This list has been compiled out of our years of designing websites, and is intended to act as a set of loose guidelines to consider when embarking on the design of a new site. We do not make any claims that this list is comprehensive, as it is compiled mostly of things that we consider to be most annoying and most damaging to a website’s usefulness.
1. Do not use only images on the homepage.
Everyone wants to have a great home page. And for good reason. A well designed home page can draw users in and help create conversion. However, in no way is a home page well designed if it does not contain any text. The pictures might be nice and pretty, but they are working directly against a website’s success. A website with no copy on the homepage will be pretty much invisible to search engines and will provide no useful instruction to users.
2. Do not use only Flash on the homepage, create a splash page, or do anything that requires a user to “skip intro.”
For reasons not to do such a thing, see item #1. Flash can be fun, it can be neat, and it can provide a little extra something to a home page if it is done well. But it should not, ever under any circumstance constitute the bulk of your site’s programming. If a designer suggests such a thing, fire them immediately. The same thing applies for intros and splash pages. User’s don’t have the patience for it and Google doesn’t recognize it as content. Doing such a thing will only land your site on a list like this one.
3. Do not use templates that others in your industry are using or unoriginal photos.
Now when we say, “Do not use unoriginal photos,” we do not mean to say that you cannot use stock photos. Just do a little research to see what’s already out there and steer clear of those. There are some stock photos that are used so frequently that as designers, we can look at it and know instantly where it was purchased from and name several other sites that use the same image. The same goes for templates. Most template sites sell templates in “categories” by industry. So all companies in the same industry are looking at the same templates. If you are going to purchase a template, which we advise against, at the very least look through all the categories and choose something that a competitor is not already using.
4. Do not resize the browser window.
One of the most annoying things a website can do is resize a user’s window when it loads. Most people have their desktop set up the way they want it, and resizing a browser window on load messes with that delicate balance. This, in our opinion, is cause for immediate closing of the site window, never to be opened again. If you want people to stay on your site and actually use your product or service, stay away from this tactic.
5. Do not use CSS that relies on too many browser hacks to work.
Ok, so this is more of a programming pet peeve, but still applicable. Sites should be programmed with nice, clean, standards compliant code that works across all browsers. Now, we know, dealing with Internet Explorer 6 can drive programmers to the edge of sanity. But there are ways to make a site work cross browser without hack after hack. Find those ways, and program accordingly.
6. Do not use sound or video that plays on load.
And never, never use sound without giving the user the option to turn it off. Having done a completely non-scientific investigation of sites that use sound, we have found that it is done most frequently with sites that are programmed using mostly Flash. (See item #2). The first thing that we do when we come to a site with sound or video on load is leave the site, or, if we really have to be there for some reason, search desperately for the “stop” button. Give the user the option to watch or listen, do not force it upon them.
7. Do not use too many gizmos, gadgets and what nots.
Scrolling text, blinking or flashing text, popups, objects that follow the cursor around… all of these things are distracting. We have heard people suggest that such things “get the user’s attention.” But, trust us, this is not the type of attention you want. Too many blinky, flashy things cheapen the look of the site and do nothing to help conversion.
8. Do not try to do something “totally different” with your navigation.
For better or for worse, people are used to seeing navigation along the top of the page, in a sidebar or both. Do not try to reinvent this system. “Clever” navigation can be difficult to find and difficult to use. If people cannot figure out how to navigate your site, then you have lost potential business.
9. Do not use too little copy on the site
This is similar to numbers 1 and 2, but it applies throughout the whole site. Content is king. Search engines index text. Simple as that. If you want your site to be found, remember content, content, content.