Web Design Mistakes To Watch Out For

October 15, 2011

What are the top blunders your Web Designer should avoid when they are creating your new business web site?

Here are my thoughts on that… based on my “expertise” as a web designer since 1995… and presented here so small business owners have a better idea of what that person looking after their web site should really be doing for them!

1. First Impressions Are Important

While this is a probably more a “marketing” issue than a “design” issue, web designers should probably consider this one before anything else!

Can your visitors work out the primary purpose of your site in a few seconds? Seriously, that IS all the time you get… only while the page is loading… for a new visitor to decide whether they will explore further, or leave!

And this does NOT just apply to only your home page. Look closely at ALL your internal pages too, because that’s where around 80% of your traffic will arrive at your site!

If your message is NOT clear, your visitors will leave… fast! And there’s absolutely NO chance of fixing a poor first impression on the net!

2. Offering Far Too Many Choices

Offering too many choices/options/links on a web page will result in visitor confusion.

Avoid offering too many options which DISTRACT visitors away from whatever your PRIMARY page objective is.

If a visitor cannot work out what they are supposed to do next, they will do the only thing they can – leave!

Don’t make it too hard for them.

3. Terrible Site Navigation

Good web site navigation is essential for people to

  • initially understand what your site is about, and then
  • locate and use the information provided.

Spend a LOT of time building the “framework” of your web “house” so it’s easy to find all the “rooms” (categories) in it. If it looks like a maze, then it’s too hard to navigate and visitors will abandon ship as soon as they arrive.

A good framework also helps with later planning on how to easily “extend” your web property without making too many major alterations!

So make your navigation simple, and consistent, on every page!

4. Failing To Put Your Visitor Into The Picture

If your web site is all about “we”… i.e. “We do this, we also do that!” Of it only raves about how good “we” are, then it will just not work!

OK – this is a marketing/copywriting issue more so than design, but it is something a GOOD web designer should address!

Concentrate your web site copy on addressing your visitor!

Explain the BENEFITS (to your visitor) of using your product/service, rather than dealing with the “features” (which are more a “we” strategy).

Put THEM the picture by using “You” as much as you can.

5. “Over-Designing” Your Site

While a site loaded with pictures may look really good, the conversions could be terrible (for all sorts of reasons).

A lot of “ugly” web sites have great conversion rates, which shows it is the MESSAGE that counts.

But whatever you do, a business site should still look as “professional” as possible, so don’t “ugly it up” deliberately!

6. Slow Loading Pages

Not everyone has fast broadband! There are STILL many users who have no option but to use dialup and/or slow ADSL with limited download allowances.

Put a limit on the total number of pictures/page, and optimize the file size of any graphics you use.

A fast loading page is better for all visitors. It helps form a good first impression because there is little waiting around for something to happen!

7. Poor Use Of “White Space”

Remember the good old days of print? Here’s a tip from then…

Make good use of WHITE SPACE!

Use white space to improve readability.

Use it to attract the eyes to elements you want people to click on.

Stop thinking you are paying per column centimeter with the web!

The web is DIGITAL, so There’s no need to cram everything too close together – you are NOT paying per column centimeter anymore!

But remember… the space “above the fold”…

This is what a user first sees on a page without scrolling. That space should contain the main action/s you want your visitors to take!

So think long and hard about what you put there!

8. Colour/Font Choices Make Content Hard To Read

Unless you have a VERY good reason for it, PLEASE avoid DARK backgrounds & light text – it’s far too hard to read! Go for dark text (that’s black or dark gray) on a light background.

Black & white for content blocks usually works best!

And make sure that your font size is not too small either, especially if you have “terms of service” type pages which you want clients to read…

9. Using Non-Standard Link Colours and Styles

And speaking of colours… Changing away from the default link colors and NOT leaving them underlined, can reduce their effectiveness.

Unless there is a specific design need for it, stick closely to the DEFAULT link colors (blue and purple) and keep your links underlined.

It’s what people expect and are used to looking for. Change these at your peril!

10. Dead/Outdated Links

Make sure ALL your links – to your OWN pages, and to other sites – are working!

Nothing is more frustrating (and unprofessional) than referring your visitors to a link which is dead!

Remember to check your off-site links regularly. If visitors end up at a dubious link, it reflects on your credibility. Watch out for linked domains that have changed hands, or expired, and no longer contain content relevant to your audience.

11. Flash

Home pages which feature only a flash animation/intro not only annoy visitors, they are very poor for search engine optimisation (SEO) purposes.

While you can use small elements of flash in pages to make them snazzier (see caveats above), don’t have pages which are ONLY made up of flash elements.

12. Audio/Video Which Auto-Starts

Is any audio/video “in their face” as soon as visitors arrive at your page?

Think about letting your users START it themselves when they are prepared to listen/watch. Provide OBVIOUS volume controls so those using the net at work don’t get sprung!

Obviously, if your site focuses on music and/or video (eg fan pages, sites for musicians etc) then you can autostart because that’s what people are expecting to happen at such sites!

But all other sites… if it is not the norm for that audience… auto-start may not be good.

13. Cross Browser In-Compatibility

After all of that…

Check your web pages in different browser software, and on different computer operating systems.

See if there are any glaring problems that may need correction, otherwise some of your audience could be missing out, or get the wrong idea!

14. Forced Horizontal Scrolling

Not everyone has 18″ to 20″ monitors with super high resolution. So don’t set your web page up to work only with that type of monitor!

Aim for a web page display width around 800-900 pixels wide. Some people even suggest 1024, but because the eye is NOT good at reading WIDE paragraphs, it’s best to stay narrower than that.

Also check your site on different sized monitors for readability.

These days any website developed should be “responsive” – i.e. fixed content which automatically changes the layout so that it can be viewed on different devices such as desktop, tablet and smartphone.

What’s Missing?

Probably a fair bit… I’ve endeavoured to stay with the common web “design”problems rather than including too many copywriting (use of bullet points etc), or even SEO (meta tags, anchor text etc) issues.

But if you have got something to add to this list – whether it be design, SEO or other “problems”, then go for it and comment below!

And yes… I KNOW several of my sites probably break lots of these “rules”! I am really working on fixing them as time allows!

So please… add your suggestions, comments etc., to this post below…

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