Designing a website is part technical skill, part commercial understanding and part artistic flair. The really good websites, the ones that have visitors smiling in appreciation and recommending the site to their friends and contacts are the ones that have managed to achieve the magic blend of these three elements. Unfortunately, as with all things in life, not everyone is at the top of the profession and there are many competent, but not outstanding website designers out there. It can break your heart to see otherwise solid designs spoiled by just one or two features that are either overdone or just neglected. The real tragedy, of course, is the disservice done to the clients. A poor website will not encourage a visitor to buy the product or service on offer, hurting the clients business.
So what are the main offenders in website design that will annoy, repel and generally turn off the viewing public? Here are the main culprits:
1. Over Flashy Headers. A good Flash graphic as a page header can be the making of a website. However, if the images run too fast, change too often or are too bright, they actually be a distraction. They become too effective at attracting attention and constantly draw the eye away from the rest of the page, where the real message can be.
2. Over Use of Header Graphics. When the same Flash graphic is used on numerous pages it ceases to achieve the aim. Provided the visitor sees it on the home and/or main landing pages, and has been dazzled and impressed that once, the subsequent pages that are drilled down to can get on with the job of informing and persuading. Including the same header animation too often can actually start to irritate visitors.
3. Forgetting the Message. As a web designer it’s easy to get carried away with the creative process. All the fabulous colours, fonts and graphics at your fingertips can lead to the creation of a visual masterpiece that’s bound to win awards. But will it sell products? Will it excite the browsers about the service on offer and have them picking up the phone to place orders? I’m sure I’m not the only one who has looked at a webpage and thought “so what do you actually do?” The design should complement the commercial purpose of the website, not overpower it completely.
4. Inappropriate Music. For commercial websites, there aren’t many times when background music is appropriate. If the website is about music, or music media then it’s fine to go for it, but otherwise the designer should think about who will look at the website and where they’ll be when they do. If someone is at work, or surfing the net on a tablet or mobile device in public, they don’t want music to suddenly start blaring out just because they browsed on to your site. You might think a few bars of heavy rock is a great backing for a DIY website, but you can be pretty sure there are plenty of potential customers who won’t be impressed when the rest of the office is glaring at them while they’re looking for a new tools supplier for the warehouse.
5. Too Many Fonts. Mixing fonts can be an excellent way of gaining emphasis for text on a page. Headers or trigger words can be made to stand out and increase the impact of the message. But don’t overdo it. Using more than a couple of fonts, or font sizes, on a page can make it look really messy. Overdoing the size variation by mixing really large and small fonts, can also look bad.
6. Pop-Up Windows. Most people use pop-up blockers on their browsers nowadays, so any information contained in a pop-up probably won’t be seen by the majority of browsers. This has been the case for quite a while, so it is baffling that some web designers still insist on using them. There is no denying that pop-ups are often a really neat way of presenting information, but thanks to their overuse in spam advertising web surfers generally turn them off, and so miss out on what could be important information from that website. Web designers should be clever enough to simply present the information in other ways.
7. Overlapping Messages. Layers are often used to present what the web designer or website owner thinks are useful and/or important messages. If the layer overlaps other text, however, it can be really annoying. Just as the user is reading some text, the layer appears over the top forcing the user to read that first. Compare this with a child who butts in when adults are speaking because, as far as it’s concerned, what it has to say is far too important to wait. Again, any good web designer or copywriter will find a better way to get the message across.
This list is by no means exhaustive, and other people will probably have their own pet hates when looking at websites. The key to avoiding the majority of them is for website designers to test their creations on several of people before going live. Just because one person loves it, you can’t assume everyone will, and by canvassing a variety of opinions it is far more likely that irritants will be spotted. It may break the designers’ heart to have his pet graphic toned down or removed, but it will lead the website to far greater commercial success.