Life’s Too Short for Bad Web Design
Most of us spend hours each day online and this number continues to grow. This can mean visits to literally hundreds of websites per week. Unfortunately, this also means each of us is probably visiting a lot of really bad websites. We don’t mean they’re evil or dedicated to the destruction of mankind. We just mean they’re ugly, load too slow or are difficult to navigate. In short, these are the ones you’ll probably try to avoid in the future.
We Try Not to Build that Kind
We generally try to give the client exactly what they want, but part of what they pay us for is to help steer them away from bad decisions. In our experience, nearly all our clients are very appreciative of this kind of advice and happily choose a recommendation that is close to what they want but will net them a better end result. Here are a few of the most common problems we run into that can be easily avoided to give you a website that looks great for you and works great for your site visitors.
A few years ago Flash was the method of choice for website animation. It is now generally considered as something to avoid if at all possible. If you must have animation, a little jQuery can get you faster load times and can incorporate searchable copy. In fact, some of the more recent information regarding Flash leads us to believe it will not really be supported for website development to any degree moving forward. If you need a better reason, consider the fact that search engine don’t read Flash so anything you do with it is largely invisible for organic search purposes.
Audio / Video Overload
A little audio and video can go a long way and add appeal to your site but you should avoid going overboard. If you must have audio and video playing on your site you should try to follow some basic rules such as the following.
- Keep the files small and fairly short.
- Don’t have them auto-play.
- Include controls so they can be turned on and off.
- Don’t have more than 1 or 2 per page or post.
While it may be easier to “borrow” content from other websites and just paste it into your own, this is a very bad idea for several reasons. For starters, this is intellectual theft and a bad practice in general. If the morality and legality of it doesn’t bother you, though, the negative impact on your website traffic should. Duplicate content is viewed in a negative light by search engines and the penalties that can result.
Excessively Large Images
When we say large we’re referring to the number of kilobytes or megabytes rather than the height and width. With all images you place on your website, you want to make sure you limit the size of the image as much as possible to keep site load speeds as fast as possible. This is often a balancing act between image quality and image size but an essential consideration. We generally try to keep even the largest website images to less than 100 kb in size and rarely have difficulty with quality.
PDFs on your website are something you should try to avoid except for a very limited number of functions such as downloadable documents. Although using PDFs can help you limit document size, you lose nearly all of the SEO benefits of the document copy because a PDF is an image rather than searchable copy. PDFs also can have a negative impact on site load speeds.
Small or Excessively Stylish Fonts
This can be another balancing act when it comes to design versus usability. We know you love your super stylish font and it doesn’t look as good when it’s large but get a grip on yourself. It doesn’t do you any good to bring traffic to your website if they immediately leave because your tiny script is giving them a headache. You can choose a stylish web font that fits your brand but is still easy to read in a web environment.
Annoying or Hidden Links
Links are a good thing for your website and we certainly wouldn’t recommend ignoring them but you should follow some basic protocol with regard to appearance and function. Here are a few of the basics we recommend.
- Make links a different color than regular copy
- Underlining links can be a good way to clearly identify them
- For internal links (to other pages on your website), don’t open a new window or pane.
- For external links (to other websites), always open a new window or pane
- Place your most important links earlier in the post or page
With modern design technology and web font replacement capabilities, there is rarely a good reason to convert text to graphics. In order to take advantage of the full search benefit of all the copy on your website, the text needs to be scannable. If you can’t figure out a way to make this work for you, hire a professional to do it. It’s that important.
Vertical scrolling is pretty much a requirement for most pages on a website and site visitors are trained to expect this. If you want to annoy people, though, try and create content that forces them to scroll horizontally. Horizontal scrolling is counterintuitive to the normal browsing experience and people simply don’t like to do it. If your design or content requires you to be wider than the screen, change them.
Follow the KISS Principle
Keeping it simple is a great rule of thumb to apply to your website design and function. You can have a beautiful website that is easy to use and navigate with animation and plenty of graphic appeal and still follow all the guidelines noted above. Your goals should be to help people find you, to look good to them when they do, and to keep them with you for a long time with rich content and intuitive navigation.