Bad website design is obvious. Great website design is transparent.
I have spent a great deal of time writing blogs which highlight the important issues behind building a great website, basically the rules we follow at Fluid Web Development if you will, but we thought it might be a nice change to focus on what makes a bad website.
Here is our list of the 10 things that need to be considered when designing a website.
1. Silence is golden
A website that opens to a fanfare of background music is a really bad idea. Where, maybe 15 years ago, the majority of browsing was carried out in front of a PC in the privacy of your own home, we are now more inclined to browse pretty much anywhere. Many people surf the web in social surroundings such as in a cafe, on a park bench, sitting at home with the family, on the bus or even in work, if the boss isn’t looking. So the last thing we need is a blast of inappropriate music emitting from our direction as many heads turn towards us. The Accept Jesus, Forever Forgiven website is a classic case of this (never mind the awful background).
2. Be clear as to what your business is.
You should be able to look at the home page of any site, and figure out what the site is about, in less than four seconds. If you can’t, the site is a failure. A good example of a site that would confuse most visitors can be found at Genicap. Go on, click on it and in four seconds or less work out what they do.
3. Page Not Found / Under Construction
There is no quicker way to annoy visitors to your website than offering them what you haven’t got. It’s a common mistake to add links to incomplete pages to make the site look more useful that it really is. Sometimes this is a result of a mind-set that says if we don’t have much to say nobody will listen. So we have to look busy, offer more, etc. But ask yourself why do we click on a link? It’s because we want to learn or see more. When the result is an error message, or even worse, an animation of somebody digging a hole, we feel short changed. Your visitor has just waited for the page to load, now they know there’s a good chance the next link will be “under construction” too, so they leave. If a page isn’t finished, don’t publish it – simple.
4. Adverts for things that are not relevant to your website
If you’re going to try and make money from your website/blog, do yourself a favour and lay off the excessive advertisements. If your page loads and has 70% ads and only 30% content, odds are high that people will leave and never come back. Making your ads the #1 priority is a bad idea. Try blending them in and making sure they don’t take away from the content. I recently visited a web page when I was looking to purchase some walking shoes and the site had two adverts displayed prominently on the home page. One was for Amazon and showed some MP3’s I had been looking at and one was for the cycling website Wiggle who I often purchase from. The Wiggle link showed a deal for energy gels. So I clicked on the link, bought some energy gels and a few other bits and pieces, paid for them checked the confirmation email then switched the PC off. I had forgotten all about the walking shoes. How ironic that the walking shoes website had encouraged me to go and look at Wiggle. OK, they will get some ad revenue from my click on their site but nothing like the money I would have spent with them.
5. Colour me beautiful
Having every colour that is inside the 64 set of crayons on your screen will not only look bad, but it will annoy your readers and drive them away. Your colours should blend well together, not clash. If you’re not good at picking colour schemes, I’d suggest a site like Colour Lovers which has user generated colour schemes posted. Find the right colour scheme (at most, 5 colours) and see how much better your designs turn out. If you don’t pay attention to this rule, you may end up with a web site like the Burlington UFO Centre.
6. Readable Text
I remember when I first started using the Windows OS in my late teens and found I had easy control over fonts, styles and colours. All of a sudden I had bold, italic and underlined text of any size in a wide range of colours and fonts at my disposal. Back then, I was just like my 10 year old daughter creating Power Point slides for her school projects. Yet it is surprising how many websites are still like that. Text and background colours that clash or are so similar they are barely readable. Long and wide blocks of text that go on and on, making it difficult to scan them, and always losing the start of the next line. Or worse using fonts that have no relation to your business. A Salsa type fond looks nice, but should be used sparingly and not in long paragraphs. Logo’s, images and videos catch the visitors attention and text that relays information should be clear. Check out Sixties Press for some amazing combo’s. Don’t forget, even readable text can be too much if it goes on for ever.
7. There’s more than one browser
For a number of years Microsoft’s Internet Explorer had been the most common Internet Browser in the world, mainly because it comes pre-installed with windows PC’s, laptop’s and tablet’s. To a lot of people IE is the Internet. But now there are more popular browsers out there such as Chrome and Firefox, which many people switch to as they are, (in my opinion) far better. Then you have browsers on mobile devices as well. The point is, there are a number of browsing platforms that a visitor could potentially use to visit your website, but many people still build a website, ensure it works on their browser and then set it free on a waiting world. However, not all browsers work the same. Different plugins, enhancements or Java script additions may respond differently across the browsers, so take care to ensure that your site works seamlessly on the options that are out there.
8. Responsive web sites
20% (1 in 5) of people, primarily browse with a mobile device. If your website is not responsive and visitors have to pinch the screen and scroll around to see content then why would they bother to hang around.
9. Navigation should always be simple
We spend more time navigating websites in search of meaningful content than we do reading it. So if a websites navigation isn’t obvious, people tire very quickly of using your site. Just check out Chester Tourist. This website has no focus with the navigational buttons in different colours. Not only are you distracted by the button colors, they are also quite hard to read. Text content can pose a reading problem, due to lack of contrast and the small size of the font type.
10. Other peoples opinions matter
Ask other people what they think of your website. Its important to get a different point of view as we don’t all like the same thing. And don’t be afraid of constructive criticism. Better to hear it from a friend than a stranger.