13 March

How to ruin your website

A lot of people give suggestions on how to improve your website or blog. Whether it is via SEO or design suggestions. It is true that not many tell you what is going to destroy your website. There may be a couple of these that are straight forward but when dealing with clients it can become very obvious that some of their ideas on how a website should function are modeled after MySpace and similar monstrosities.

Intrusive Advertising
Just when we all thought popup windows were dead forever, they start making a come-back. It drives me crazy to do the first click on a web site and immediately a popup popups up to greet you. I have never, ever, clicked on a popup with the intention of buying or signing up for anything. The other intrusive advertising are in-window popups and scrollers. The worst kind are flash advertising with sounds. It's important to not distract your user with advertising. Be subtle about the advertising and interested users will choose to check out a link or banner on their own.

Not all sound is bad, but for the most part users prefer to opt-in to sound being played, especially if they are using their computers to listen to music they have chosen. If you do decide that the music should start up right away, give a quick and noticeable way to disable the sound for the user. It drives me crazy to go to a website that plays music, most of the time I will close out of it immediately and find another place for what I was looking for.

I’m not talking about flash, I’m talking about animated gifts, mouse trails and “glitter.” I don’t see as much of this as I used to on the web but I have had clients request such things. It is important to end that conversation right there with your client and explain to them how the web has advanced since 1996.

Old Information
It's imperative that if you have a CMS that you use it to update your website as often as possible (actually, even if you don't). If you feel there isn't much news worthiness in your line of business, your website could be displaying industry-related news. With old content, you are not going to be getting many hits, so you should update your website regularly.

Bad Typography
You want to avoid the bad cliché fonts such as Comic Sans of course. Beyond the well-known bad choices for typefaces you want to ensure that there is a healthy, but not too healthy, contrast between the background color and the font color. You also want to take into account how big your typeface is set at, you may be able to read it just fine but keep in mind what kind of audience will be visiting your site to ensure that they can read it just as easily. You also want to test increasing the font size on your site to see how it holds up to others browsing the web at an increased size.

Screen Resolution

You may have a 1920x1280 resolution on your computer but not everyone has that large of a resolution. It is important to check your site on other resolutions to see how it holds up and what it looks like. The most common size right now is a toss up between 1024x768 and 800x600. That doesn’t, however, take into account that not everyone browses the web full screen. I browse full screen but several of the people I work with, in the web design field, don’t maximize their browsers. So they may be browsing at 1280x1024 or 1024x768 but their actual screen size for your site may be much less.

Bad Navigation

This one is very important, this is how your users navigate your site. The usability of your site is paramount when it comes to design decisions. If users can’t figure out how or where to get their information on your site they will look elsewhere. Be sure that the navigation for your site is expansive and relevant. Jakob Nielsen has said that the more navigation available on the page the better chances the user is going to find a relevant link to the information they are interested in. Users don’t mind skimming, they are actually pretty good at it as long as you make the navigation as prominent on the page as possible.

Load time
You can have the best content on your subject on the internet, with a great design… But if you don’t properly optimize your site users will grow tired of waiting for pages to load. You want to take several steps to ensure your site loads as quickly as possible. The top ways you can do this are by optimizing your images properly for the web so that the files are as small as they can be without losing visible quality.

You also want to try your best to minimize HTTP requests on your site, especially if the site is popular. Another thing you can do is to use various methods of caching your pages, especially for dynamic sites.

Website Accessibility
This one is often looked over because there aren’t many in the web design field that are disabled. It is, however, important to ensure that you are accommodating as much as you can those that are. It can be very frustrating for people with sight disabilities to come across meaningless alt attributes, undeclared navigation and misleading content flow. Understanding how screen readers work is the first step to becoming a better web designer and making your sites accessible to people that are visually impaired.

Contact Information

Every website needs to have an easy method to allow users to contact them through. You need at least two ways for users to contact you that are easily found and well marked. Best-case scenario is three ways to be contacted but not all websites require that level of interaction. The more ways that you provide for contacting the better your site is viewed to the world.

Setting up a contact form and providing an email address are the first two steps to becoming available to your visitors. For the websites it applies, putting your phone number and possibly your address in the footer or even on a sidebar is just as important. Make sure that all of your contact information is up-to-date also, for most websites this is how clients contact you and it is impossibly important you make it as easy as possible for them by whichever means they feel comfortable with.

Source: Dustin Brewer

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