11 Common Web Design Mistakes

With over 16 years in the web site design field, I am still asked by my clients to put things or use things in and on their web sites that just are plain WRONG.  You wouldn't go to a doctor and tell the doctor how to treat your sickness,  would you?  Here are the top 11 web design NO NO's that I still have to talk my customers out of...

1.  Large Overbearing Logo

Often, a client will ask me to make their logo take up almost half of the page so that it is the most prominent graphic on the site.  I can understand this temptation, because business owners are extremely proud of their logos and want to show it off.  Here is the skinny on that, however:  Your customers (and potential customers) DO NOT care about your logo!  They have navigated to your page for only one reason, and that is to SOLVE THEIR PROBLEM.  Proper logo placement should be small and on the top left of the website.  See AMAZON.COM for a great example of proper logo size and placement.

2. Music That Plays When Entering The Site

Once again, I am often asked to put music on a client's web site, and my response to that is, "What do you do when you go to a site and music starts playing"?  The answer usually is, "Turn it off".

3.  PDF Files For Content Reading

Most online users hate coming across a PDF file while surfing, because it breaks their flow.  Even standard simple things like saving documents or printing are made difficult because standard browser commands don't work when in a PDF reader. Pages are often optimized for a sheet of paper, which almost never matches the size of the user's browser window. Goodbye smooth scrolling. Hello tiny fonts.

Worst of all, PDF is hard to navigate.

PDF is great for printing and for distributing manuals and other big documents that need to be printed. Reserve it for this purpose and convert any information that needs to be browsed or read on the screen into real web pages.

4. Bad Navigation

Navigation within a website should be seamless. Users should be able to find their way around easily. While there is no standard for navigation within a website, especially now as more new web development technologies emerge, it is imperative to understand that navigation must be intuitive and consistent.

If text is used as navigation, it should be concise. Visual metaphors should not be re-invented. If hyperlinks are used, then they should stand out from the body of the text. Dead links should have no place on any web page whatsoever. This increases user confusion and wastes time. And one that is even just as worse is having a link on the homepage that links to the homepage.

Suggestions:

  • Make navigation smooth by using textual descriptions for all links. Provide alt text for images. Use alternative text description techniques for Flash or Javascript links.
  • Organize and structure your navigation in tandem with the theme of the website. Personal websites can afford to be more creative yet accessible but a business website requires more efficiency and clarity.


Remember, if users can’t find what they want in less than 3 clicks, most will leave immediately. 

5. Poor Readability & Legibility

This is a crucial element of web design. Of course, a good interface design will grab the users’ attention but users have to read text to be able grasp the information they desire. Some websites use the most bizarre font styles and sizes that make reading a pain.

Suggestions:


Fortunately, there are simple ways that you can do to improve the users’ reading experience on your website.

  • Compare color schemes of most major sites and notice how the colors improve readability. A good place to try out different color schemes is Adobe Kuler.
  • Use a Sans serif typeface as it allows for easy reading on the web.

6. The Use Of Flash

Flash as a web design tool is dead. period.  Flash content cannot be read by search engines.  That in itself is reason enough not to use it, but there are many more reasons to find alternatives to flash sites or gratuitous use of flash in a web site.  Another reason for getting away from Flash is that today's iPhones and iPads do not read it, and with over 85 million iPhone users and over a million iPad users, why would you want to?  There are other alternatives for simple "Flash-like" actions, such as java script image rotation.

7. Ignoring Web Page Titles

Many Web designers don’t set the title of their web pages. This is, of course, a mistake, if only because search engines identify your web site by page titles in the results they display, and saving a web page in your browser’s bookmarks uses the page title for the bookmark name by default.

A less obvious mistake is the tendency of web designers to use the same title for every page of the site. It would be far more advantageous to provide a title for every page that identifies not only the web site, but the specific page. Of course, the title should still be short and succinct. A web page title that is too long is almost as bad as no web page title at all.

8. Not Understanding What Your Web Site Function Is

The most important thing to get right before you get started is to make sure that you understand the FUNCTION of your web site. Making sure you have an understanding of what your customers (and potential customers) needs are will reduce frustrations and keep them from visiting your competitor's web site.  For example, if you have a charter fishing business, do not waste web site space and resources producing content about your boat, your motor, your background.  Instead, give the user a reason to SPEND MONEY with you...and that is to show them the FISH!  They want to catch fish, thats the reason they are there.

9.  Lack Of A Clear Message

By not having a clear message on your site, you run the risk of confusing any potential new customers or visitors. The longer they take trying to figure out what it is the site is actually for, the more chance they will leave and try and find what they are looking for elsewhere.

A simple way of helping resolve this is to have a simple tagline, no more that 8-10 words long, located in the header. That way if someone lands on a page that isn’t the homepage, they can see the message and be clear of what the site is about without heading to the homepage or the about page.

10. Browser Incompatibility

Be sure your website could be viewed properly in all browsers. There are some websites that doesn’t appear good on other browsers. Hence, that is a great subtraction to the number of visitors for your website. To avoid this from happening, make your site compatible to all types of browsers so that you won’t lose a huge number of visitors.


11.  Not Taking Advice From The Expert

OK...you've decided to get a professional web site.  You've allocated a budget.  Done the research and found THE BESTweb designer to fit your project.  After hiring your web designer, you then instruct them on how to design your site.  WHAAAA????   You wouldn't tell your Fishing Boat Captain where to go catch the fish, right?  Nor would you tell a homebuilder to build your home YOUR WAY.  So why on Earth would you spend money to hire an expert, then tell the expert how to work?  

Give your web design professional a blueprint of what your site should look like... a basic layout, navigation links, and content - THEN LET HIM WORK HIS MAGIC.  You will be happier in the long run.