Let’s get right to it.

Not Responsive or Just Mobile-Friendly

Many people get the two of these mixed up or else use them interchangeably. Allow me to set the record straight: A responsive site means its design responds to different screen sizes automatically.

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 These are the examples of a fully responsive site that are easy to use and navigate

All the elements of the page display well no matter what screen size your visitors use. Buttons, images, text and everything else on a site needs to be easy to read and use to be considered responsive.

Responsive site designs don’t require you to scroll left or right to view everything on page properly and with ease. Your Site looks great and is easy to use across all devices.

Your site should look great and should be easy to use across all devices.

On the other hand, mobile-friendly sites truncate the design and content of a page so it just fits on the screen and that’s it.

Responsive design has never been more important and it’s now considered an industry standard among all top web developers across all platforms. It’s easy to see why when you consider 51% of the world uses mobile devices and 31% of the internet’s usage comes from smartphones according to We are Social.

In their report, comScore has also found similar high numbers of mobile activity. They found that 60% of the time spent on media in the US has been on mobile devices.

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Sure, you can view this mobile-friendly site, but not well

With Google’s fairly new decision to downgrade search rankings for pages that aren’t mobile-friendly and giving a boost to sites that are compliant, it’s paramount that your site design is responsive.

It’s not just about making your site nice to look at, either. If you run a business, it deeply affects your bottom line as well. Econsultancy found 62% of companies that created responsive site designs saw an increase in sales in 2013. These numbers haven’t fallen since – they have only grown stronger.

So what do you do if your site isn’t responsive? You have options: Jetpack has a module to create a mobile version of your site so it’s responsive in just a few clicks.

If you plan on buying or using a free theme, make sure to test it out beforehand to make sure it’s actually responsive, despite what the claims may be. It’s also important to grab premium themes from reputable companies and developers to ensure security and quality.

You can also use theme frameworks such as WPMU DEV’s Upfront theme whose drag-and-drop interface creates fully responsive designs automatically.

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This theme isn't mobile-friendly or responsive

It’s also important to remove elements of your design that aren’t responsive. For example, when I scrutinized 200 of the top WordPress free and premium themes along with the most popular sites on the web for my article The Web Design Trends Dominating 2015 and How WordPress Stacks Up, I found 97.5% of sliders were not responsive or even mobile-friendly. With stats like that, it’s just not worth it to include elements like sliders on your site.

Scrap the Sliders and Carousels

Speaking of sliders, I could die happy if I knew every site on the web stopped using sliders. Before you throw your coffee at your screen in outrage, let me explain.

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Sure, sliders can seem like a great idea since you can showcase many calls to action in one single space on your site and not just any space, but prime real estate. The truth is, their hugely notorious for not being responsive or mobile-friendly. Descent plugin sliders are few and far in between.

Just when you thought I was done, that’s not the only problem. That’s just the first problem.

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Full-page image

Sliders are also the last thing on your site that you could consider accessible to the hearing and visually impaired. When I analyzed those 200 sites I mentioned earlier, only 2.5% of sliders could be considered accessible. Only 0.5% of sliders were actually fully accessible.

Perhaps I just have a twinge of the FOMO – fear of missing out – but I don’t think it’s fair at all to leave out a huge portion of the population from reading your site. According to the World Health Organization reports on impairments, 285 million people can be considered to have significantly lower vision than the average person and 360 million people have disabling hearing loss worldwide.

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High-converting grid-style layout even though it's busy

In case you thought you would score some points when it comes to generating a higher income with sliders, they also negatively affect your bottom line. Erik Runyon, Technical Director of Marketing Communications, University of Notre Dame found only 1% of visitors actually click on a slide and of that 1%, 84% only click the first one.

Simply put, sliders and carousels absolutely kill your conversion rate and it’s not up for debate. Why? Because time and time again, experts have found this to be true. Econsultancy reported on banner blindness and found sliders and carousels are also included in the category because of their movement.

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Wonderful theme with an elegant grid layout

They also slow down your site and increase load time on your server. As much as 48% of consumers expect a site to take two seconds or less to load. At most, you have only eight to 10 seconds tops. If your visitors leave before they even see your slider, what’s the point in even including them in your design?

When you get right down to it, sliders and carousels help you lose money, not gain it and with all the other problems they pose, they’re just not worth including in your site design.

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Full-width image

The solution is simple. You can use full-width or full-page images or a grid-style layout. They’re simple, striking and make a huge impact. With today’s social media and tons to see and click on, grid layouts actually have the highest conversion. You just need to take a look at Pinterest and Instagram to see how effective a grid layout can be for your site design conversion rate.

Clunky, Messy Ads

I don’t know which one of these mistakes irks me the most, but ads can definitely be one of the worst when not done right.

Bloggers everywhere were told to get involved in ad mania by placing ads prominently on their site wherever they could fit them: At the top of the page, under the header, between post paragraphs, in the sidebar, in the footer and anywhere else you could squeeze them in. The idea was that visitors would inevitably see the ad as their eye scanned the page and they would then be more likely to click on them.

I think by now, we’ve all seen ample examples of site designs that adopt this principle of ad mania. At this point, it looks as though it’s an epidemic.

Truthfully, just like sliders and carousels, this kind of ad mania actually causes banner blindness. Most visitors just skip the ads altogether and go straight to the content. That doesn’t even include the age of ad blockers we’re currently in. Most consumers now use ad-blocking extensions provided by their browser so those ads you worked hard to artfully pepper into your design every which way aren’t getting through anymore.

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It's a good example of a site with excellent ad prime real estate

Most consumers now use ad-blocking extensions provided by their browser so those ads you worked hard to artfully pepper into your design every which way aren’t getting through anymore.

Luckily, there is a solution. Take care of your ads as if they were content. If you can, such as for your sponsors, create images for your clients’ ads that match your site’s design or ask them to do this task for you.

If this isn’t a possibility because you’re using various ad services (read: Google Adsense) or even if you’re not, you can still choose one spot on your site – and only one spot – to showcase your ads.

This drastically reduces banner blindness and as a bonus, you can also charge more from your clients and sponsors since your site’s real estate is now exclusive.


These top three WordPress design mistakes make any visitor, web designer or developer cringe. Luckily, you’re now armed with alternatives that actually help your conversion rate and bottom line.

These solutions are quickly becoming a standard among top WordPress and CMS professionals so it’s time to get on board or else risk being left behind.

Are you making these mistakes? What are your top design pet peeves that just get you going every time? Feel free to share your thoughts and experience in the comments below.