Eight Web Design Sins

February 5, 2016

American business leader Roy H. Williams has said, “A smart man makes a mistake, learns from it and never makes that mistake again. But a wise man finds a smart man and learns from him how to avoid the mistake altogether.” The following are pieces of wisdom about some common web design mistakes.

  1. Disregarding conventions. One of the most influential web designers, Jakob Nielsen, has put forth Jakob’s Law of the Web User Experience, which states, “Users spend most of their time on other sites. This means that users prefer your site to work the same way as all the other sites they already know.” Users are especially goal-driven when they search the Internet. They are looking for something specific, so make it easy for them to reach their goal by following navigation conventions.
  2. Intrusive sign-up forms. In this world of big data, it can be tempting to ask for a lot of information from users when, for instance, they sign up for your newsletter. But unless you’re a gambling site or one that sells alcohol, there is no excuse for asking for a birthdate. First and last name, email, and perhaps zip code should suffice.
  3. Not testing on multiple devices and browsers. Users expect a seamless experience regardless of how they access your site. Mobile-optimized web design is a must, as are design elements such as typography that appear consistent across platforms.
  4. No search function. Every site should include a site-specific search bar on every page. And it should be able to account for mistakes in spelling or typos in delivering results.
  5. Requiring excessive scrolling on mobile devices. The fundamental aspect of responsive web design is that horizontal grids collapse into vertical lists. If your grid makes for too long a list, users will become disoriented and frustrated. In this case, consider grouping content elements.
  6. Content elements that look like ads. Users will ignore legitimate content if it looks like an ad. Web design that uses banners, animation and pop-ups will cause users to assume your content is not serious.
  7. Fixed font size. CSS style sheets enable web designers to disable a browser’s “font size” function. This creates problems for users whose eyesight may be impaired. Specify font size as relative rather than fixed.
  8. Opening new browser windows. Whether a link is internal or external, resist the urge to open a new browser window. It sends a hostile message to the user that you are controlling their experience. Just remember, that’s what back buttons are for.

Of course, the number of potential web design sins far surpass this brief list of eight. However, we think these eight are the most common and the most easily remedied. Please feel free to use the comments to tell us about others you have encountered.