30 E-Book Design Mistakes That Will Sabotage Any Marketing E-Book

E-books take a ton of work to create, so it’s always a shame to see great content sabotaged by poor design. Unfortunately, there are plenty of e-book eyesores out there. Bad design isn’t just a pet peeve; it can hurt your brand.

E-books are valuable lead generation tools, but they only work if people engage with the content. A bad cover won’t entice people to see what’s inside. Dense blocks of text will make them tune out. And a mislabeled chart will have them questioning your credibility. That’s why great e-book design is so important. 

The Most Common E-Book Design Mistakes

Even the best designers can overlook design issues, so it’s important to take a final pass before you send any e-book out the door. To help you cover all your bases, we’ve compiled a handy list of the 30 most common e-book design mistakes. (We also broke them down by category for easy reference.) Use it as a checklist to make sure your design is as strong as possible—every single time. 

The Basics

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1. Boring cover: The cardinal sin of e-book design is a boring or distracting cover. Craft a compelling, eye-catching visual that communicates the theme and entices people to see what’s inside. (This goes for your thumbnail images, too.)

2. No visual language: A visual language is crucial to communicate your brand. Make sure your design follows it. (And if you don’t have one, create one.)

3. Over-branding: Too many logos, CTAs, or brand mentions will make your e-book feel like a sales brochure instead of marketing content. Keep your content lightly branded.

4. Wrong dimensions: Is this e-book for Web or print? Double check that you have the appropriate dimensions and resolution.

5. Incorrect page numbers: No matter how sure you are, take another pass to make sure every page is in the proper order.

Data Visualization

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6. Incorrect data visualization: Good data visualization is about designing data to enhance comprehension. Follow this guide to learn how to appropriately design the most common charts and graphs.

7. Too many charts: For things like comparison, look for opportunities to condense data (e.g., use a grouped bar chart instead of displaying three separate bar charts). For more tweaks that make a big difference, follow these 25 tips to improve your visualizations.

8. Missing chart labels: Triple check that all numbers, labels, and legends are present and accurate.

Imagery & Illustration

e-book design mistakes and tips

9. Inappropriate imagery: If your e-book is about team communication but your visuals feature an ocean theme, you might be a little off the mark. Remember design is meant to enhance—never distract.

10. Over-illustration: Stick to a single illustration style, and use sparingly. If you can’t justify why an illustration enhances the design, ditch it.

11. Unclear icons: This is especially common in corporate communication. Make sure all icons are clear and intuitive.

12. Stock photos: Using straight stock photos is one of the biggest design faux pas. If you must, at least add filters or other elements to customize the image.

13. No imagery: No one wants to face a wall of text. Use imagery and illustration to add personality and enhance the story.

14. Low-resolution images: Always work with hi-res images (and double check that they’re rendering appropriately).

Layout

e-book design mistakes and tips

15. No visual hierarchy: Design should help the reader navigate through content and identify the most pertinent info. Use headers, pullquotes, and sidebars to create an intuitive flow.

16. No white space: If content is too crammed, readers feel fatigued. Let the visuals breathe, and cut copy if you need to.  

17. Visual junk: Kill any unnecessary ornamental illustrations, imagery, and chart junk. (This is an easy way to get more white space.)  

18. Too long: We’ve seen e-books double in size simply because the designer injected elaborate chapter breaks or filler pages. While you don’t want to cram, you do want to be economical with your space. 

19. Inconsistent layout: It’s important to have a visual flow, but don’t get too creative on each page. Mixing it up too much is only distracting.

20. Crazy borders and footers: Keep it simple, please. 

21. Redundancy: If you have a chart title, section header, and callout that all say the same thing, condense and cut. Design is there to improve comprehension, not overly explain.

22. Too many colors: Don’t go color crazy. A good rule is to use 1 or 2 dominant colors, plus 2-3 accent colors.

23. Inconsistent color use: Don’t arbitrarily use colors from page to page, especially for elements like charts and graphs. Stick to one consistent color to highlight pertinent info or data points.

24. Sloppy alignment: The eye craves symmetry and balance. Watch for alignment in your body copy, as well as sidebars and headers.

Typography

e-book design mistakes and tips

25. Too many fonts: Use no more than 3 or 4 fonts total, and keep type styles consistent throughout.

26. Indistinguishable hyperlinks: If content is hyperlinked in a PDF, make sure it is underlined or color-coded so that people know to click.

27. Over-elaborate headers: Headers help to break up dense copy, but sometimes designers go overboard will illustration or illumination, making the copy illegible.  

28. Widows and orphans: Do a final pass to make sure you’ve caught them all.

29. Inconsistent spacing: Make sure your tracking, leading, kerning, and paragraph spacing are all on point.

30. Tiny text: Whether your audience is reading your e-book on a mobile device or printing it, out make sure text is an appropriate size.

Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment With Your E-Book Design

No matter how talented you are, you can always learn something or try something new with your e-books. If you’re looking to mix it up:

But if you’re still feeling stuck and need some design help, let us know.