Beginners Guide to Web Design Blunders

Being a website designer can be tough. Your work is out there on display for anyone and everyone to critique (and believe me, they do). While you shouldn't take everyone's opinions to heart, there is one group whose voice should always be heard - your site visitors.

Naturally, a Web design needs to look good, but it also needs to be user-friendly. Many Web designers will find a brand's message lost in translation if they forget who the website is really for.

The biggest Web design blunders occur when a designer puts creativity before function. A welldesigned site may attract a few visitors initially, but those users won't return if the site isn't easy to use and consume. Design too many of these low-traffic sites and the digital business will tank (and probably your reputation too). So what are the most common usability mistakes to avoid?

Just Plain Hard to Read

Legibility is an integral part of good Web design. A site may have knockout visual elements, but that doesn't guarantee repeat visits. Sure, content is king, but if that content is impossible to read, users will leave as fast as they came. To improve digital legibility, consider the following:

- Use sans serif fonts for body copy. If you absolutely must use serif fonts, save them for something special, like headings.

- Stay away from hard-to-read color schemes. Visitors always prefer black text on a white background.

- Don't use more than three font sizes. Any more than this makes a site distracting and difficult to read.

- Avoid bolding, italicizing and underlining excessively.

- Break up copy with smaller paragraphs, which are less daunting for Web readers.

Overly Cumbersome Forms

Registration forms can be a pain. It is necessary to obtain certain information from your visitors, but you don't want to turn those users away because the form is too complicated. If there is one important bit of guidance for website owners who must have a registration form, it's this: be brief. You wouldn't want to waste time filling out a form that requires a million answers, so why make your visitors? If you're not sure where to start, begin by comparing your websites' form with those in your vertical that also require registration. Find out what details they've made mandatory, and how much you feel is too much. Then, consider what your website needs and start designing.

Poor Information Accessibility

Missing search boxes and a downright messy structure (e.g. site architecture) can cause information (and conversion paths) to be all but inaccessible to users.

For example, over time, your site will amass an impressive archive of information. As you accumulate that store of content, think about how a user would navigate through it. Would a search box make it easier for website visitors to find what they need? Solutions like Google Custom Search, and its numerous alternatives, are effortless to implement (after a bit of copy and paste on your part) and provide an efficient means by which visitors can search for and locate the information they want.

Good Web design isn't easy. It requires a commitment to testing to discover what works. Find the balance between too much and not enough, and the critiques you receive in the future are sure to be positive. 

About the Author

Jarrod Wright is a website designer and owner of Subtle Network Design & Marketing.  The company offers search engine marketing and creative design services to a wide variety of clients.  

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