Guest blog by Craig Scott
Building a website ain’t hard. Even if you lack the skills to code one from scratch, there’s nothing to stop you from customising a pre-designed template. A logo here; a nice typeface there and BOOM – you got yourself a fully functional website.
Web design 101
If web design has never been easier, why are so many people still making a horse’s arse of it? From Flash intros to advert overload, I’ve compiled the worst crimes a web designer can commit. Whether you’re building your own site or getting a professional to do the honours, there’s no excuse for failing this hard.
Are you in a band? Unless you suck really, really hard, it’s in your interests to have music on your site – but even then playback should be optional. Kill the auto-play audio. Imagine you had to endure a 60-second jingle every time you wanted to speak to your mate on the phone. Yeah.
Just because you can lick all the chocolate off a Kit Kat doesn’t mean you should. And just because a background can be made clickable doesn’t mean you should either. This technique is usually used for advertising in the background, outside the central content area, but it’s extremely frustrating as you click there to scroll only to have new tabs opening up. Dirt is guilty of committing this crime on occasions.
Note: Busy backgrounds are just as irritating – see Road Traffic Expert. Bonus points for the flashing text effects on the site. It would appear that beloved 90s HTML tag – blink – is alive and well.
Adverts help pay for the running of a website, and at best reward the site’s owners for posting great content. They should be kept to a sidebar or another dedicated area. Stuffing pages full of ads – under the article heading and between paragraphs – is more annoying than Chinese Food.
Then there’s the pop-ups which sit over the content until you click X, often used for mailing list sign-ups. Everyone hates them. Everyone kills them. Stop using them.
Disabling Right Click
Bitch please. Your website’s really not that precious. Disabling right click is just as pretentious as having intro music. No one’s going to steal your precious code, and images can easily be captured with a screen shot anyway. Let the people click with whichever button they fancy.
Broken links can negatively impact your Google search ranking as it makes the site look neglected. Your website is your bikini line: keep it maintained, cos you never know who might pay a visit.
Oh, and if your Twitter account was last updated in June 2012, for the love of all that is holy, don’t link it to your website. Dead social media accounts are digital tumbleweed; reminders that you once gave a damn but now host forgotten hashtags and broken promises.
If the menu changes position between pages (along the top or down the side), or omits the title of the page you’re on, users will get lost. This is part of what’s known as External Consistency; there are existing conventions in web design. Go against these and your users will find it confusing. And probably hate you.
I don’t mean nice, subtle gradients that you see on well-designed sites. I mean the rainbow gradients that come pre-set in Photoshop. Just don’t. See Accept Jesus, Forever Forgiven for a prime example of what not to do. Even Jesus wouldn’t accept this epileptic-fest and he had the patience of, well…Jesus.
Flash intros are intended to make an impact and show off how achingly cool your company is. All they do is enrage visitors as they search for the skip button while uttering language normally heard in combat or in the bedroom. Too flash by far.
Bad for SEO, impossible to remember if someone later wants to retrieve the page from their history. Set your permalinks to something like %category%%postname% so that you can manually input the page’s URL – this helps search engines find the page from the keywords you put in the URL.
No Website At All
Of course, the worst thing you can do is have no web presence at all. If you don’t have a website in 2013, you might as well be invisible, but not the cool sort of invisible that lets you spy on the opposite sex with impunity. If someone needs to find your company, their first port of call will likely be Google but if they can’t find your website, they’ll find your competitor’s instead – the one with the flashing text and the stupid pop-ups. Losing business to that would really suck.
Find yourself a good web designer and start thinking up ways in which your site can kick ass. No gimmicks. No rainbow gradients. Just awesome content and clean design. It’s that simple.