April 13, 2011
When visiting websites you know that not all websites are equally attractive. Good web design is not really difficult but there are a few things you should avoid if you want to create user-friendly websites. The 10 most common mistakes inexperienced web designers make are:
1. Technology for technology’s sake
It’s very nice to play with new toys, but your website is not a suitable playing field. Visitors to your website are interested in content, not whether you have Brand X Version N of flashy stuff on your website. Keep things simple. Use tried and trusted technology, not web tools that require the user to download special add-ons just to view your website. They won’t.
2. Using frames for page layout
Frames are a cop-out. They are easy for the designer, that’s why they are used so often. But they have a stack of disadvantages from the user’s point of view – and it is the user that we need to cherish, not the designer. The biggest problem is that the back button becomes unpredictable. You can’t bookmark the current page and come back to it – you will be returned to another version of the frameset. It’s also difficult for the user to know when to scroll, because different bits of the page have their own scroll bars.
3. Scrolling, blinking and animations
Moving images are distracting. Don’t use them. Visitors want to be able to read and digest what you are saying on your website. They don’t want the text to be bouncing around or flashing on and off before their eyes.
4. Color clashes
Yes there are 256 different colors you can use for text and background, but that doesn’t mean you have to use all of them. Nor does it mean that you should use color combinations that give your visitors eye-strain. Choose color combinations that provide a good contrast – dark on light is easier to read than light on dark.
5. Where am I ?
All pages must have a clear indication of which website they belong to, either in the browser window or on the web page itself. This is to help users who come to pages directly without coming in via the home page. For the same reason, every page should have a link to the home page as well as some indication of where they fit within the structure of your website.
6. Long scrolling pages
It’s best to avoid pages that have several screens full of content. Users will only scroll if they believe that there is something useful further down the page. If you really can’t split the page up, then at least provide content and navigation options on the top part of the page.
7. Lack of signposts
Your users won’t know their way around your site like you do. Provide a clear idea of structure and place. Use a menu bar or column in the same place on every page. If you have more than two levels of page hierarchy, provide a site map and search function as well.
8. Non-standard link colors
It has become conventional for links to pages that have not been visited by the user to be blue, and links to previously seen pages to be purple. Don’t invent your own color codes, you will only confuse visitors to your site.
9. Long download times
In our increasingly “time poor” society, people are getting more and more impatient, and when websites take too long to load, they will go somewhere else and probably won’t come back to you. So do everything you can to reduce download times. When designing your website, consider reducing the number of images on each page, and definitely reduce the size of the image files.
10. Outdated information
Nothing is worse than a website that advertises an event that has already passed its date, or a product that has already sold out. Have a plan to review and modify your site on a regular basis. When designing your website, identify pages that are date sensitive and remove or amend them as soon as that date has been reached.
Avoiding the design flaws highlighted above will enable you to create appealing websites that visitors will find easy to use.
M. Ruthe runs a website design for small businesses and has developed an online information resource for aspiring website designers. For more information on various aspects of website design visit www.bedfordwebsitedesign.com