This post refers to business sites, whether they are ecommerce sites or simple niche web pages.
I was doing some research this week and in the process came across some terrible websites (from a business point of view).
The owners don’t think they are terrible of course, they probably think they look great or they wouldn’t have made them like that. These poor website designs could be due to ignorance of accepted business standards or just because the designers/website owners want to stand out and think they are being different.
Generally speaking, there is a basic standard for business related sites. This standard applies what is considered to be the currently accepted business model to the design and layout of a site for the overall best effect, just the same as other standards are applied to many other areas of business, such as how ‘left block’ is still considered the proper format for composing a written letter.
Fancy fonts and weird colour schemes may look great (or not) on some sites, but on a business site are usually totally out of place and look unprofessional. You don’t see legal or financial sites with multi-coloured themes and flashing text. If you’ve got a genuine product, you don’t need the hype or the fireworks!
Here’s my shortlist of things to not include on your business website or in its design:
404’s (missing pages)
This is first on my list as it is the most annoying. Especially if the item you were looking for sounded great or was something you really wanted and have been looking for it for ages. Broken links create many problems at many levels. SEO is affected, other sites may have links to your site and if your page can not be found for whatever reason, those linking sites receive SEO downgrades.
Every now and then, it pays to go through your site checking for broken links whether it’s updated regularly or not and there’s a choice of software for this very task.
This applies to all websites, not just business pages and an issue which becomes increasingly complicated. Firefox, Chrome and IE are considered to be the main browsers but there are many more including java and KHTML based browsers, text based ones, mobile browsers, trident shells (such as the old AOL browser) and many people still use these. If you want your website to be accessible to everyone it needs to be cross-browser compatible.
Flash websites look awesome and I’ve seen some brilliant ones (I’ve designed some brilliant ones – and I love it!) but with the exception of a few market areas, namely, arts, fashion, film and music etc. Flash is not the best medium to build a website with.
It’s slow to load compared with HTML/PHP code and speed is an important ranking factor now, search engines still have trouble reading flash navigation and even though tags are available to direct the search engine spiders, these are often not used which results in missed pages. Visitor interaction is much more difficult using Flash and complicated scripts can take quite a while to run.
Music on load
It’s not great to play music as soon as a page loads. It might not be music that people like and getting the volume right is complicated. You can’t please everyone all the time so it’s best left off. Music and business sites still don’t marry well even in a music related niche. Exceptions might include specific artist sites, where a ‘known’ tune could play on load and wouldn’t be too annoying – unless you hated that particular tune!
Having a splash page with an ‘enter’ button used to be cool but now it’s considered naff! There are some exceptions such as language options or geographic choices etc. but generally, it’s just a delay. People know they are going to enter your site, that’s why they clicked on the link in the first place. Let them get in there!
This includes locking copying through other methods. Preventing right-click has all sorts of consequences, the worst being visitors can not right-click and bookmark the page but mainly it just annoys people and if it is used for the purpose it is usually intended for, it doesn’t work. Visitors with just a little computer knowledge can acquire a whole website in minutes whether locks are used or not and visitors with just a basic knowledge usually know how to use ‘print screen’.
Very annoying and the annoyance to visitors doesn’t make up for the ‘penny’ earned for the occasional click as them probably won’t return.
Slow page loading speed
I’ve had problems with this myself in the past and it resulted in a down-rank from Google when I lost my tiered rank. I sped everything up and already tiered result is back again.
There are many reasons why pages take a long time to load including heavy graphics or movie content, complicated code or scripts such as affiliate and ad links, dynamic links to other sites, tables containing thousands of entries, Google Adsense blocks, pages with loads of ‘onload’ elements, poor site design, corrupt scripts and missing code – to name just a few.
Again, these used to be ‘cool’ but are now considered naff! Exceptions are sites such as eBay where it’s good to be able to see how many people may have looked at an item being sold. There are many site statistics services that give this information and much more. If you have to show off some statistics, use your Facebook and Google +1 numbers which give a better representation of trust than generic hits.
Unsuitable background images
These might include multi-coloured patterns or colours that clash with the sheet area or repeating small images either horizontally or vertically that give an overpowering effect. None of these are professional and often, a simple white, or one-colour gradient background gives a much more professional look.
Pointless text effects
Flashing multi-colour text has no place on most business sites, (unless your site is demonstrating flashy text effects). It just detracts from the content and is usually off-putting. Consistency is also important where text is concerned. Different colours, sizes and fonts very rarely match. Keep to one style for the body content.
Having to scroll horizontally to see what’s on a page is really annoying. Consider screen sizes, and always make your web page a suitable size and viewable on every device going! Web pages should rarely be more than around 1000 pixels wide. Fluid 100% is an exception here but elements must be mobile friendly.
This includes anything that causes annoyance. Ads all over the place, animated gifs just for the sake of it, pointless content or just stuff that annoys visitors. Even music can be a distraction.
Massive heading text
For some reason (something to do with millenials I think) over the last year or so it has been considered necessary to make any H1 heading text as big as possible… Why?
People are not stupid… If something is important, it doesn’t need to be font size 85 to make it so.
Use HTTPS/SSL/Security headers
Its a must nowadays but there are still many sites that have not converted yet and it’s a sure fire way of getting visitors to leave your site. Why? Cos of the nasty looking warning messages that browsers pop up if they detect that you are not using it. Do yourself a massive favour and convert to https. Any problems with this, contact me here and I’ll quote for adding HTTPS and security headers to make your site safe.
Here’s my example of a terrible webpage design. (opens in new window)
If you like it, please don’t contact me to make you one! :0)