6 Horrible Things Incompetent Web Devs Do to Ruin Clients Sites


A business doesn’t just need a website, it needs a website that supports its business.

And that’s something that the business owners should realise. With more and more business moving online, it absolutely matters what kind of website you have.

Since the website you have matters, the company making the website matters as well.

Go with a good one and you’re set. Choose a bad supplier and you will lose money because incompetent web designers and developers can ruin their clients’ sites for SEO and for conversions.

Bad web design / development company can:

  • accidentally cause Google penalties or crash search traffic, or at least significantly contribute to these.
  • lower conversions with bad design choices.
  • make the site unworkable for non-developers.

Sounds good? Not to me either.

During the last few years all the guys working here at Growth Pulse have worked with web designers on client projects. Some of them are really excellent, such as Roland who we had the pleasure to have working with us inhouse. However, some web devs and designers have been a real pain to work with.

Here are some of the most common issues we see when we start working with new clients:

  • Improper url capitalisation
  • Poor handling of trailing slashes
  • Lack of canonicals
  • Content sliders
  • Focus is not on conversions
  • Poor technology choices

And yes, I am saying that all these are up to the web designers / developers and it’s their responsibility to take care that the websites they work on actually help the business to reach their business goals. It’s not their sole responsibility, but they do play a major role in all that.

Let’s take a look at all these issues one by one.

1. Improper url capitalisation

Check out these urls:

They are the same, right?

Nope, no they are not. At least not for web crawlers. While Google has been getting better at it, all the urls are seen as different pages and might be indexed.

And that in turn can lead to duplicate content penalty, especially if that happens throughout the site.

Besides that, it’s completely possible that some people link to /COMMUNITIES instead of /communities which means that the link equity is split between these urls.

This is what happens when the url capitalisation has not been taken care of. This is often fairly simple thing to correct using .htaccess rewrites that automatically redirect users and crawlers to the preferred version.


  • can lead to several variations of the same page being indexed, possibly resulting in to duplicate content penalty
  • loss of link equity between the page variations

How to fix it? In most cases 301-redirect through .htaccess-file will fix the problem.


2. Not knowing what to do with trailing slashes

This problem is very similar to the one highlighted in the previous chapter. Take a look at these urls:

Again, they look the same but they are not the same in the eyes of web crawlers. That trailing slash at the end makes all the difference.

Once again the solution is a simple .htaccess redirect that enforces the right version of the url.


  • can lead to several variations of the same page being indexed, possibly resulting in to duplicate content penalty
  • loss of link equity between the page variations

How to fix it? Use 301-redirects through .htaccess-file.

3. Missing rel=”canonical”s

Both of the aforementioned issues could be at least partially solved with proper implementation of rel=”canonical”. It basically tells search engines that “hey buddy, we have this version here but we’d prefer you checking the page over there as that’s the main version”.

Let’s take that Jamie Oliver case as an example.

If they’d want their urls to always end in trailing slash, they should add the following bit in the <head>-section of the both url variations:

<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/chicken-recipes/epic-roast-chicken-salad/”>

Yes, the same bit should be added on the page with the trailing slash as well. That is called a self-referencing canonical and it is one of SEO best practices to implement.


  • helps to point search engines to the preferred version of the url
  • lowers the chance of duplicate content issues
  • self-referencing canonical is an SEO best practice 

4. The use of content sliders

Here’s a little factoid (source):

A 1 second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions.

So page load speed is important if your goal is to sell something.

Guess what happens to load times when you add several big images on your page? Yeah, that’s right. It loads slower.

And speed really is a factor:

  • 47% of people expect the page to load in 2 seconds or less (source). If your site loads in 2.9 seconds it’s quicker than 50% of all websites (source)
  • 57% of people abandon the site if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load (source).

You can check how quickly your site loads using either of these tools:

But let’s get back to those image sliders and why they are generally speaking a bad idea.

Nielsen Norman Group conducted a research about this topic. They asked people to find an offer on the page for a washing machine. Even though it was written there on 98 point font above the fold, the offer wasn’t seen.

There are few contributing factors to this:

  • It’s not a secret that people suffer from banner blindness. These automatically moving sliders are often seen as banners or advertisements and thus ignored.
  • Because the images usually rotate, the offers are visible only a fraction of the time. For example if there are 5 images in the slider, each of them will be visible only 20% of the time and are thus easier to miss.

Add to that the data from this research saying that in their experiments only 1% of people clicked on the prominent image slider and what you have left is just waste of space.

And that’s before even considering sliders impact on usability on mobile devices, SEO impact or the missed opportunity to make that space to actually contribute to sales.

Which brings us to the next point…

5. Focus is not on conversions

There are basically only two types of business sites on the internet: lead generation sites and ecommerce sites.

For lead generation sites, the most important thing is to capture the visitors contact details or get them to contact you via a form or by phone, chat or smoke signals.

And for ecommerce site the main goal is to get people to find the goods they want and get them to complete the order.

That’s it.

However, too often the main goal of the site is forgotten when designing the site. Instead of focusing on conversions and directing people to the conversion points, too often you’ll bump in to sites that don’t encourage you to do anything.

Here are few examples:

1) The first example was number 2 paid result for “Los Angeles accountant”. Since it’s not a cheap term to appear on, you’d think that conversions matter. With a landing page like this the conversions can not be very high.example of site that doesn't convert

It is not an ugly page, but what on earth are you supposed to do on this page? The home page is not better either.

Sure, this can’t be attributed only to the web devs/designers, but more to the party that is handling paid advertising for them. That however doesn’t remove the fact that the above page doesn’t do anything to actually convert people.

2) This example appeared on paid results for “Lawyer in Dallas Texas”. It’s not a great site, but I saw a lot worse sites for the same query as well.  

law company with low conversions

Once again, what is the visitor supposed to do on this page or site in general? The design doesn’t really direct the visitor to any action. There is a phone number in the header, but it is easy to miss. The other pages on the domain are not better either in this regard.

These types of sites are kind of a  marketers nightmare, especially if it is a relatively new site for the client. Of course these sites can be improved upon to some extent, but in too many cases it feels like adding lipstick to a pig – slightly better but not good.

6. Restricting the site with poor technical choices

Let’s get real here.

Websites can be a huge investment and for many businesses their biggest (or only) sales tool.

Given its importance, it’s downright ridiculous how often poor technical choices act as a bottleneck for business growth. Things like

  • slow or unreliable hosting
  • heavily customised and poorly documented sites
  • overly complicated user interfaces
  • poor customisation options in the backend

can make it very difficult to work with the site and thus meet the set business goals.

Luckily these issues are getting less and less common, but you still occasionally see them bubbling up.

Again, I understand that it might not always be the web designers decision to choose a particular platform or a hosting company. But out of respect towards their own time, sanity and the clients business, a lot of effort should go into removing technical bottlenecks.

If the site is on a totally custom platform or a heavily customised one, it can be really difficult for you to change the web development company in the future.

This is often the case with incompetent people and/or people with conflicting interests (for example if they’re paid by the hour, it’s in their interest to spend as much time as possible with the technology).

Joona, do you hate web designers and developers?

No, I absolutely don’t. In many ways I’m jealous of designers and developers. They have the skills to turn an idea into something concrete and get people using it. How cool is that!

My point just is that it shouldn’t be the online marketers job to deal with (technical) website design best practices. It doesn’t take a long time to get to understand how rel=”canonical” works, why design should focus on conversions or how to do .htaccess redirects.

Just as it doesn’t take a lot of time for me to get decent in CSS, to be able to make basic JavaScript scripts or at least edit them or to learn the basics of white space and visual hierarchy.

Ok, so how should the site be then?

It’s quite easy actually – the site needs to support the client’s business and encourage people to convert. Part of that is marketing work, part of that is design.

If you ask visitors what matters to them, it’s not the image sliders or any particular design elements. Actually Hubspot asked exactly that and this is what they found:

hubspot graph

Surprise surprise, the thing that matters the most is that people find what they want. If the design and layout doesn’t support the visitors flow or needs, they will bounce and go somewhere else.

And from the business perspective, the minimum requirement is that the website doesn’t ruin what has already been achieved, but rather builds upon it.


Often business owners see that the web design company is responsible for the site and the SEO/online marketing company is responsible for sales.

While that is mostly true, you can not separate sales success from the way the site has been designed and setup. They are very much related.

We’ve found that WordPress is a magnificent platform to use because it’s affordable to build a site, they are SEO friendly with few additions and are easy to work with both for the designers and us marketers.

So if you are a business owner suffering from old or non-converting website, maybe it would be time to work on minimizing the leak of potential business through your site. We’re happy to help you with that and migrate your business to WordPress and setup a site that actually supports your business goals.


About the Author

A Finnish dude with a beard, weird sense of humour and a passion for turning ideas in to something concrete. Online marketing consultant here at Growth Pulse.

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