In web design today, there are a handful of major no-no’s that we should all work together to eradicate from the internet completely, and awareness is half the battle.
The most important thing you can do is build your site for its users, making it easy for them to find what they’re looking for; be it contact information, company news, products to buy, or any other identified objective. So in the spirit of awareness, here are the 5 biggest no-no’s in current website design (in no particular order).
1. Splash Pages & Loading Pages
Your website shouldn’t be a commercial. People hate commercials.
Try to avoid the urge to bludgeon your users with self indulgent intro pages. Bouncing, swishing graphics and flashy ‘splash’ pages only add one more step between your users and what they’re after. Fifteen years ago when splash pages were all the rage, this may have been acceptable. As a user, you’d probably go through the same emotions in three visits that the collective internet has gone through since ’95. You’d arrive at a site for the first time to be greeted with a colourful intro page filled with swooshing graphics and dancing menu items and some catchy Muzak. “What a production!” you might think.
The next time you visit, and see the same thing, you look for a “skip into” link (if there is one). The next time, you may debate even going to the site at all. Imagine if you had to deal with this every time you went to Facebook or Google!
I understand, as a business owner you want your website to be cool and different, and it should! But the conventions that have been established on the web over the past decade are there for a reason: To simplify and streamline the whole process of getting information, for everyone!
The other type of intro page is the “please wait 5 minutes while our website loads.” If your site has to show a progress bar while loading, you’re probably doing it wrong. You’re also probably using Flash…
2. Flash Websites & Unnecessary Interactivity
Unless you’re talking about YouTube, which uses Flash as a video format, the term ‘Flash websites’ borders on dirty word amongst the web-savvy, for numerous reasons. Here are a few:
- Search engines don’t get along well with Flash. And they’re not inviting it to their birthday party.
- Flash is clunky (hence the aforementioned loading pages).
- Flash websites won’t even load on a huge number of mobile devices – most notably, Apple’s iPhone. Even if you’re using a browser on your pc, you may need to download a Flash player to see these sites. Remember that part about making it easy?
Flash websites often create numerous extra barriers for users to get what they’re looking for, mostly due to unconventional architecture, or navigation that makes you actively look around and hover over images to find things. It is imperative to have a persistent navigation bar on every page of your site that will facilitate getting around for your users. If they come in on a blog post (and, god forbid, bypass your intro screen detailing your website’s instructions) they should be able to get to your contact information, home page, other blog posts, etc. easily and with minimal brain work. Simply having a navigation, however, isn’t a smoking gun. Nav’s can also be plagued with self indulgence and bad practice…
3. Vague or Difficult to Use Navigation (aka Mystery Meat Navigation)
You may have the urge to label your site navigation with vague terms that metaphorically represent what’s on that page. Please don’t. No matter how clever your labels are, they are not what I’m looking for.
- I’m looking for Contact us, not engage
- I’m looking for Portfolio, not expressions
Another common method of artistic expression with site navigation is using images or (gasp) Flash to create moving, dynamic menus. These ones often produce infuriating results. Another thing to avoid in your navigation is the use of images…
4. Using Graphics for Text
This one’s simple.
- Where do you look for answers, products, or services online? Search engines.
- What do search engines use to determine the relevance of your site? Text.
- What happens if search engines can’t read any of the text on your site? Nothing. And your site will forever be ignored, by everyone.
You don’t have to be a search engine expert to use live text to describe things on your site. SEO can do a lot to bring in traffic to a website, but by simply using on-page text instead of images you’re 50% of the way there!
A simple way to check if your text is “live” or trapped in images is to try and highlight it, copy it and paste it!
PRO TIP: Find what you you’re looking for quickly on any web page by pressing Ctrl+F (Command+F on a mac) and searching for words on that page. This of course only works on sites with live text – but it can be an enormous time-saver on really busy, messy, over-cluttered websites…
5. Clutter, Chaos, & Poor Readability
This one is making a pretty graceful departure from the web with sites like eBay, Facebook, Amazon, etc. changing what people expect to see.
The advent of content-managed, dynamic websites has allowed for sorting and organization of information to keep the important stuff front and centre. More and more I find that the expectation is shifting towards clean and streamlined web design. This is wonderful, but there are still remnants of the 90’s kicking around and the occasional new website that tries to clutter your screen with more information and images that you could digest in a week.
A Few Dishonorable Mentions
- Burying your contact info or location more than one click away from the home page
- Broken links
- Music that plays automatically
Hopefully we can all continue to work towards a more standardized, usable web… without any No-No’s.
— Nick Pierno, SEO Analyst
Nick is an experienced SEO analyst at Epiar Inc. and a guest author of the Top Draw blog. His shared experience between web design and search engine optimization make his contributions uniquely insightful, and help bridge the gap between information architecture and aesthetics.