Common Web Design Mistakes

There are lots of mistakes that people make in web design, especially when it comes to usability. If you make something "hard to do" or "hard to find" then your visitors will usually make the decision fairly instantly that they don't like your site. These visitors may also pass this onto friends/colleagues either directly or by simply not recommending you when perhaps they could have. Here's some of these mistakes that spring to mind, so if you are designing a website have a quick check through this list to make sure you've thought about these:

1. Intro Pages

Thankfully, these are becoming less common that they were a few years ago, but intro pages that have a big picture and a "click here to enter" approach can be really frustrating. You may think it looks good, but what purpose does it actually serve? Your visitors have an extra click to make and it takes them longer to get to what they actually want to view. I may be a bit more severe than others but I can recall even leaving a few sites before getting to the content just because of this annoyance. If you are using an intro page, it may be worth you viewing your analytic statistics to see if your bounce rates back up any of this.

2. Poor Navigation

The reason that most people will visit your website is to find something. Whether that is a service you provide, an article/text/post you have written or a document you link to, that is most likely the sole reason they are visiting. If they haven't landed on your site in exactly the right location, or they want to explore further into your site, they will want it to be obvious how to navigate around your site to find what they need. Your navigation should therefore be easy to find and use and it should be consistent throughout the whole site. You don't need to be especially clever with the navigation, just keep it clean and tidy and try to think what you would want to see if you were a first time user on the site. If you do this you won't go far wrong.

3. Lack of search

If I'm trying to find something on a site, the first thing I'll try is via the sites search box. If it doesn't have one, or it's not prominent on the page I'm on it really puts me off. It's not difficult to add a search to an internet based site as you can easily integrate google search into your own site. I actually find this approach better than most of the site specific searches as you often get more relevant results (after all, if there's one thing Google is good at it's searching).

4. Excessive Flash

Flash can be a good way of grabbing your visitors eye and can be very good at providing an interactive experience so I'n not saying it should be avoided, but there's no reason to overdo it. If you stay clear of using it for navigation, and make sure that your site can still be accessed when Flash isn't present or is turned off on the users machine then this will give you a good starting point. Accessibility is the key here!

5. Pop-ups

With the fairly recent introduction of mainstream pop-up blockers, there doesn't appear to be many times where a horrible little window pops up in front of you when you least expect it. Unless the user has specifically clicked on something to request a pop-up, why annoy them by making them close something they probably weren't interested in?! However, what I have seen recently is the introduction of a pop-up replacement; the javascript modal pop-up! Equally as annoying in the wrong context, this type of pop-up either stops you accessing any of the page behind it, or it just obscures your view. I'm not saying they shouldn't be used, as I especially like it for things such as photo viewing and libraries such as Lightbox and Slimbox implement it very well. What I do object to is poor implementations of it like where things just bounce down in front of you for no reason or where they ask you to take part in a survey just because you happened to view a page on their site.

6. Interfering Javascript

I don't mean all javascript, I mean the sort that interferes with the functionality of the browser. Why disable the back button? If I want to go back I will. If you won't let me I'll probably just click the X button quitting your site never to return! Please make sure you're just using javascript to enhance the users experience, not deteriate from it!

7. Multimedia

Audio and/or video can be a great way of showcasing something to your visitors when text simply won't do. However, bear in mind that this audio/video may not be the exact reason why a particular visitor has visited your site so you need to account for these people as well. I'd suggest making sure that you don't automatically start any audio/video samples and instead have a button that the user needs to click in order to start the multimedia.

8. Slow websites

Even though we are pretty much past the days of a 56k dial up modem, you can't always rely on your visitor having a fast connection. If you really have to load something up on your page that takes a long time to load, make sure you an provide some feedback to the user to show exactly what is happening and how long they can expect to wait. Make sure you use a tool such as a Web Page Analyzer and YSlow to test the loading of your page and find any potential bottlenecks.

9. Spelling and grammar

One of the easiest things to miss when creating a website is a spelling mistake or poor grammar. I generally run my text through Microsoft Word just to see if there are any glaring issues with my text before it goes live, as I think that if you read something where you are noticing errors then it really detracts from the quality of the article and make you think whether you can take the author seriously or not. You should also try to make sure that the text you are displaying is readable, so try not to stretch your text too far across the screen, make sure the font size is of a reasonable size and that the colours you use are easy to read.

10. Page Titles

This is easy to overlook and sometimes it isn't given as much priority as it should but page titles are very important. Search engines are obviously interested in them as they show a very high level description of the page, but users are especially interested in them for a couple of reasons. Firstly, they  help condense the content into a brief summary and they will give the user an indication of what to expect prior to reading the content. Secondly, users may have multiple tabs or pages open in their browser and by providing a clear title it will help the easily identify and jump to your page.

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