Internet years are a lot like dog years. The web changes quickly. The site you slaved over for months, that you were so proud to share with the world, suddenly doesn’t meet your needs or worse, feels a little stale.
Some of your best laid web plans might not work as well as you hope. Want to stay ahead of the competition? Check out our top five web design flaws, and our tips on how to avoid them.
5. Don’t forget about mobile
Today, almost 7% of your website visitors are coming to your site using mobile devices. Smart phones, tablets, you name it. And guess what? Your web design may not be serving their needs! Do you have a number of Flash elements, like Ikea USA? iPhone and iPad visitors will see a giant white space, because these devices don’t support Flash.
What about your page width, your navigation and your general design? How do they look and operate on a smaller screen?
With mobile taking on a bigger role every day, it is critical to remember that a separate mobile site, or at least a simplified mobile style sheet, is in your best interest.
Lesson: Mobile matters more than ever.
4. A website is more than just a pretty picture
There is a never ending conflict in web design. Some designers want to use pictures for everything. Using pictures allows more visual control. They want just this font or just that article in just such a position.
Unfortunately, heavy use of pictures can hurt your site. Search engines such as Google and Bing cannot read pictures. When you use images in place of live text, search engines have less data about your site and services. As a result, your search engine rankings may be affected, causing your site to show up lower in searches on industry related terms.
Pictures don’t only impact your SEO. When you use too many pictures – particularly large, high resolution ones – your site speed slows.
On the web, you have 2-3 seconds for your page to load before impatient web surfers go elsewhere. This behavior is so prevalent, that search engines now take it into effect in determining your search engine result rankings. All other things considered, a fast site is a successful site.
Lesson: the more live text you have on your site, the better.
3. A website is more than just words
That said, a website is more than just live text. How your site looks – how people relate to it, interact with it, respond to it – is critical.
When people read on the web, they only read about twenty percent of the text you carefully craft. Given this tendency to scan, visual cues highlighting valuable content are critical. Paragraphs should be short. Getting the gist should be easy.
Visual design also impacts whether visitors stay on your site in the first place. Look and feel dramatically impact web site credibility. Well designed, well organized, visually appealing sites are considered more trustworthy and authoritative than competitors without the same graphical attention.
Lesson: Don’t neglect look and feel. It really does matter.
2. Hidden paths are for mystery novels
Web design is filled with creative types. They want to have fun. They want to make things interesting. They want to push the boundaries of design and coding. And, sometimes they just forget about usability. This is often seen in navigation design.
Navigation helps your site visitors find their way around your site. Hidden or obscure navigation is frustrating. For example, on the Blue Bell Creamery site, navigation is completely invisible until you scroll over each of the individual items. If a rushed site visitor tires of the investigative process, they will leave your site for a competitor’s. By blocking easy access to your product line, your company information and your contact information, you could ultimately lose a sale.
Lesson: make your navigation easy to find and easy to use.
1. It’s not about you.
It is easy to forget that your website isn’t about or for you.
When you write copy for your website or your blog, remember: you are writing for potential customers. You don’t need to dazzle them with your inside knowledge. You don’t need to share what is hip according to industry standards.
Instead, think about the goals of your website visitors. What do they need? If you don’t answer these critical questions, site visitors will leave without making any inquiries. Why should they stay when you apparently can’t solve their problems?
Even hip industries, like hospitality and restaurants, need to adhere to this rule. Sure, customers may be more likely to tolerate artistic flourishes, but in the end, if you don’t provide easy access to your hours, your address, your menu and your price point, you won’t see visitors at your physical location.
Lesson: remember your audience
By keeping these five lesson in mind, your new web design will succeed in helping you achieve your business goals. What web design no-nos have you seen lately? What did you think?