There are many factors to keep in mind when designing
a website. Sometimes in the vast scope of Web
projects, however, some simple design mistakes
inadvertently occur and may have a detrimental effect
on website success. There are so many preventable
errors that occur when creating new websites that
listing them all would be impractical, but here are the
design flaws seen over and over again on the Web.
Perhaps the single biggest mistake is designing around what is
important to your company, and not what's important to your
visitor. Too many websites have an air of self-righteousness, believing
that readers want to read about ‘company goals’ and ‘organizational
ethos’, but they couldn’t be more wrong. There are
three basic needs that readers may be looking to satisfy when
they arrive on a site: to be entertained, to be informed about a
solution to a problem they have or to be engaged in a communal
activity, such as sharing thoughts with other individuals
with the same issue. In short, website visitors need problem resolution.
Companies need to address the needs visitors had before
arriving at the website.
Viewing a website is called “browsing” for a reason. When you
enter a clothing store you wouldn’t expect to surrender your
credit card details at the door before you've had a chance to
look around. The Internet functions on the same principle.
Unless it’s absolutely necessary for the functionality of your
site (or you purposefully want to screen out most of your site's
visitors), do not force visitors to submit their e-mail addresses
or personal information early in the visit. Most people simply
will not share this information until a site has proven that it
contains valuable information.
Not Communicating Purpose
Company websites needs to explain their purpose, and fast. If
viewers have to rack their brains to figure out what is being offered,
the game is over. Make sure that your company name,
slogan and introduction make its purpose immediately clear.
Frequent offenders of this are often non-profit organizations with nice sounding names and slogans that say little about
their purpose. A slogan such as ‘leading the way’ may be true,
but leading the way in what? Don’t be afraid to say exactly
what it is that you do or are offering your reader. If your company
helps fight poverty in the third world then say so. ‘Leading
the way in fighting poverty in the third world’ is much
clearer than just ‘leading the way’.
Burying Important Features
Sometimes, in the effort to keep a website ‘clean’, an important
feature might end up hidden, forcing the user to search for it
(assuming they are even aware of it). Well-designed websites
should consider making use of tip balloons that highlight key
features and walk users through them, so users don’t get lost in
the middle of a process. Since it can be complicated to develop
complex, multi-step tool tips on your own, look for solutions
that can help you create these features.
There is no point having a compelling slogan or clever idea if
your visitors cannot read it (e.g. dark green text on a black background,
or impossibly small font that require microscopes to
read). The key here is simplicity. Make sure your text is in a
readable font and in a size that most human beings can read unaided
— read WM’s Design Principles for Master Developers
(http://wsm.co/OPA7vg). Contrast is also something that
sounds simple, yet is a mistake still seen on too many websites.
Text drowning in a busy or non-contrasting background is an
amateurish mistake that makes reading nearly impossible. And
if a visitor cannot read your site’s content, then how can they be
expected to buy what is being sold? Good sites make sure that
the important text pops out and cannot be missed.
Many Technology Bells and Whistles
Many new websites fall into the trap of using new technology
on their website, believing that bells and whistles should take
precedence over everything else. This is a big mistake. Using
flash graphics or gigantic JPEGs may look great on the designer’s
monitor, but could frustrate readers if they have to wait for an
image or animation to appear. Form over function is always a
recipe for disaster. While it’s important for your site to exude
modernity, don’t overdo it with cutting edge technology. Readers
appreciate an easy to navigate site with simple, but functional
If your site has flashing fluorescent pink text on a custard yellow
background, your average visitor time will be under a second,
and there is a big chance they will leave your site with a
migraine. Avoid harsh colors, flashing text and huge amounts of
banners with conflicting colors and themes. Flashing text is an
immediate giveaway that your site hasn’t been updated since
the 90s, indicating that you aren’t relevant anymore. Use it at
your own peril!
Failure to Target & Segment
Always make sure that your company’s website is designed
around reaching its target audience segment. For instance, if
your target market is older, you might consider designing the
site with a larger font. Similarly, if your users are youngsters,
digital compliancy such as an app for smartphones is a must.
Adjustments to your company’s website to ensure it speaks the
language of your audience will go a long way to increasing viewing
time and ultimately sales.
No Call to Action
Whether the target of the website is to receive sign-ups, buy
your product or receive information, you will need to have a
clearly designed ‘call to action’. This is often in the form of a
button that states the next process for the viewer such as ‘buy
now’, ‘sign up today’ etc. However, a call to action can also be
more subtle, for example, built into the text itself. Ideally there
should be several different calls to action, each of which appeals
to potential buyers at various stages of the sales cycle (often
known as AIDA: Awareness, Intention, Desire, Action). There
should be a call to action on every page of your site, always there
to remind the reader the ultimate purpose of the website, giving
your visitors a chance to convert at every opportunity.
Badge and Banner Clutter
Your company worked hard to win its awards and you’re right
to be proud of them, but try to be selective about which ones
you display on the home page. Websites with dozens of
badges and awards looks cluttered, and can give the impression
of trying too hard to impress. Emulate the leaders in
your industry — are their home pages covered in every award
or recognition they have ever received? Likely they are not.
Your website, and company behind it, should speak for itself.
There is plenty of room in the About Us section for boasting
About the Author: Rafi Sweary is a co-founder of WalkMe.com, the world’s first interactive
online guidance system, enabling organizations to overlay
on-screen ‘Walk-Thrus’ into their websites or apps. These ‘Walk-
Thrus’ assist end-users in quickly and easily finishing even the most
complex tasks, thus, helping organizations fight the ‘gremlins’ that
take their marketing efforts off-track.