There are many beautiful websites out there, easy to use, a pleasure to look at and bursting with great content. Unfortunately the world is also full of badly designed websites to plague our lives on a daily basis.
1 Whose website is it anyway?
The worst mistake in terms of marketing has to be designing a brand or website to appeal to your own tastes and not to your user. You may love fluffy kittens and cute pink bows, ok for the flamboyant show-cat owner; but the rest of the world? As outlined in How a Persona can improve your website: be very clear who your customer is. Start with a detailed persona and then design specifically for that person. Don’t ever give your web developer free reign. They probably think World of Warcraft is awesome man and judge all design standards on that.
Keep focused on who is going to buy from you.
2 Barriers to entry such as flash intros
Splash pages, flash intros, a dancing cartoon dog moonwalking across the page? Thankfully intro pages are mostly resigned to the wastebasket of bad taste and full flash sites only seem to crop up on pretentious styled to death sites. Developers and designers understand that flash is not currently scannable by search engines and subsequently renders them invisible. But some dynamic bright spark entrepreneurs do still think it’s well wicked to have a home page with a chorus line of techno frogs. Remember you do have a choice before working with them.
Don’t put barriers or obstacles in the way of your user. They won’t stick around.
3 Not telling the user what the site is about in six seconds
Taught in week one of Branding, the Home School Course: the brand must instantly convey the message of what the product does. A website should tell the user within six seconds what it does, what it sells and again what it does. Clear mission statements, clear headlines, clear company logo and clear branding.
Get your message across instantly without any ambiguity..
4 Build it and they will come – oh yeah, how will your users find you?
If you build a site without a clear online strategy plan then you might as well throw your money away. How are they going to find it? Your budget should be divided 80% marketing and 20% web build. A basic site with well crafted copy in combination with a marketing plan will get much better results than blowing a huge budget on an all singing dancing site if it’s not marketed. Your website is basically just your retail space; it still needs to be advertised.
Can you find a needle in a haystack?
5 Big blocks of copy look like a brick wall
It’s the solid wall of content death. It’s the painfully solid full page width of dull copy. Are you going to suffer and read to learn the mysteries of the universe? I don’t think so, you’re going to quickly click to the next page. Or run a mile. Users don’t read on screen copy – they scan. They need reasons to be coaxed down a page and to continue reading.
Subheads, bullet points, highlight keywords, bite sized paragraphs, conversational tone and please no marketese speak.
6 Abandoning design conventions
Don’t try and reinvent the wheel, the reason most sites have navigation at the top or left is because it works. That’s where users know and go to find the menu. Don’t call the shopping cart/basket a Shopping Sled or Merlin’s Big Sac. No one is going to know what that is or even worse – they don’t care cause they have just moved on to your competitor. Stick to convention, don’t monkey around for monkeying sake. 1: you’re wasting time and 2: you’re creating a site that confuses your user (for confuse read; I’m going somewhere else).
Use traditional layouts because a user will already understand the layout.
7 Horizontal scroll
Only 1% of a users time will be spent scrolling horizontally. In fact users have only just evolved their index fingers enough to be able to scroll the wheel vertically. Use a standard screen width of 1024 pixels.
Web users will not scroll horizontally – don’t do it.
8 Lost in navigation
When you land on a web page it must be able to tell you in isolation:
Where am I?
Where have I been?
Where can I go next?
Where’s the home page?
Breadcrumbs are always useful to let a user know where he is within the site at any moment. Clear calls to action to point the way forward to the user. A homepage link within the banner (the logo has become a standard home page link). And please do not EVER disable right click on a sight with the tawdry message ‘we have disabled the right click for copyrighting purposes’. This stops the user using his mouse as a back button and the top of the browser can be too far. I have clicked away from sites for doing this – it’s my pet hate. And it’s always the poxy sites that do this, why?
Always make it clear where a user is on your site at any moment.
9 Trying to cram too much on one page
80% of time is spent reading above the fold; this is the top 800 pixels of your page. Your prime retail space. Users need a lot of encouragement to want to scroll down pages so it has to be smokin hot content to tempt them. Use good keyworded subheads so they can scan down the content and see where they want to dip in. Give your user room to breathe so their eye can find the key bits of information they need without visually fighting with a flashing conga line moving across the page.
Limit the amount of information per page, keep space in the design for a calming uncluttered look.
10 Bad typography
Comic sans. Don’t do it.
Need I say any more?
Ok, cartoon fonts, eligible fonts, too small and scripty fancy fonts. Leave them alone, you can’t read them online.
And the award for worst site design ever:
For actually giving me motion sickness – be warned if you have epilepsy or a nervous disposition
The worst site ever designed. Ever.