Top 10 Web Site Design Mistakes

Having a good looking and functional design is essential for any website or blog. Even if you are not a professional designer, however, there are some basic concepts that can drastically improve your understanding of this area and the layout of your blog.

Web Design From Scratch is a valuable resource for someone looking for those basic design concepts. It has a vast collection of small articles covering the design process, usability, website architecture, technical languages and more.  There are lots and lots of different type of web design mistakes. If you’re looking for a list of mistakes, see  www.webpagesthatsuck.com. Some other articles covering web design mistakes lists include “the ten most egregious offenses against users, web design disasters and HTML horrors”. The lists are organized by year, and below you will find the latest update, Top 10 Web Site Design Mistakes, check it out :

1. Use a simple navigation structure

* Sometimes less is more convenient: This rule usually applies to people and choices. Make sure that your website has a single, clear navigation structure. The last thing you want is to confuse the reader regarding where he should go to find the information he is looking for.

 * Include functional links on your footer: people are used to scrolling down to the footer of a website if they are not finding a specific information. At the very least you want to include a link to the Homepage and possibly a link to the “Contact Us” page.

*  No horizontal scrolling: while some vertical scrolling is tolerable, the same can not be said about horizontal scrolling. The most used screen resolution nowadays is 1024 x 768 pixels, so make sure that your website fits inside it.

 * Make sure users can search the whole website: there is a reason why search engines revolutionized the Internet. You probably guessed it, because they make it very easy to find the information we are looking for. Do not neglect this on your site.

* Avoid “drop down” menus: the user should be able to see all the navigation options straight way. Using “drop down” menus might confuse things and hide the information the reader was actually looking for.

* Use text navigation: text navigation is not only faster but it is also more reliable. Some users, for instance, browse the Internet with images turned off.

* Make links visible: the visitor should be able to recognize what is clickable and what is not, easily. Make sure that your links have a contrasting color (the standard blue color is the optimal most of the times). Possibly also make them underlined.

* Do not underline or color normal text: do not underline normal text unless absolutely necessary. Just as users need to recognize links easily, they should not get the idea that something is clickable when in reality it is not.

* Make clicked links change color: this point is very important for the usability of your website. Clicked links that change color help the user to locate himself more easily around your site, making sure that he will not end up visiting the same pages unintentionally.

* Avoid Javascript links: those links execute a small Javascript when the user clicks on them. Stay away from them since they often create problems for the user.

*  Make sure to include contact details: there is nothing worse than a website that has no contact details. This is not bad only for the visitors, but also for yourself. You might lose important feedback along the way.

* Do not break the “Back” button: this is a very basic principle of usability. Do not break the “Back” button under any circumstance. Opening new browser windows will break it, for instance, and some Javascript links might also break them.

* Avoid complex URL structures: a simple, keyword-based URL structure will not only improve your search engine rankings, but it will also make it easier for the reader to identify the content of your pages before visiting them.

2. Avoid too many distractions

 Do not use pop ups: this point refers to pop ups of any kind. Even user requested pop ups are a bad idea given the increasing amount of pop blockers out there.

* Do not overuse Flash: apart from increasing the load time of your website, excessive usage of Flash might also annoy the visitors. Use it only if you must offer features that are not supported by static pages.

* Do not use animated GIFs: unless you have advertising banners that require animation, avoid animated GIFs. They make a site look unprofessional and detract the attention from the content.

* Do not play music: on the early years of the Internet web developers always tried to successfully integrate music into websites. Guess what, they failed miserably. Do not use music, period.

* If you MUST play an audio file let the user start it: some situations might require an audio file. You might need to deliver a speech to the user or your guided tour might have an audio component. That is fine. Just make sure that the user is in control, let him push the “Play” button as opposed to jamming the music on his face right after he enters the website.

* Do not use blinking text: unless your visitors are coming straight from 1996, that is.

3. An interesting  page attracts more visitors

 Avoid “intros”: do not force the user to watch or read something before he can access to the real content. This is plain annoying, and he will stay only if what you have to offer is really unique.

*  Non-Scannable Text: a wall of text is deadly for an interactive experience. Intimidating. Boring. Painful to read.

*  Avoid long pages: guess what, if the user needs to scroll down forever in order to read your content he will probably just skip it altogether. If that is the case with your website make it shorter and improve the navigation structure.

*  Do not use harsh colors: if the user is getting a headache after visiting your site for 10 consecutive minutes, you probably should pick a better color scheme. Design the color palette around your objectives (i.e. deliver a mood, let the user focus on the content, etc.).

* Do not use a homepage that just launches the “real” website: the smaller the number of steps required for the user to access your content, the better.

4. Violating Design Conventions

* Consistency is one of the most powerful usability principles: when things always behave the same, users don’t have to worry about what will happen. Excessive creativity can be just that. Excessive! Some designers take it to another level when creating websites by creating different designs for every web page within a website. This is by no means confusing to the user. And utterly annoying. No matter how outstanding and attractive a website is, if the overall look and feel is not consistent, users cannot relate to it and feel less in control. Thus, leaving as soon as they arrived.

Use a standard consistent template for every page with links to the main sections of the site.

* The keyword is simple. Create aesthetically simple designs and users will never get confused on your website.

5. Don’t clutter your website with badges

* First of all, badges of networks and communities make a site look very unprofessional. Even if we are talking about awards and recognition badges you should place them on the “About Us” page.

* Anything That Looks Like an Advertisement: selective attention is very powerful, and Web users have learned to stop paying attention to any ads that get in the way of their goal-driven navigation. (The main exception being text-only search-engine ads.)

* Do not blend advertising inside the content: blending advertising like Adsense units inside your content might increase your click-through rate on the short term. Over the long run, however, this will reduce your readership base. An annoyed visitor is a lost visitor.

6. Page titles with low Search Engine visibility

* Search is the most important way users discover websites. Search is also one of the most important ways users find their way around individual websites. The humble page title is your main tool to attract new visitors from search listings and to help your existing users to locate the specific pages that they need.

*Bad Search: overly literal search engines reduce usability in that they’re unable to handle typos, plurals, hyphens, and other variants of the query terms. Such search engines are particularly difficult for elderly users, but they hurt everybody.

7. Avoid PDF files for online reading

* Users hate coming across a PDF file while browsing, because it breaks their flow. Even simple things like printing or saving documents are difficult because standard browser commands don’t work.

* If you are linking to PDF files disclose it: ever clicked on a link only to see your browser freezing while Acrobat Reader launches to open that (unrequested) PDF file? That is pretty annoying so make sure to explicit links pointing to PDF files so that users can handle them properly.

8.Some technical mistakes you should avoid

* Use of FrontPage: this point extends to other cheap HTML editors. While they appear to make web design easier, the output will be a poorly crafted code, incompatible with different browsers and with several bugs.

* Make sure to use the ALT and TITLE attributes for images: apart from having SEO benefits the ALT and TITLE attributes for images will play an important role for blind users.

* No spelling or grammatical mistakes: this is not a web design mistake, but it is one of the most important factors affecting the overall quality of a website. Make sure that your links and texts do not contain spelling or grammatical mistakes.

* Fixed tiny Font Size: CSS style sheets unfortunately give websites the power to disable a Web browser’s “change font size” button and specify a fixed font size. About 95% of the time, this fixed size is tiny, reducing readability significantly for most people.

* Use CSS over HTML tables: HTML tables were used to create page layouts. With the advent of CSS, however, there is no reason to stick to them. CSS is faster, more reliable and it offers many more features.
* Not Changing the Color of Visited Links: a good grasp of past navigation helps you understand your current location, since it’s the culmination of your journey. Knowing your past and present locations in turn makes it easier to decide where to go next. Links are a key factor in this navigation process.

9. No registration unless it is necessary

* lets put this straight, when you browse around the Internet, you want to get information, not the other way around. Do not force me to register up and leave my email address and other details unless it is absolutely necessary.

* Never subscribe the visitor for something without his consent: do not automatically subscribe a visitor to newsletters when he registers up on your site. Sending unsolicited emails around is not the best way to make friends.

10. Answer Users’ Questions

* Users are highly goal-driven on the Web. They visit sites because there’s something they want to accomplish — maybe even buy your product. The ultimate failure of a website is to fail to provide the information users are looking for.

Creating a web site takes thought, planning and execution.Unfortunately, many designs are dead in the water before they are even published as far as search engine optimization is concerned. Whatever you do, avoid these critical mistakes.

Fixing The Problem

Fixing the problem often is lengthy and costly depending on the number of pages on your site. If you have over 100 products, a complete re-design may be the best answer. If you have a relatively small number of pages, there may be less brutish options.

Converting pages to static html is a definite solution for smaller sites. Essentially, one would take the page for each product and convert it into a static html page. The domain would then be converted to short sub-domain. If a user then clicked on the “buy” button for the product on the page, they would be sent to a dynamic database page. The viability of this solution is dependent upon the layout of the site. Some sites can be fixed, some simply cannot.

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