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Unforgivable Mistakes in Web Design

For something that should be relatively straightforward, web design has a bad habit of going awry pretty easily. Just look at the Oatmeal’s experience with bad clients1. Unfortunately, many times designers commit harder to detect but extremely serious mistakes that could—and probably will—doom the website to mediocre or even bad performance. So use this list of completely unforgivable mistakes when deciding whether to fire your web designer.

Quite a few web designers analyze the traffic to a niche and use that to build a website which is 100% compatible with only one browser. Usually they would select either Google Chrome or Internet Explorer, as these have the highest market share at 29% and 23% respectively2. However, by leaving the experience of users with other browsers to chance, you run the risk of alienating them. That isn’t fatal when you have a monopoly over a market, much like Ryanair does at some airports3, but for most of us, alienating just a few customers can be disastrous. This rule is valid not only for specific browsers but for browser versions as well.

Continuing the topic of browser support, being the first to fully adopt a technology can be detrimental for some industries. Although the new edition of CSS or HTML looks awesome and has extra functionality, users with older browser versions might not be able to access it. You could justify using it on non-essential things, but under no circumstances should you immediately use it on the core functions of the website.

Sound that starts playing without the consent of your users distracts them, and in the worst case, repulses them. Nowadays quite a few people prefer to listen to music while on the computer and would immediately close a website that disrupts their activities. There is a further subconscious interpretation of coming across as desperate. Not having an easy-to-spot turnoff switch, or worse, not having such a switch at all, will exacerbate the issue.

Visiting a new website resembles an exploration journey so users need an accurate map in the form of the navigation bar so that they do not get lost. It makes little sense to disguise this valuable compass or position in strange and unexpected places. For example, using pictures may seem more intuitive to you but people prefer concrete words and categories.

Having a Flash-heavy website can put off quite a few users as well4. Naturally, using it for a dynamic page or two can enhance the user experience but basing the whole page on it is a very bad decision. Users love to use the back button as it enables them to correct a wrong turn, but Flash-heavy websites rarely have that option. Furthermore, they irritate the eye with their incessant movement and changing information. Even more erroneous is to choose your landing page to show Flash elements, as it is an instant turn-off.

Images are a fantastic piece of content that can have a strong negative effect if not used properly. Never, ever use a photo or other content-rich image as background; it screams unprofessional from miles away. Furthermore, be mindful of the size of the image and whether it will fit neatly into its position or distort the whole layout. Unless the page is a gallery it needn’t be populated mainly with images, as this greatly increases the loading time.

Finally, be careful when using pop-ups. If you can add some additional information with them, they are useful. However, do not try to load your entire page in them for whatever reason. In that direction, attempting to resize the current browser tab is as bad as having broken components or functions.

References:

  1. http://theoatmeal.com/comics/design_hell
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usage_share_of_web_browsers
  3. http://www.ryanair.com/en
  4. http://webdesign.about.com/gi/pages/poll.htm?poll_id=2091479545&linkback=http://webdesign.about.com/b/2008/02/14/poll-how-do-you-feel-about-flash.htm

 


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