One only has to talk about what constitutes a good website design to start a heated debate. While some people aspire to glean a sleek, state-of-the-art design to capture the eye of the audience, with functionality keeping a low profile, for others, if a website works and does what it was intended to do, looks are only “UI” deep. However, no matter what type you are and no matter how hard you want your website to stand out, some simple website gaffes could render your site inadequate and ineffective to convert. Whether you are superstitious or not, the number 13 (mistakes) could prove rather unlucky for your site. Steer clear of these blunders and you won’t need a talisman to be safe:
A 12px font might have been ok in the past, but most of us with average vision find it excruciating to squint until our eyes strain from the effort. In addition, you have about 8 seconds (even less than the attention span of a gold fish) to capture the attention of the audience before they simply switch screens, and casually move on. In order to enhance user engagement, try to compose captivating headlines, with a big font, to keep them riveted to the screen, hungry for more. Make sure that the body of the text is at least 16px, especially when a lot of reading is involved. Remember that when you pay a fortune to outsource content or painstakingly create copy yourself, making it legible pays off.
By not using an accent color for call to action buttons, or not reserving a separate color for the most important button, how can you expect users to accidently stumble across it and not miss and leave? If you need users to “Buy Now” or “Donate Today”, make sure it is the first thing they notice. As a general rule of thumb, your call to action buttons should be bright enough to draw attention, and stand out from the backdrop. The color should be especially reserved for those buttons so it doesn’t become redundant and blend in.
Designing a website that is harder and trickier than a labyrinth, yet expecting your visitors to somehow breeze through it without the navigation skills of Sacagawea, is too much to ask. Visitors make a short stop at your site and expect you to provide them with a reason to say. If they are going to stay for long, they're going to need to find their way around. If they find that they get lost, rather than try and make their way out of the complicated maze, they'll just close their browser tab and move on. Don't expect them to "darken your door" again any time soon. Whether it is the header menu, drop down menus, or side menus, make sure every page is in an absolute logical order. Users should effortlessly move through the site, without thinking where they are going, and ultimately be guided towards conversion. It is also smart to add a search box or a site map in the main navigation bar to provide an at a glance view of all pages on your website.
Here’s the hard truth: People are immune to lame ads in the side bars and almost as ignorant of the annoying sliders. Why would you want to annoy people with something they would hardly ever click on? The main problem is that the users do not have the time to read the slider content since it shifts so hastily. The user would hardly wait for the slide to repeat itself. It is better to eliminate sliders from your site and think up better ways to display information.
Broken links and corrupt links are the bane of a user and undermine their faith in your site. Nothing annoys a visitor more than those dreaded “404 error” messages. Test your website frequently to make sure all links work and include a “contact the webmaster” link in your site footer so that the visitors can launch a complaint in case a problem arises.
Cramming your webpage with graphics may look chic and contemporary but in effect, only serves to overwhelm the consumer. Secondly, if the user has a slow internet connection and the page takes too long to load, the user may grow frustrated and leave. Considering the ever decreasing attention spans of users, grab their attention in the first 20 seconds or poof, they are gone. Think about how many images and graphics do you absolutely need without cluttering the page.
As you can always trace your way from anywhere in your house to the living room, the user should always be able to find a way back. No page should be a dead end. Every page in your site needs a link back to the home page or even better, put up a readily accessible and visible site logo on the top left side of every page, linking back to the home page. Can’t get any more obvious than this!
Font color plays a huge role in determining if your content would be read by the visitors. If your font colors are at low contrast against the other colors on the page, especially if you use a busy background, they would not be very legible. Users tend to avoid sites with a bad font and make no effort to make out the text which hurts their eyes. Always use high contrast font colors, especially for the most special content areas.
Creating content lines that are too big rub the users the wrong way. Too long line lengths can intimidate the user even before they start reading because they anticipate a lengthy reading experience. However, if the lines are too short, frequently starting and stopping again can annoy them. The most optimum line length is between 50-60 characters per line. To deliver an optimum user experience, this feature must be taken care of.
While you may be tempted by the plethora of fonts and colors at your fingertips, please do not turn your site in to a garish mishmash. Your pages should present a consistent, unified look to assure users of your solidarity. Use a maximum of 3 fonts or colors per page, at a maximum, and try to maintain the style over all the pages.
Slow loading speed could make any new visitor bounce off your site without a second thought. Even 10 seconds of wait could seem like ages to an impatient user and it won’t take long for their initial interest to wear off. Make sure your website doesn’t have a lot of plug-ins as they affect your site’s loading time. In addition, keep your home page clutter free, instead of cramming it with cool widgets, high quality pictures, or lengthy content.
Do not use Flash. I repeat: Do not use Flash. We have come a long way since Flash was all the rage. Lack of mobile support, long load times, lack of SEO... take your pick, they're all problems with Flash-based websites. Rather than look to Flash animations to help "bring your content to life," instead, concentrate on creating quality content in the first place.
Using multiple windows to display the content user clicked on may once have been "cool" or "hip," but now it is pretty much just annoying. Not only does it tie up system resources, but it can also confuse the user. Remember that browsers these days have a tabbed browsing option and users can choose to open their links on a new tab only if they wish to do so. It might be OK to force exterbak links to open in a new window or tab, but that's about the only time we might approve of the practice.