To err is human and to blame it on a computer is even more so
There are many atrocious website design mistakes to make as you build your website with BlueVoda. Mistakes are natural and very constructive if properly fixed and you take away some experience from the mistake but in the online arena, where you don’t get a second chance to make a great first impression, it is best not to alienate your users by making any rookie mistakes at all. Here in this article I have outlined some of the very worst website design mistakes you can make against your own users. Don’t make any of these mistakes as you build your website with BlueVoda. – You have been warned!.
In compiling this list I have made some additions from my own mistakes over the years – I have fallen prey to several of these and to be honest I have made nearly each of these mistakes at least once; changing my ways has been difficult.
Just rest assured that the practices listed here are very useful.
1) Custom Search Mistakes
If you are using a search feature on your website, you must be careful that it is not being detrimental to your website.
Some of the very literal search engines reduce the user friendliness of your website because they’re unable to handle typos, plurals, hyphens, and other variants of the search terms. Such search engines are particularly difficult for elderly users but they do hurt everybody.
Another problem is when search engines prioritize results purely on the basis of how many query terms they contain, rather than on each document’s importance. Much better if your search engine calls out “sure things” at the top of the list — especially for important queries, such as the names of your services and products.
The ability to search is the user’s lifeline when navigation fails or they get lost. Even though advanced search can sometimes help, simple search usually works best, and search should be presented as a simple box, since that’s what users are looking for.
Google provides a really nice too for searching your website: You can find it here: http://www.google.com/cse/ – just make sure it’s not getting in the way of your content in any way. If it is – LOOSE IT!
2) PDF Files for Online Reading
Users very often dislike coming across a PDF file while browsing, because it breaks their flow. Even simple things like printing or saving documents are difficult because standard browser commands don’t work. Layouts are often optimized for a sheet of paper, which rarely matches the size of the user’s browser window. So long smooth scrolling and hello tiny fonts.
Worst of all, PDF is an great wall of content that’s pretty hard to navigate, especially if PDF contains a great deal of content.
PDF is great for printing and for distributing manuals and other big documents that need to be printed; you should reserve it for this purpose (as VodaHost does with “The Secrets to Promoting your Website Online“) and convert any information that needs to be browsed or read on the screen into real web pages. Otherwise, offer it as a download. You can do this by putting your PDF in a .ZIP file.
3) Not Changing the Color of Visited Links
As you surf around the World Wide Web, a good grasp of where you have been helps you understand where you are now, since it’s the culmination of your journey. In fact, knowing your past and present locations in turn makes it easier to decide where to go next. Links are a key factor in this navigation process. Users can now choose to disregard links that proved pointless in their earlier visits. Conversely, they might revisit links they found helpful in previous visits.
Most important, knowing which pages they’ve already visited frees users from unintentionally revisiting the same pages over and over again.
To be perfectly honest, I would fall prey to this mistake again and again. I think having the visited links a different color to the un-visited links makes the design of my website unbalanced. To be honest, I think it looks a little ugly.
The important thing is that this is MY problem and in not changing the color of text for visited links I am compromising my visitors enjoyment as they navigate my site. This is another important lesson of website design … Never make your own problems your visitors problems1
These benefits only accrue under one important assumption: that users can tell the difference between visited and unvisited links because the site shows them in different colors. When visited links don’t change color, users exhibit more navigational disorientation in usability testing and unintentionally revisit the same pages repeatedly.
Generally, browsers change the color of visited links automatically – just don’t change any of the link colors in your CSS or set any of the colors the same as your body text.
4) Text that is not easily readable
A massive unbroken wall of text is deadly for an interactive experience. It’s intimidating, boring and painful to read in today’s world of instant gratification.
Write for online, not print. To draw users into the text and support “scannability” (), always use the tricks below:
- bulleted lists
- bold (or highlighted) keyword phrases
- paragraphs that are short and sweet
- an inverted pyramid of text; more at the top, less at the bottom
- a simple writing style, and
- de-fluffed language devoid of marketese
5) Fixed Font Size
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) unfortunately give websites the power to disable a Web browser’s “change font size” button and specify a fixed font size. Many times, this fixed font size is tiny, reducing readability significantly for most people over the age of 40.
Respect the user’s preferences and let them re-size text as needed. Also, specify font sizes in relative terms — not as an absolute number of pixels.
6) Page Titles that the Search-Engines will not like
Search is the most important way users discover websites. Search is also one of the most important ways users find their way around individual websites. The humble page title is your main tool to attract new visitors from search listings and to help your existing users to locate the specific pages that they need.
The page title is always contained within the HTML <title> tag and is almost always used as the clickable headline for listings on search engine result pages (SERP). Search engines tend to show the first 60 or so characters of the title, so it’s truly micro-content.
Page titles are also used as the default entry in the Favorites when users bookmark a site. For your homepage, begin the with the company name, followed by a brief description of the site. Don’t start with words like “The” or “Welcome to” unless you want to be alphabetized under “T” or “W.”, which will be quite a ways down the page.
For other pages than the homepage, start the title with a few of the most salient information-carrying words that describe the specifics of what users will find on that page. Since the page title is used as the window title in the browser, it’s also used as the label for that window in the taskbar under Windows, meaning that advanced users will move between multiple windows under the guidance of the first one or two words of each page title. If all your page titles start with the same words, you have severely reduced usability for your multi-windowing users.
Taglines on homepages are a related subject: they also need to be short and quickly communicate the purpose of the site.
7) Anything That Looks Like an Advertisement
Selective attention is very powerful and Web users, over the years, have learned to stop paying attention to any ads that get in the way of their goal-driven navigation. (The main exception being text-only search-engine ads.)
Unfortunately, users also ignore legitimate design elements that look like prevalent forms of advertising. After all, when you ignore something, you don’t study it in detail to find out what it is.
Therefore, it is best to avoid any designs that look like advertisements. I’m not saying don’t use Ads; I’m saying don’t make your content look like ads. The exact implications of this guideline will vary with new forms of ads; currently follow these rules:
- banner blindness means that users never fixate their eyes on anything that looks like a banner ad due to shape or position on the page
- animation avoidance makes users ignore areas with blinking or flashing text or other aggressive animations
- pop-up purges mean that users close pop-up windoids before they have even fully rendered; sometimes with great viciousness (a sort of getting-back-at-GeoCities triumph).
8) Going Against Design Conventions
Consistency is one of the most powerful usability principles: when things always behave the same, users don’t have to worry about what will happen. Instead, they know what will happen based on earlier experience. For example, if you release an apple over Sir Isaac Newton, it will drop on his head. That’s good.
The more users’ expectations prove right, the more they will feel in control of the system and the more they will like it. And the more the system breaks users’ expectations, the more they will feel insecure… “Maybe if I let go of this apple, it will turn into a lemon and jump a few miles into the sky.”
No matter how good your website is, the truth is that users spend most of their time on other websites and in general this means that they form their expectations for your website based on what they see commonly done on most other sites. If you deviate from what the user expects, your site will be harder to use and users will disappear.
9) Opening New Browser Windows
In many respects, this is a battle of the browsers. Some browsers, (e.g. Firefox) only open up new Tabs rather than new Windows and I really like this; I find it quite useful. Unfortunately, Internet Explorer (the most used browser out there) opens up new windows and opening up a new browser window when a visitor clicks on a link is like a vacuum-salesman who starts a visit by emptying an ash-tray on the customer’s welcome mat. Don’t fill your users’ screen with any more windows, thanks.
Website Designers often open new browser windows with the idea that it keeps users on their site but even disregarding the hostile message implied in taking over the user’s machine, the strategy is self-defeating since it disables the Back button which is the normal way users return to previous sites. Users may not notice that a new window has opened, especially if they are using a small monitor where the windows are maximized to fill up the screen. So a user who tries to return to the origin will be confused by an unusable Back button.
Links that don’t behave as expected undermine users’ understanding of your website and their own systems. A link should be a simple hypertext reference that replaces the current page with new content. Users hate unwarranted pop-up windows. When they want the destination to appear in a new page, they can use their browser’s “open in new window” command — assuming, of course, that the link is not a piece of code that interferes with the browser’s standard behavior.
10) Not Answering Users’ Questions – ALWAYS ANSWER USERS’ QUESTIONS!!!
Users are very goal-driven as they surf the Web. They visit sites because there’s something they want to do — hopefully even buy your product. The ultimate failure of a website is to fail to provide the information users are looking for.
Sometimes the answer is simply not there and you lose the sale because users have to assume that your product or service doesn’t meet their needs if you don’t tell them the specifics. Other times the specifics are buried under a thick layer of marketing language and bland slogans. Since users don’t have time to read everything, such hidden info might almost as well not be there.
The worst example of not answering users’ questions is to not list the price of products and services. No Business to Consumer ecommerce site would make this mistake, but it’s all over the place in Business to Business ecommerce sites, where most “enterprise solutions” are presented so that you can’t tell whether they are suited for 100 people or 100,000 people. Price is the most specific piece of info customers use to understand the nature of an offering, and not giving them it makes people feel lost and reduces their understanding of a product line. The last thing you want is a massive queue of users asking “Where’s the price?” while tearing their hair out.
Contact information and the location of your store are also essential to your website. You are not helping your customers in the least if they can’t trust your location or are unable to get in touch with you to ask their questions.
Don’t make the mistake of forgetting prices in product lists, such as category pages or search results. Knowing the price is very important in both situations; it lets users differentiate among products and click through to the ones which are most relevant to them and their wallets.
“People think computers will keep them from making mistakes. They’re wrong. With computers you make mistakes faster.”