Mistakes to Avoid for Creating Award-Worthy Websites in 2012
It’s hard to believe, but many
Web designers will make the
same mistakes in 2012 that were
being made over a decade ago.
As new brands and websites
emerge, and new designers
enter the work force, it is often
useful to address the most common
mistakes made in the presentation
and organization of
Web properties. Without knowing
the history, how can those in
the Web design industry continue to break new ground?
As the discussion regarding standards continues, design in
great part will continue to rely on the aesthetic sensitivity and
technical knowledge of designers themselves. Some of the most
common mistakes are so basic to experienced designers, however,
that they may have simply forgotten how truly important
they are to the user experience. For designers who do not have
as large a portfolio of experience, learning (and learning to avoid)
the most common blunders will make every finished product
The aim of a designer should be to create a unique experience
— an experience that blends creativity and functionality
and does so as close to perfectly as possible. While users will be
drawn to a website based on the uniqueness and originality of
messaging found across the ’Net, it
is the appearance and experience
that designers provide which determines
a user’s initial satisfaction
as well as their loyalty over time.
Much more goes into a successful
design, of course, than element
positioning and image choice —
and the savviest designers are perfectly
cognizant of this challenge.
The path some businesses want to
take still baffles many seasoned interactive
“One of the most common
blunders a company can make is
simply buying a website template
for their design,” says Mike Sauce,
founder of the Horizon Interactive
Awards. “Custom designs
always perform better because
the right website designer can get
to know a client and make the
website reflect the overall feel of
Designers have a lot of responsibility to ensure that the “feel”
of the company is portrayed, but also balanced with their business
objectives. For example, the clarity of message communication is
also the responsibility of the designer, as are the conversion paths,
site structure and, in some instances, even technical/software
integration. The challenges facing designers today and in 2012 are
substantial, but armed with an understanding of the mistakes that
other designers have made, you will be ready to create awardwinning
sites in the future.
Below are a few of the most common blunders and some guidance
on how to avoid them:
The Design Elements Blunder
Design elements are often so deeply integrated with the performance
of a Web property that poor initial choices can wreak havoc on
the user experience and do damage to revenue over the long term.
Website Magazine conducted an open-thread poll on “Web design
turnoffs” with our Facebook community in October 2011,
and we found that our followers are quite passionate about the
subject. In the eyes of our followers, the use of audio or video that
plays automatically on a site was the biggest blunder, garnering
30.4 percent of the votes from respondents. There are, of course,
other egregious mistakes that many designers still make — even
though we know better.
The Readability Blunder
Readability as a concept is not lost on Web users. Defined as the
quality of written language that makes it easy to read and understand,
readability should always be an important consideration.
The challenge is in the many ways in which readability is influenced.
In that same open-thread poll on Facebook, survey
respondents indicated several elements which had a negative
impact on readability, including “small text” and “poor link formatting.”
Let’s look at these two issues in more detail:
Understanding where you’ve been helps you better understand
where you’re going, both in life and on websites. For the Web, links
are the key component in this navigation process. Knowing which
links you’ve already visited keeps you from unintentionally revisiting
the same page again. Designers that do not change the color
of a link once it’s been clicked could cause frustration (and perhaps
even disorientation) among users which will result in a poor
experience for both the user and the business. Designers should
take care to develop link styles that change color once the visitor
has clicked on it.
Another challenge for designers is being forced to work with copy
that is not easily readable/scannable, which can be intimidating to
readers. While designers don’t have much (if any) control over the
content type, they do have control over how it is presented. The use
of bullet points, sub-headings, bold-print and short paragraphs
make all copy more inviting, particularly as most website visitors
won’t actually read everything verbatim. Web designers should
have their own internal standards as to what is effective for readability
as it relates to their style choices and be able to convey them
to colleagues or clients as needed.
These are just some of the blunders that Web designers make
today and are considered by many to be downright unforgivable.
But there are others, including the heavy use of animation and
If you’re making these design mistakes on your Web property,
it might just be time to have a sit-down with your design team.
However, if you’re displeased with search engine visibility or
the amount of conversions taking place on your site and are working
with a Web designer to correct these blunders, it’s necessary to
look at your own strategic choices.
The Optimization Blunder
While Web designers aren’t fully responsible for search engine
optimization, many of the choices they make certainly influence
success. For example, the use of alt tags should be present on images,
microdata could be integrated into listings for events or people,
and load times should be optimized — these elements all play
a role in achieving Web success.
The Conversion Blunder
If there is one area of focus that all designers could spend more
time on, it is that of mastering the art of positively influencing conversion.
Placement and positioning of elements (along with element
selection — images, add-to-cart buttons) such as calls to
action and trust signals are fundamentally important to the conversion
process. Understanding the objective — and the barriers
to it — will ensure they can be met and overcome. Gaining access
to analytics and even heat map data will show designers where
users’ attention is going and provide a way to close the loop —
gaining valuable feedback about design choices and the user experience
along the way.
Not only must designers avoid these blunders, but also consider
the impact that the design choices they make have on both
the aesthetic appeal and on the underlying experience of the user,
as well as the success of a Web enterprise. That is what it will take
to create award-worthy websites in 2012.