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How to Fix a Bad Design

Creative Market April 1, 2024 · 4 min read

Almost every web designer has received this task at one point or another. The clients like the site they have, but want a teeny tiny visual update. Just give it a little TLC to make sure it stays modern. Unfortunately, to you, the site is hideous and probably needs a complete redesign. So how do you fix a bad design without starting from scratch? Here are some suggestions to get you started.

Scrap Bad Photography

This single step can have a huge impact on a design. Modern, on-trend photography is the only kind of photography that should be included on a website. If it isn’t good, it’s better not to use images at all. Cheap and tacky imagery makes the website look cheap and tacky. Unless you can replace your photographs with a professional’s work, scrap them all and rely on your font choices.


Make Navigation Simpler

Your users won’t stick around unless your website is easy to browse and navigate. Surfing the Internet is all about doing something fast and getting it done without obstacles. Clever, easy-to-use bars, straightforward menus and clearly demonstrated buttons ensure that site navigation isn’t a problem.

Choose Better Fonts

Fonts can present all kinds of problems in your site’s design. Is the font size consistent with the site as a whole? Does the color of the font clash with the background or other text? It is almost always best to go for a unified appearance. It is a novice’s mistake to choose more than is absolutely necessary. Use no more than two font sizes and one, or at most two, font styles.


Declutter

Your site’s layout can always get better by getting rid of the clutter: minimalist design wins in most cases. Try to eliminate anything that stands out in a distasteful way. You don’t want your users to be overwhelmed. Eliminate badges, links and networks, and if you absolutely must include them, put them on the About page.

Fix Bad Call-to-Action Buttons

Call-to-action buttons are a tricky business. They’re needed, but when used badly, they can make the site look more like a cheap advertising setup than a classy service. Be discreet. Make them evident but not overwhelming. Camouflage them subtly. Find appropriate positions for them and make sure they work correctly and don’t lead the user anywhere irrelevant.

Use a Grid

You make think alignment issues have gone the way of the dinosaur because of grid systems, but amateur site designs almost always suffer from this problem. Sometimes a seemingly cluttered site design can be drastically improved by imposing a much-needed grid layout. Also, if the client’s site isn’t responsive or at least optimized for mobile, there’s a serious discussion to be had on that front.

Correct Broken Links

If a client hands you an aging site and is looking for a refresh, you can bet good money that you’ll find some ancient links floating around that no longer work. Checking all the links on a site can be a dull, tedious task, so be sure to use a tool like the W3C’s Link Checker.

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Coordinate Colors

Another mistake amateur web designers make is choosing terrible color schemes. If the site your client hands you makes your eyes bleed, your first task should be to update the colors. Like everything else, the rule here is to simplify. Like removing ugly wallpaper from an old house, you might find something decent under that bad color scheme!

Harmonize the Text-Background Relationship

Don’t let the background harm the readability of your content. This kind of mistake is considered the ultimate crime by professional website designers. Browse your site and pay close attention to any background choices that don’t complement the text entirely. Your best bet when it comes to your website’s background is almost always white.

Is It Worth The Effort?

The most important consideration to put forth when attempting to fix a bad design is whether or not it’s worth the trouble. Always give your honest opinion to a client and let them know when starting from scratch will be faster, easier, and/or better than putting a band-aid on an ultimately doomed project.

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