You may have seen some of the Top 10 lists we’ve posted in the past. We could easily spend all day writing about how to make your site great – but that work could all be in vain with just a few little slip-ups.
We try to be nice and stay positive – we really do, but the cold, hard fact is that bad websites do exist. Well, we wouldn’t be a very good web development team if we didn’t tell you how to keep your website from being one of them, would we?
With that notion in mind, here are 10 things that can totally tank an otherwise-awesome site:
Since the dawn of the Smart Phone, mobile is the new king of the web. Google even gives preference to mobile-friendly sites for mobile searches (and in 2015, more searches were made on mobile devices than on desktop computers). What this means is that if your site isn’t mobile friendly, you are probably losing a lot of potential traffic and customers.
Even if mobile users find your site, they’ll likely begin searching for someone else’s site the moment they realize that yours doesn’t function smoothly on a phone.
Everybody has seen websites with an entire page of long paragraphs of small text – and probably immediately left in search of something readable. Users need headlines, paragraphs, and bullet lists to scan information easily and efficiently. You must make sure that your text is a good size, maintains good line spacing, and is in an easy to read font.
Nobody is impressed by the gorgeous handwritten script font that you’re using for unreadable paragraph text.
Make sure your text has a good, strong contrast with your background. Many designers use medium gray text on a white background. While this might look modern and make for a pretty design, it’s too hard to read. Make it hard to read and users won’t stick around.
Do you notice how this sentence is harder to read than the text above it, even though this sentence is bold?
Gas pedals are on the right and brake pedals are on the left. This hasn’t changed in nearly a century – if you usually drive a Subaru for 10 years then buy a Chevy, you still know how to drive it. Sure there are minor differences from one car to another, however, the basics are the same. These are the standards that people expect. Websites are no different – people expect to be able to click the logo to go to the Home page and see a menu across the top or on the left.
Don’t break standards just to be unique – it’ll just frustrate your users. A standardized, functional product is far superior to a one-of-a-kind steaming pile of mess.
Many website owners want to have links to other sites open in a new tab so the user doesn’t leave their site. The problem with this is that most users return to a site with the back button. The back button doesn’t work on a new tab or window. It’s confusing to many users.
You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar – keep users on your site with engaging and useful content, not by trying to trap them.
A good, organized site structure and a clear, concise menu is essential to a good website design. Organize your pages in a manner that makes sense to your audience (using the web standard that people expect). When possible, use broad top-level categories with dropdown menus to more specific pages. Make sure that you don’t have so many top-level items as to make your menu text small and unreadable. The number will vary site-to-site, but if your site has more than 6 or 7 top level menu choices, it’s probably too many.
Use clear and simple words on your menus, making it easy for users to find the pages they want.
A decade or so ago, Flash Animation was widely used to create fun and exciting animations. Entire sites and even video games were made using nothing but Flash. At the time, Flash was a diverse and useful tool. This is no longer the case.
Flash animations won’t even appear on mobile devices (see #10), if any part of your site doesn’t work on a phone, don’t expect much mobile traffic.
I’m sure you’ve been there. You’re not on a site for 3 seconds before a box pops up and Kobe Bryant is wasting half a minute of your life telling you how much he loves the crisp, refreshing taste of Sprite. While most small to medium business sites don’t take part in this kind of advertising, most popups feel the same way. Whether it’s a prompt for you to chat with a representative or a customer survey, people generally don’t want bothered – as long as your site is nicely organized, they’ll find these things on their own if they are looking for them.
Popups come across like a pushy salesman trying to sell you something before you’ve even browsed around or decided if you want to buy. Don’t annoy your users.
While you want to make it clear where users should click, it’s a common beginner’s mistake to say, “click here.” Links should clearly spell out what they link to. For example: instead of “Click here for CME’s Top 10 Tips to Make Your Website Great,” reword it to say, “See CME’s Top 10 Tips to Make Your Website Great.” Another point worth mentioning is that hackers are not concerned with proper design, so “click here” links are often found all over malware-infested websites. Many savvy internet users (myself included) see, “click here,” as a big red flag on any site.
In addition to making your site organization and reputation better, proper link text also improves how easily your site is found by search engines like Google.
Fortunately, just like MySpace, this trend is pretty much dead already. Sound on a website might work for games and musicians, but even Guitar Center’s website doesn’t auto-play music. It’s a bad idea on most sites and a terrible, nay… unforgivable idea on a business site. If someone is browsing your site in an office setting or while somewhere in public, your music could start blasting at an inappropriate level – they won’t be able to hit the back button fast enough. When you force auto-play, you’re also leeching their mobile bandwidth for something they probably don’t even want to hear, which is just plain inconsiderate.
Auto-played sounds and music are like a tiny person screaming in your audience’s face, “Something’s not right, leave! Leave the site now! This isn’t 2003, man!”