7 Deadly Sins of Website Design
Website design has come a long way in a short space of time, but what happens when you haven't come as far in your approach? The 7 Deadly Sins, that's what. Let's take a look at them, and offer alternatives for any of you sinners out there.
1 - Immobile
You might be sick of hearing the words 'mobile friendly' by now, but it's crucial that you deal with this. Mobile internet traffic exceeded desktop internet traffic over a year ago, and Google's search engine now deprioritises non-mobile-friendly websites in its search engine (when the search comes from a mobile device). If you're using your phone and you find a site that requires you to zoom to read it, or where links are so close together that you tap the wrong one by mistake, then you've found a non-mobile-friendly website. Horrible isn't it? You don't want people to have that experience of your website do you?
Google's mobile-friendly tool is your friend here. If the news is bad, then it might be possible to update your site. This is also a great opportunity to refresh your site with a new design that's as modern as the function. Get in touch with me and we can talk over how best to bring your website bang up-to-date.
2 - Ugly
First impressions do count, so how your website looks does need to be considered. Even today some people think that spreading every colour of the rainbow over their site is a good idea, or using walls of text, or tiled background images, or gifs, or...the list goes on. Some of these can be genuinely repulsive to visitors, making them move on straight away.
The home page shouldn't try to do everything, merely draw people in, so try keeping things simple. Lure visitors in with with valuable and shareable content. When it comes to websites, people aren't magpies: lots of shiny things will only drive them away.
3 - Flasher
Flash is all but dead. Google's own browser, Chrome, will not play Flash animations automatically any more. This has been true of Apple for some time. Not only is Flash demanding on the CPU, consuming more power, it's also developed a reputation for security issues.
Move on. The days of Flash being an advantage are long gone. Now the world is moving on to HTML 5. If you're running Flash ads on your site, then Google's got a handy guide on how to update them to HTML 5.
From the point of view of Google's search engine, lots of ads = low quality site. If a website is viewed as low quality, then it's less likely be found. High quality content and lots of backlinks are what's valued, so a site that gives up a lot of screen space to ads at the expense of content isn't as likely to do well. Worse still are the ads that are autoplay videos. If someone's already listening to music, working, or just wants some peace and quiet, then autoplay videos are simply annoying. Even if the audio is muted, the video itself is likely to prove distracting to users who just want to read the page. Also on the sin list are full screen ads of any kind. Content is what's valued, so visitors aren't going to appreciate that content being obscured.
Think like a visitor, not like ad man. Visitors might understand if you need to run a moderate amount of ads to keep the lights on, but the focus should be on what users value: high quality, valuable, and sharable content. If that draws more visitors, then isn't the number of people viewing your ads also increasing?
5 - Pop-ups
One of my greatest frustrations in curating content are pop-ups. Full screen ads are blatantly annoying, but websites with pop-ups lure us in, and then frustrate us with a pop-up that obscures what we're reading to display an ad or tell us to sign up to a mailing list. It's so frustrating to get into valuable content that I can't wait to share, only for it to be obscured by a pop-up. Every time that happens I leave the site immediately. If you visit a new website, do you sign-up to mailing lists without having had a chance to explore what it's got to offer?
Calls-to-action, like signing up to a mailing list, or asking people to like or share, is better placed at the bottom of content. Prove to visitors that you offer something valuable, prove to them that they should keep coming back, and they might just sign up.
6 - Makeshift
Sometimes things are thrown up in order to get something done, a bit of 'make do and mend' to get through a crisis or a confusing period. But the key here is 'get through'. When things have settled down and we have time to think clearly to make good decisions, we need to put things right. When it comes to websites, work-in-progress is ok, but a permanent ramshackle nature isn't. Missing images, placeholder text, and the like continuing for month after month makes a website look like an afterthought. Websites are now a key part of any business, so placeholder text on a website is like placeholder text on a business card.
Get through the hard times, but then renew your focus. If you can't do it, or if you're simply too busy, then speak to a website designer. We all have only so much time in the day, or certain skills but not others, so there's no shame in hiring a professional.
7 - Moribund
If you have a website, then keeping it updated is vital. If you're offering a new service or have new skills, how are you going to attract work in those areas if you don't share that information with the world? If your site has a blog, then what are visitors going to think if they see the last post was 3 months ago? They're going to think the site's dead or dying, and why should they think the business it's representing is in any better shape?
Keeping your site updated with quality content helps keep it discoverable by Google's search engine, increasing the chance the people who need your services will find you. It also loos like you care about your website, that you understand that it can bring you business, or simply make you easy to contact. Get a schedule in place for keeping your website fresh, committing to one or two blog posts per week at a minimum. Regularly dedicating time to updating your site will keep the process manageable.
There's always context and these suggestions are no different. For example, a site with big ads and millions of backlinks is still going to be easy to find because so many backlinks tells Google's search engine that the site is valuable to people.
What do you think are the worst sins of website design? What drives you up the wall with websites as soon as you encounter it? Let me know in the comments.