While technically there’s some truth to that statement, it’s missing the bigger picture. Sure, it’s possible for just about anybody with a tiny amount of computer knowhow to set up a website, but that doesn’t mean that the design itself is going to be any good. If you don’t want your visitors to immediately avert their eyes and desperately try to click away, you have to know what you’re doing and avoid bad design.
How can you do that? Well, reading on is a good start. Below you’ll not only find five of the most common bad design concepts that are far too prevalent, but also why we make those mistakes, the negative effects that can result, and how to avoid or correct them.
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What it is: You open a site and are immediately blinded by all the bright, shiny colors of the rainbow, all competing with each other for your attention.
Why you do it: Color is attention-grabber and it also helps you to define different areas of the page so that your visitors know they’re moving from section to section. Beyond that, colors evoke emotions, so you can really touch your visitors.
Why it’s bad: Sure, colors evoke emotions and help separate your page into sections, but if you put everything together, it just becomes a muddle that says nothing and looks messy and confusing.
How you stop: Learn which colors complement each other well and stick to just a few—typically more than three becomes overwhelming unless they are just highlights. By doing this you’ll engage your visitors without overwhelming them and you’ll give them a clearer guide about the way they should be feeling. If you’re using color to define sections, try switching back and forth between two or three main colors instead of using dozens.
What it is: From the homepage you link to “About Us” page, which then leads you to a list of services, then prices, and then a page that advises you to return to the homepage in order to access the catalogue. Great. Except that there’s no link back to the homepage, so you have to retrace your steps.
Why you do it: This one is mostly a case of carelessness and neglect, and it tends to happen on larger sites where there are lots of pages and moving parts. It’s understandable (if not entirely forgivable) because it’s the equivalent of leaving out a comma or spelling a word wrong in a paper.
Why it’s bad: Unlike misspellings and grammar snafus, websites with disorganized navigation are incredibly frustrating for visitors, because it means that they have to spend extra time dealing with your mistakes or poor planning. No matter what, you always want to have a clear navigation bar present that allows people to go wherever they want.
How you stop: The first line of defense is making sure you have that clear navigation bar on every page, but it’s just as important to go over your pages with a fine-toothed comb and try to ensure that there are no loose ends hanging or rabbit holes for people to fall into.
The Launch Page
What it is: “Flash”-y sites (see, that was a pun) tend to do this a lot, though these days it doesn’t necessarily have to involve actual Flash. This is where you go to a homepage that’s essentially just a blank page with a text link or complicated graphic that (eventually) takes you to the “real” site.
Why you do it: For some reason, there’s a “cool” factor with many of these sites that involves putting up the equivalent of a virtual gate that people have to step through. For those who put all kinds of flashy graphics on this page, it allows it to stand alone from the main site and impress people with whatever your favorite bells and whistles are.
Why it’s bad: It’s a waste of time—just take me to the real site instead of making me jump through hoops!
How you stop: Remember that the most important thing about web design is simplicity and ease of use. By having your visitors take an extra step to even get to the “real” site, you’re increasing the chance that more people will click away. Find ways to build that “cool” factor into the main site design rather than having it stand alone.
What it is: Designers use font size, bolding, and so on to tell you how important specific pieces of textual information are, but sometimes you’ll find a site where all of those things feel random.
Why you do it: Sites with this kind of issue are often the result of poor planning. Instead of coming up with a visual style guide that says headings go from large to small or bold to underline to nothing, those elements are changed at a whim to reflect the person’s mood.
Why it’s bad: Our eyes are trained to seek out things that are more important and make hierarchical connections, and this design mistake prevents us from creating those connections. Instead, we don’t know where to look or what deserves more of our attention. Instead, it all ends up blurring together.
How you stop: Before you write the text, you need to implement an overarching visual style guide that defines how it’s going to be organized. As long as it’s consistent, people will catch on.
Autoplay Music and Videos
What it is: We’ve all experienced the annoyance of opening multiple sites in a row to speed up your browsing enjoyment only to have music start blasting out of our speakers or a news report begin playing. What the heck? We didn’t tell anything to play! Now we have to click through all of the pages to figure out where the heck it’s coming from. Arrrggghh!
Why you do it: You spent hours (days! weeks!) putting your video together and want to make sure that people get the full experience of how awesome it is the second they reach your page. Besides, if you don’t have it play immediately, they might completely miss it.
Why it’s bad: The lure of having your video play immediately so that multitasking browsers (the people, not the, you know, browsers) don’t miss it is understandable, and maybe not even wrongheaded from a marketing point of view, but few things are more annoying to users. Best case scenario, you’re going to get a lot of people desperately scrambling to find the pause button and shut it off. Worst case scenario, they close your site altogether.
How you stop: Just don’t do it. Set up any video and audio files so that they won’t play unless the visitor clicks on them.