The Top 10 Mistakes We See in Web Site Design
A Funny, Yet Tragic State of Affairs On the Internet
By Solas Web Design
Due to the nature of our work, we spend at least some part of every day roaming around the Internet looking at websites. Whether we're researching a topic for some content we're writing, or looking for a company we'd be interested in working with, we come face-to-face on a daily basis with the good, the bad and the ugly in the world of web site design. Over time, certain trends have become apparent in what we see, and we've determined that there are two main categories that bad websites fall into: Fancy Websites and Do-it-Yourself Websites.
Of the latter, we tend to be more forgiving. After all, people who are just having fun with Microsoft Frontpage aren't hurting anyone, but holy Toledo, we've seen some do-it-yourselfers go completely off the deep end with mystery meat and unbelievable clutter! You know the kind of site we're talking about - glaring blue print on a glaring magenta background. Photos of cats and angels and Grandma coming at you 1000 pixels wide! Twinkling leprechauns peeking out from underneath technicolor mushrooms, while butterflies float with mechanical jerkiness across the screen, again and again...and again! Oh, and we don't want to forget to mention that a midi file of Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire sets the background buzz to all of this as it comes distorting through your PC's speakers. Very often, a visit to these websites is a bit like a trip to an alien world - incredible and unsettling in a gnawing sort of way.
But far less forgiveable are the Fancy Sites; the ones that someone actually paid a designer to create - a whole lot of money! Nothing will kill a Google spider like these fancy phenomena and our list below sums up the Top 10 things we're seeing going on out there.
10) Splash pages
Don't make us wait at the front door, please! We've come to buy your products. We don't want to sit through your nifty (or creepy) flash animation of something that we can't put into a shopping cart, this minute, right now. Don't make us hit the skip intro button! Take the work out of it for us by skipping away from having an intro yourself. I'm here to buy stuff! I don't want to watch a cartoon.
9) Graphic Navigation
So, I've made it into your site, and I see that you have a menu where your main categories skim across the screen in an elegant Edwardian script. Sure it's beautiful...I can see that! But Google can't. Neither can Yahoo....or MSN....or Ask Jeeves...or any modern search engine known to man. Search engines can't read images, and that includes image text. It's pretty, yes. But your navigation menu is one of the most important features of your site. Talk about a powerful place for your most relevant keywords to be listed, like little ducks in a row. Don't miss out on this vital feature of your website by sacrificing function for form. Stick to the good old HTML when it comes to navigation menus.
8) No Navigation
A website without navigation is like a shopping mall without electricity. Though it is true that some steadfast shoppers might be able to grope their way to your home decor department, find the tablecloth of their dreams, and stumble on blindly to reach your checkout counter, most of your customers will simply be lying in a heap on the floor, waiting for someone to turn on the lights. That is...before they decide your mall is a bad place to be and hurry away to shop elsewhere.
Ask yourself this question. Can a visitor to my site get to any page on my site from any page on my site? If you have a thorough, consistently-placed navigation menu, they should be able to do this. If, however, your navigation menu is only available on your home page, or on a few pages of your site, causing visitors to have to click the back button over and over again to return to someplace they once were, you urgently need to focus on streamlining the user experience of your site. It should take, at the most, no more than 2 clicks for your customers to get to anything they need within your website. Use this as your rule of thumb.
And if, oh horrors, you actually have NO navigation menu on your site, but have simply scattered links around the place like a toddler strews tinker toys, go at once and gather up all your links into a simple HTML text menu to tidy up the place, please your visitors, and the search engines.
Now you see 'em, now you don't. If I have to mouse over something to make it appear on your site, chances are, I'll miss it. Or, my wrist will twitch just as I've located the thing you want me to see, and it will disappear again. Cat and mouse games may be fun for your kitty...but very bad for me and my mouse.
No, no, no! Don't do this to yourself. Do not have redirects, doorway pages or any similar action going to or from your website. Google will hate you! Please, believe us on this.
4) Dynamic Product Pages
A real killer for e-commerce websites. It is always stunning for us to see the difference in rankings when we redesign a site and replace their old, bad, misbehaving dynamic product pages with good, nice, sweet, static product pages. Chances are, if you have a template-based website, your product pages are only generated temporarily, when a customer looks at a product. Basically this has the effect of reducing the total size of your website down to a couple of physical pages. You might actually have 5000 products, but all the search engine folks are seeing is your Home Page, About Us Page and Contact Page, because your product pages don't exist in real-time, as it were. So, how do you know if your product pages are dynamic or static? The URL of the product page will have a '?' in it if it is dynamic. If you see that '?', ask no further questions and hire yourself a web designer to get you out of this mess so you can start ranking well.
We mentioned Johnny Cash earlier. Now, we've got nothing at all against his music, honestly. Some of it's quite soulful. On the other hand, it's about the last thing we want to have competing with our limited attention span when all we came into your site to do was find a pair of cotton pants that will be nice and cool in summer and will actually fit us. We haven't been able to find pants at our local retailer. They have pants, of course, but the leg seams are all 6 inches too long because we are very short. Now, all we want to do is find your measurement chart to see if those cotton pants you have will fit us. But, we are distracted by the music playing in your store and can't remember how to shut off the speakers on our PC.
Seriously folks, even if Neil Diamond's I am, I said gives deep meaning to your personal life, it has no business being on a business-oriented website of any kind. Remember, your favorite tune may be your potential customer's least favorite. Unless you are selling MP3s, silence will be music to your clientele's ears.
SEO (search engine optimization) is something that we do tend to think about all day long around here at Solas Web Design. We like it...it's fun...it's challenging. But conversely, put into the wrong hands, a little bit of SEO information can be truly dangerous. Some years ago, the word got out that something called 'keywords' were vastly important to search engines. The thinking went that if you had the right keywords on your pages, the search engines would bring you up in the results for people inquiring about your products or topics. While this is, to be sure, the gist of things, this teeny bit of knowledge has lead to
web content that looks like this:
Our cheap affordable low price designer dog sweater is the best cheap affordable low price designer dog sweater that any dog, poodle, terrier, collie dog, pug dog owner will want for their dog who needs a cheap affordable low price designer dog sweater. Did we mention that these dog sweaters are CHEAP CHEAP CHEAP! Dog sweaters. Low price. Dog.
Though this example may look like an exaggeration to you, we swear, we're not stretching the truth one bit. We have seen some of the most hysterical robot-speak imaginable being used by site owners in an attempt to dominate a keyword group. In the same vein are websites which are simply plastered with every buzzword keyword invented since the advent of Middle English. Though there was a brief time, in the misty dawn of the Internet, when you could fool a search engine with silliness like this, them days are gone, m'boy. Basically, if it doesn't sound like the way somebody would talk, it will not cut it anymore with today's more intelligent search engines. Yes, you can still be clever in the way you word things, but it has to sound organic, not foolish.
Ah, yes, we've said it before, and we'll say it again. We know of no gimmick, animal, vegetable, or mineral, that will mess up a site quite so spectacularly as the use of flash graphics. We do tend to harp about this #1 terrible thing you can do to your website. But, my gosh, this stuff is everywhere!!!
We really do get it that professional companies want to present a cutting edge profile on the web. We know that flash graphics can make things move and twinkle and...well...flash! But, how, exactly, will they meet your customers' needs to buy something or engage a service you offer? We like to look at this issue in this manner (and are backed in our feelings about this by most of the SEO community): the purpose of any website is to meet the needs of its visitors. If you run a shoe store, people come to you because they need shoes. Not because they need to watch cartoons. They have a TV for that.
The indiscriminate use of obnoxious Flash graphics is the worst thing we see going on in the world of web design today. If your visitors have an older computer, they wont see your Flash graphics. They'll just be sitting there, looking at a blank screen, waiting for something to load that will probably lock up their computer. If your visitors, like us, have Flash blocked - they also won't see your graphics. And, let us not forget, those omnipotent folks at Google will never, ever see your Flash graphics. They will send out their spiders, hoping, looking, pleading for a reason to give your site a half-way decent ranking, but all in vain. As with all images, Flash graphics are a big fat blank to the spiders, are of no use to your customers, and will not increase your rankings or your profits...unless, of course, you are selling Flash graphics!
So there you have it, folks!
The top 10 mistakes we see in web design. Every day. Every night. Aren't you glad, now, that you are running a model train shop instead of a web design company?
- Solas Web Design is a small web design firm specializing in creating websites for small businesses across the U.S. Our clients rank in Google's Top 10. We also design custom eBay stores. Won't you pay us a call? Solas Web Design's Really Cool Ebay Store!!!