The 5 Most Overused Design Elements You Should Retire

Everybody has their design pet peeves. Some of them are pretty universal. We have all cringed when opening the website of an otherwise respectable company only to find that the entire thing is in comic sans or papyrus. We’re also beginning to feel the same way about Lobster.

Unfortunately, there are many design elements that are overused, outdated, offensive, or ineffective that designers still insist on using. Sure, sometimes these poorly thought out design choices are the result of clients pushing for them, but the truth is many designers use these elements voluntarily.

If you are guilty of using, or overusing any of the following design elements, please consider retiring them as soon as possible. Web users everywhere will thank you.

Insulting Pop-Ups

There is nothing inherently wrong with using pop-ups as long as you don’t continually pester your visitors with pop ups that crop up over and over again, and as long as you don’t design your pop ups so it is nearly impossible to click out of them. After all, somebody is coming to your website or reading your blog to view valuable content that you are providing for free.

pop up ad annoying warning

There’s no shame in popping up a request that they sign up for your newsletter, download your eBook, or take some other action. The problem comes when you decide to insult them for opting out. People don’t need to be made to agree that they:

  • Don’t care about learning new ways to generate leads
  • Aren’t willing to go the extra mile
  • Would rather not lead a healthier life
  • Like paying too much for beauty products
  • Would rather not see the world become a better place

It’s not cute or clever. It’s just offensive. Besides, the average website visitor is smart enough that they won’t be fooled into opting in. If you want to add a clever message for users who opt out of your call to action, do it by designing proper content strategy and saying something that doesn’t make them the butt of your joke.

Skeuomorphic Design

Skeuomorphism is a design style that involves making digital images resemble real life images as much as possible. It can be used in background textures. You’ve probably seen websites with backgrounds that looked like wood grain, leather, or brick. It can also be used in designing icons and buttons.

For example, if you want to make a phone call, the button you tap on your smartphone might look like an actual phone from the 1980s. Skeuomorphism is also used in the function of buttons. If you’ve been on a website and pressed a button and the button appeared to physically move up and down, that’s another example of skeuomorphism.

example flat design versus skeuomorphism

At one time, skeuomorphism design added value. It gave people who were new to using computers the representation of a real life object to help them understand the function of a particular button. That’s no longer needed. There are also better ways to design web pages than using realistic background textures to create a certain ‘atmosphere’.

Today, skeuomorphism just seems clunky and outdated. Recent web design trends seem to indicate that it is going out of style. Hopefully that is the case.

Sound & Video That Auto-play

There may not be a single web design element that is more widely hated than the practice of playing sound or video when a visitor enters a website. In fact, you could gather a group of people with starkly opposing political, religious, and cultural values, and they would all agree that this practice is irritating and offensive.

sound video autoplay disable

Auto-playing sound and video isn’t just rude and intrusive to the person visiting a website. It is also rude and intrusive to everybody around them. The practice also chews up bandwith that visitors may not have to spare. If there is something that visitors really must see or hear, offer it to them with compelling copy, and then let them decide when and if they want to hit play.

Using Sliders

Unlike other items on this list, sliders don’t stand out as being particularly offensive, clunky, or outdated. They are, however distracting an ineffective. They take away the viewer’s focus from what is important (what you can do for them), by getting them to focus on the images in your slider.

Web Design Are We Focusing Too Much on Sliders and Parallax-Scrolling
[Image Source]

This is not to say that what you are communicating in your slider is not relevant. It’s just that it is not relevant to the visitor who has come to your page in search of specific information. At best, website visitors will ignore the slider altogether and simply complete the action they came to do in the first place. At worst, they will become distracted by the slider and end up taking no action whatsoever. The chances of a visitor consuming all of the images and messages included in a slider, and then answering the CTA that they were led to take to begin with is pretty low.

There are also technical issues that can be problematic when using sliders. The large images and JavaScript used to create sliders can result in slow loading time. For mobile users, this can be a real problem. Since most visitors are mobile users, at least some of the time, it makes sense not of irritate them.

Separate Mobile Web Sites

These are problematic for a number of reasons. First of all, they waste time and bug users, especially if you have to ask them if they are using a mobile device. Second, if you use responsive web design, Google will reward you with better search engine results page rankings.

separate code for desktop and mobile site

If you design a separate website for mobile users, not only will you lose that reward, you may also be penalized under Google’s new rules against duplicate content. Finally, mobile-only websites are a turn off to visitors because they associate them with lack of functionality and design that is less than intuitive.


  • Sliders still play a vital role for showcasing services without loosing too much real estate.

  • Yeah, get rid of those obnoxious elements ASAP! On point.

  • I’ll have to kindly disagree with a couple of points on this list:

    1. Skeuomorphic Design isn’t something that should be looked at as inherently bad or good. It’s a tool for expressing a brand visually through the web. Should it be applied to everything? Absolutely not. However, if the designer can find an application of it that allows you to enhance the experience of the branded message, I don’t think the designer should be afraid to implement it. It could be argued that every website in a portfolio mocked up on a device is inherently Skeumorphisim, would you consider that bad design in all applications?

    2. Sliders, again, shouldn’t be looked at as an absolute no-no. Is presenting an auto-playing slider as the first thing someone see’s on a home page a bad idea? Probably. However, clever use of sliders (to progress a message or place some control on the amount of content a viewer can see at one time) is perfectly acceptable in my opinion. Sometimes, a slider is just the best choice for the job.

  • Ben Morel

    I completely agree that sliders should have gone the way of the Dodo long ago but I have to disagree about getting rid of mobile sites. Responsive design fits a certain set of needs but it is not the solution for everyone. There are very good reasons why companies – especially very large ecommerce sites – use separate mobile and desktop websites. And speaking as a marketer rather than a designer, as long as you’re sensible there should be absolutely no risk of Google or any other search engine marking your www. and m. content as duplicate.

  • Sliders that include a CTA: yes. I believe the post author was referring to image-only sliders, which only provide aesthetic value, without any actionable interface. The concept of “hero images” has been badly abused lately.

  • Fredslund

    I would agree that sliders are a waste of time and space. I don’t see them or use them unless they are thrown in my face. Then I am mostly irritated that I have to look at them. If I see one I would like to study, it can be a pain to find it again if you are not quick enough to pause the slider (if that is an option).

    I would like to see “PRELOADERS” on this list though. It seems like template designers thinks they are great. The only reason they think that is because they are not old enough to remember why we shot, killed and buried preloaders 10-12 years ago.

    I agree on the rest of the list except skeuomorphic design.

  • I agree, whenever I’m feeling like I really want a double patty with cheese, and fries, I’ll see if they have sliders instead. You usually only get 3 and they’re just enough to keep you ticking over, but wont mean you’ve just burned your entire calorie allowance on all that bread you have with a normal burger.

    Don’t hate sliders, embrace them, you can always order more.

  • Rob

    My biggest problem with sliders is they are so overused and cookie-cutter. Could definitely do without them for the most part unless there is an absolute need.

  • Thomas Dahl

    I would like to propose nuking every pseudo ‘sticker’. You know, those round postit notes where a corner had been folded down as if the sticker had not been attached totally.

  • I’ve been urging clients and others to stop using sliders for well over a year now. No one listens. All I can do is make try to sure they keep the number of slider to 3 – 4 and that they think hard about the message on the first slide.

    But they’re a terrible design element that lacks thought or control.

    1. Bad for performance (at least until HTTP/2 becomes mainstream)
    2. Can be simply annoying if you’re trying to read something and it switches. Autoplay is terrible for user experience and accessibility. What about users who have any kind of reading disability
    3. Designers usually forget to remove them on mobile being served with the content so they’re extremely bad for mobile performance. You can;t just display: none. You’ve got to prevent them being generated at all below 768px I would say.

    A static call to action message is always better on all the above points. The first page above the fold content is the most important. If you automatically going for a slider there because people have done it for 5 years makes you seem like a “web-design by numbers” designer/developer.

  • I guess, people have already done away with these traditional styles. In fact, there are some modern styles that needs to retire now.