Avoiding Simple Design Mistakes

Many websites suffer from mistakes that can dramatically impact their effectiveness. Here is a list I have compiled of 12 common mistakes made along with helpful advice on how to avoid them.

Many websites suffer from mistakes that can be easily avoided. I hope that this list will possibly help you to ensure that your site is not similarly afflicted. Some of these problems merely result in irritation, whilst others will inhibit or prevent visitors to your site from accessing the material or functionality that you have placed there.

A lot of the biggest mistakes made when launching a website, no matter how well or how poorly the website is implemented, occurs when the website’s role in you or your organisation’s strategy, has not been thought through properly.
Only when the overall strategic purposes and role of the site are understood, then the site can be built in a way that achieves those strategic purposes.

1. Lack of Accessibility

Accessibility refers to the ease with which users can access your site. On one level it can relate to the specialist web browsers that are used by people with a disability, on a another level It also refers to the vast array of equipment, operating systems and browsers that are used to surf the web.

Some examples to consider include:

  • Does the font size on your site increase if a visitor changes the text size from medium to largest in their browser?
  • How does your site look and function when accessed from a PDA or mobile phone?
  • How long does site take to load?
  • Microsoft’s Internet Explorer doesn’t run on the Mac or Linux. How does your website design look on Opera, Safari or FireFox?
  • Believe it or not, there are still plenty of users running browsers that are 10 or 12 years old. A good website designer will take advantage of the formatting and presentation capabilities of the newer browsers, whilst gracefully degrading when viewed with an older version.
  • Screen Sizes: There are a variety of screen sizes used to see content on the web. Your site needs to be able to display appropriately on different sized screens.

2. Can’t find contact information

We’re constantly amazed by websites that make it difficult to find physical contact information. For small and medium businesses this is critical as your contact information provides a key link to reality, giving customers confidence that they are dealing with a real business rather than a scammer. Contact information should include conventional contact methods such as phone and your business address.

3. Poor Navigation

Navigating through your site should be intuitive. This means that the site navigation should be organised and presented in a manner consistent with accepted web navigation conventions. Stick to standard techniques and standard locations for navigation elements such as links and menus. Links should look like links. It should be easy for a visitor to find the “home” and “contact us” links. As well as having navigation elements that are easily recognised, it is important to think through the logical organisation of your site. One useful metric to keep in mind is the average number of clicks required to find a piece of information or to access a page is usually 2-3 max. Another key aspect is how easy/obvious is it for a visitor to find out which link to click on. For example to find a page on a website for lets say Armani suits, the link should be something relevant to Armani suits like mens clothes or armani suits.

4. Too many meaningless graphics

The graphics on your site should enhance the user experience. This needs to be kept in balance enough to ensure that the site is attractive and functional, but not enough to create clutter and slow down the user experience. Site graphics need to be optimised to ensure that the site is displayed at a respectable speed.

5. Search Engine Unfriendly

Whilst having a search engine friendly site won’t guarantee you high rankings on your favourite search engine (that’s a discipline called Search Engine Optimisation), there’s no excuse for not having done the basics. These include having a site map, concise and relevant content, use of standard mark-up tags that are recognised by search engines as well as meta tags such as keywords and a description.

6. Poor Colour Schemes

A poor colour scheme will distract visitors from your message. At worst, the message will become unreadable. It is also important to keep vision impaired users in mind, so if your site features coloured text on a coloured background then it would be wise to offer a high contrast option. This can easily be done using style sheets.

7. Expecting that people will read your Web Pages

Very few people read a web page in its entirety. Rather, people scan web pages looking for relevant information, zooming in on the elements that catch their interest. It is therefore important that information be well ordered and easy to locate on the page.

8. Dead Links

All of the links on your site should work. Having users visit your site and encounter broken links will look unprofessional, cause frustration and undermine the confidence of visitors in your site and hence your organisation. All links on your site should be properly tested. Links to external sites that are not under your control should be tested on a regular basis, especially if they link deep into the content of that site.

9. Pages that are slow to load

Web surfers are notoriously impatient and will punish slow sites by leaving them. A good site will load in no more than a few seconds. Reasons for slow loading pages often include such factors as overloading a site with pointless graphics, sub-optimal graphic formats and hosting factors such as using an overseas hosting company or a backyard hosting company. If there is a legitimate, unavoidable reason for having a slow site, then provide visual feedback for the visitor while it loads.

10. Not monitoring your site

There are numerous tools available for monitoring your site. They can provide valuable insights into the behaviour of users on your site, allowing you to determine where they come from, how they found your site and the kind of content that they are interested in and which links are the most popular. With excellent tools available free of charge, there is no excuse not to monitor who is visiting your site and what they do once they arrive.

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