The internet has existed for over 50 years and the Web as we know it today has been around for almost 30 years. How is it possible, then, that the majority of websites still suck? The most likely cause is that there are not actually all that many truly professional website designers out there, and the few that do exist charge accordingly.
Since the majority of customers for website designers are miserly to the point of ridiculousness, they’ll often go with bottom tier design and development companies, or –even worse—they’ll try to build it themselves. The problem with those bottom tier companies is they are largely just template monkeys with no real skills in web design or coding. They hack somebody else’s template to fit (more or less) the shape of your business. The problem with doing it yourself, if you lack the appropriate training and skills, is self-explanatory.
There are thousands of articles out there dedicated to doing things the right way, so in this article we’ll look at the worst of the worst when it comes to bad web design mistakes. If you’re making any of these mistakes, it’s almost certainly costing you money and harming your reputation.
MIstake 1: Designig exclusively for the big screen
It’s well known that most web designers have traditionally been Mac users. Because many designers and coders haven’t actually earned their place on the front lines of website development, there are still many designs being rolled out that look terrible on anything other than a Mac.
Here’s an example of how one company thinks this kind of problem should be dealt with. Whether it’s right or wrong depends a lot on the actual content. In most cases, it’s going to be wrong.
Not every design needs to be fully phone compatible (despite what Google insinuates) but you should at least make the effort to ensure that most of your site can be viewed on most devices, and have a contingency in place for those situations where content absolutely can’t be displayed on a tiny screen.
It’s not just about resolution either, so don’t make that mistake. Some phones have excellent resolution, but the font that looked so great on your huge Mac screen is not much more than a collection of microscopic dots on a phone.
Mistake 2: Shutting the door when you don’t need to
Some misguided developers and administrators have the idea that they should restrict access to their site so that it is only able to be viewed by people connecting from a limited geographic area. This is equivalent to your local 7-eleven only allowing in customers who have an ID card for your country. In fact it’s worse than that, because in the case of 7-eleven, they’d only be shutting out a tiny minority of their potential customers, whereas on a website you’d be shutting out the overwhelming majority.
Unless you’re some huge media corporation like the BBC with serious licensing issues to comply with, you shouldn’t even be making a show of shutting the door. Sure, you may be thinking that somebody in Bangladesh has no interest in reading about a bakery in New York, but that’s forgetting that nowadays people travel extensively. It’s also just plain rude. You’re better to let the audience decide if they think your content is relevant to them or not.
Mistake 3: Begging
There are a lot of unfortunate people in the world, and some of them are reduced to begging just to get by in life. The majority of those people are actually quite decent human beings who are just down on their luck at the moment. Every now and then, however, you will encounter the aggressive panhandler. This person elicits no sympathy, he or she is just universally hated as a bully and an annoyance.
So when your site throws an overlay in people’s faces, blocking your content from their eyes because you’re begging them to subscribe to your newsletter or some such other nonsense, you are being just like that aggressive panhandler, and you’ll be hated for the same reasons. Any information you solicit from your users should be initiated by them looking for a place to subscribe, not by you thrusting a form at them.
Mistake 4: Autoplaying videos
There is nothing—absolutely nothing—more annoying in the entire universe than websites that automatically load and play videos without being requested to do so. Even if your site is some kind of YouTube clone and is entirely dedicated to playing videos, you still should not use the autoplay feature. The video should not even begin buffering until the user has clicked the play button.
If you can’t figure out why, here’s the answer: mobile internet. For one thing, most people using mobile connections have slow connections, or at least a lot slower than a fixed line connection. Then there’s the issue of cost. Few people have unlimited connections and your autoplay videos (especially if they are ads) are not only annoying to your users but may even be costing them money or using up their precious bandwidth. That’s fine if they’ve specifically requested to load and view the content, but it’s definitely not fine if you’re not giving them the choice. Chances are good that they’ll close the page and not return, so you just lost yourself a customer by being obnoxious.
Mistake 5: Using too many plug-ins and widgets
This is closely related to mistake numbers 1 and 4. Just because you have a huge Mac screen and a lightning fast broadband connection, don’t make the mistake of thinking your users do. All those plug-ins take up screen space and take time to load.
The site in the example screenshot has no less than 10 video plug-ins on one page. Even that many animated GIFs would be annoying, but that many videos is just beyond a joke. There shouldn’t be anything on your web pages that does not need to be there. Or at least you should always be able to explain why anything on your page is there. If you can’t explain the presence of it (and the reason is not a selfish one) then it does not belong.
It’s so easy to make a great website, why on Earth would you even think about committing one of the suicidal sins listed above? If you want to make sure you get more customers and a better conversion rate, respect the people who come to your website. Don’t try to force anything on them, and don’t do anything that is annoying or harmful to them. See, it’s not really that difficult at all. Just basic common sense and good manners.
Feature image curtsey of