How To Miss The Mark – 8 Rookie Website Design Mistakes

David Utke •  Updated: April 11, 2024 •  Content Creation

From the desk of David Utke

Subj: How to ruin a perfectly good website & brand (root and stem).

Building a personal brand where you sell info products is easy to setup, profitable fairly quickly if you know what you’re doing (you probably don’t), and compared to other business models does not require a large complicated team.

The celling however is you’ll never make that “big” money.

A million a year? Sure, possible.

10 million a year? Unlikely.

So if your goal is to make 200K USD to 1 million dollars a year where you make profit and have time freedom then a minimalist online business of 1-4 people, built around your knowledge is quite lucrative when done right.

But what would happen if someone handed you a profitable brand on a silver plater that’s already making money?

All you have to do is not screw it up?

But oops, you screwed it up.


Back around 2010, was once an up and coming player in the world of blogging.

This site quickly fell apart in a blaze of mediocrity once the original owner sold the site to a man more committed to making a quick buck than maintaining a thriving community.

Brandon, the guy who took over just wanted to make money from blogging.  

In his pursuit of online wealth he simply destroyed the structures the previous owner (James) built.

Structures like:

So let me cover the most egregious mistakes I saw with this brand and website that helped destroy this website in no time.

Below is before and after:

*Remember this is circa 2010.

The original design looked great! Lots of content, comments, engagement, an email list, nice looking logo and social proof.

The new design from Brandon is just god awful.

A goofy picture of himself in his backyard, a big offer section with a weird image on an ebook with no context. The sidebar is blank, colors are ugly.

Great job Brandon.

How bad (really bad) web design choices ruined the

Here is how you destroy an successful website, root and stem and make some really bad website design mistakes:

  1. Don’t understand the audience you’re serving.
  2. Make the website sketchy looking overall.
  3. Stop growing an email list.

1. Don’t understand the audience your serving

Design should enhance content.

I know this may not seem like a design thing, but your design should enhance your content and message. Not detract away from it.

If you don’t know how to design then use a template and customize slightly from there or higher a professional to build out your website.

James made a mistake in handing over his website to Brandon, a guy more interested in making money fast from the established audience by promoting scammy products and real estate oddly enough than building a popular blog about “turning your passion into profit.”

This led to design choices that just made no sense.

An offer section with an ebook for a product not related to the core purpose of the website, menu items that did not help the user navigate the website.

No “top of the funnel” content where you’re giving and helping.

Everything was just buy, buy buy.

Lame affiliate offer after lame affiliate offer.

This also lead to a fundamental core problem with in the first place – how would it make money exactly?

It was a fairly generic infotainment blog on blogging.

It was not really built properly to ever be business.

From my standpoint, running display ads on the site would have been the best option and then managing and staying consistent with a weekly branded newsletter where you could get sponsorships.

Apart from that, the site was pretty generic and broad.

If you’re someone like Brandon who wants to better his life and support his family by building wealth, a blog is great vehicle to do that but only if you have expertise on a subject and want to help people get what they want.

…not what you want.

2. Make the website sketchy looking.

Look, I get it that not everyone is creative person like myself and has an eye for design, but you need to make your site not look sketchy and thrown together in 10 minutes.

I offer website reviews, let me help you out and be that second pair of eyes.

You don’t need a big complicated design but you do need something that looks trustworthy and reliable.

Today, there are plenty of great WordPress themes that come with a prebuilt design and a drag and drop editor like the Divi Theme.

Wix or Squarespace both have excellent templates as well. (my favorite alternative to WordPress) comes with a bunch of beautifully designed themes too.

Dang, it’s so easy now-a-days.

Like most nerdy guys, Brandon simply lacked the ability to be creative and has no eye for beautiful design.

He made the infopreneur into a very ugly and weird looking website.

Color scheme

Your website should have at max 4 colors.

One or two primary colors for the design, then white with black text and a contrast color for buttons, links and your call to action.

Overwhelming users with too many colors makes your website look poorly designed.

Equally, not using contrast colors for your call to actions hampers their effectiveness.

The new design of the infoprenur only used shades of blue and grey.

Formatting of the blog posts

Format your text correctly for your blog content.

See how I hit the enter button and make for a more enjoyable reading experience instead of keeping every paragraph clumped together like a massive wall of text?

Yea, do that, break it up to make it readable.

In addition, keep your paragraphs short and sweet, 2-3 sentences or so. It helps to make your content more readable instead of presenting the visitor with a wall of text.

Last, breakup the design with different elements like bullet points, quotes and bold important sentences.

The blog posts on my website are designed as a single column with no sidebar. In general I like my blog posts to be 780-800 pixels in width so they are not a marathon to read from left to right.

If you do want to use a sidebar, I would keep it minimal.

Link to an email opt-in offer, best blog posts, low priced products you’re selling or have it be a menu for the piece of content the user is on.

H1 Titles

Your H1 titles are the title of your pages and blog posts.

Create keyword rich, compelling titles that grab the users intention.

Instead of writing a boring title like “why sugar is bad for you,” make something better like “10 stunning reasons why sugar is bad for you.”

The latter is going after the same key phrase but is much more professional and attention grabbing. You can use a free service like Headline Analyzer to figure out how to crafter better titles.

H2 and H3 for sub-headings

People have short attention spans and will first skim your content to make sure it’s right for them and answers their question.

You can help make your content more engaging by using H2 and H3 headings for your sub headings.

Unlike Brandon, break up your content with H2 and H3 headings to make the content readable and more importantly, scanable.

Affiliate links

On well designed websites you should be using some sort of design feature to make anything you’re promoting stand out in an elegant way.

Like my product boxes I use to help drive affiliate sales:


My current host that I pay for. If they’re good enough for me, they’re good enough for you. Get award winning support and hosting for your WordPress powered website/blog.

*WPX is my current web host.

These boxes look professional, that you actually care about your website and that you’re a trustworthy professional who knows what they’re talking about.

Not some random yahoo on the internet with a blog, spout out “omg you need to buy this.”

In addition, for marketing purposes make sure to come up with compelling and helpful product box descriptions.

Use videos properly

The right video embedded on your site will help increase how long people stay on your site. YouTube videos embedded on your site are also an excellent addition to your content.

I prefer however to link directly to my YouTube channel videos and get people interacting on my channel by starting new viewing sessions.

Make sure your videos have a good thumbnail to entice your visitors to click and that you’re embedding the videos in a way where they blend into the content.

Use pictures correctly

For pictures, use relevant pictures to demonstrate what you’re writing about.

Never use generic stock images simply because you think the images look nice.

Images in blog posts should not be used as decoration, they should be used to demonstrate what you’re writing about.

3. Stop growing your email list.

An email list is how you turn a blog into a business. You should design your brand around collecting emails as a way to help your audience.

This appears to be unknown to Brandon as he simply stopped collecting and sending out emails.

An email list allows you to directly communicate to people who are interested in your content as opposed to relying on algorithms to send you website traffic.

An email list also allows you to set up automations on the backend to help turn your list into a predictable email marketing funnel that helps people and generates sales.

This funnel can be adjusted over time for optimal performance.

Opt-in forms and popups

Opt-in forms should typically be at the top of the page, bottom of the page and/or somewhere in the middle.

Opt-in forms must have a compelling offer or lead magnet and a call to action.

No one wants to subscribe to get “free updates.”

With email you either create a lead magnet to get people to sign-up or you create a branded email newsletter:

*No lead magnet, just compelling copy to get you to subscribe.

Pop-ups are quite effective as well for growing your email list or driving affiliate sales.

You can have an exit intent pop-up on your website when the visitor goes to leave offering a product recommendation (if it’s an affiliate post) or you can have a pop-up providing a coupon code.

Done in the right way, opt-in forms and popups help turn your website into your best sales person.

One great tool for this is Convert Box (not to be confused with Convert Kit). With Convert Box you can setup pop-up boxes to push offers specific to the blog post the user is on.

A website is not about you

There are a lot of “cool guy” blogs out there.

Where people craft an unrealistic version of themselves by providing life advice, dating advice or finance advice where nothing goes wrong and they have everything under control.

A website is not about you and your ego.

It’s about turning your knowledge into income be helping people get what they want.

You can have everything in life you want if you willjust help other people get what they want.

Zig Ziglar

If you want ruin a good brand that has the potential to make money and help people then follow Brandon’s lead and take over something you have absolutely no interest in.

That’s also in a market where you do not understand or care about serving your audience and just want to make quick money.

Effort still matters

James Clear of was able to build his first business, a personal finance website call Passive Panda by doing round up posts of of already established experts on a topic.

This allowed him to connect with influencers who shared his content and linked to his website while also creating content people wanted to share.

In addition to that, he  spent 10+ hours writing his material, actively sought out opportunities to promote it and pivoted his original idea of Passive Panda from “passive income” to getting paid more for your time.

He has since followed the same strategy with his wildly successful personal brand.

Leveraging the audience of high traffic websites, guest posting content, getting people to subscribe to his email list and creating the best in class content related to habits.

Now he has a huge high traffic website, a gigantic email list and a world wide best selling book.

Effort still matters and you need to be really good at what you do.

I’ve had may share of embarrassing failures

The truth is that all beginners make horrible design choices and create bad websites with bad design and poor UX.

Take a look at one of my first website designs I ever made (using the now defunct Headway Theme):

*My first design, not good but not horrible. If I can make this as a beginner, what’s your excuse?

Making mistakes is part of the learning process when it comes to creating content online. It may take you a year or two to get the hang of it and develop the skills required to have success.

So fail fast, learn quick and pivot as needed.

It's all my fault

Hey I'm David. I'm a blogger, YouTuber and a highly rated UX consultant on Fiverr. My writing, videos and courses have helped tens of thousands of people make their first 1$ online. I write this blog to show you the "how to" for turning knowledge into income so you can live life on your terms.