Good website design is tough. Now it’s material design, before that it was minimal or modern. It’s always changing. But through all the iterations and improvements good design tends to stand up. Using the newest browser features or leveraging a smartphones new graphic chip is great but those are fleeting. What really matters is good user interface.
Good user interface can’t be overstated – When done correctly it isn’t so much a feature as it is a continuous process of improvement.
But the opposite – bad design, and things you should never have on a website – those can be quantified. Let’s talk about some of the most common things that will have your customers hitting the back button or rage closing a browser as fast as they can.
Web Pages That Suck has long kept a great collection of websites that just don’t stack up. It’s a good idea to peruse to get an idea of layouts & design elements that just don’t work that well.
What works in some situations may not work in others – beauty is in the eye of the user. But these three items will have all but the most dedicated users turning about-face and leaving.
#3 – Unreadable Text
Light grey lettering over white has been popular for too long – ‘but it looks great on my monitor!’ Sure, maybe in a pitch dark room on a calibrated monitor!
Computers and phones are used everywhere now – from dark rooms to standing in a sunlit field – contrast and color management will be different on every monitor and every lighting situation. You’re not trying to win an art show with a beautiful color setup – you’re trying to service your customers. Consider things like color blindness, less than perfect eye sight and then look over your website. Look over it on a phone with brightness set low in a bright room and in a dark room.
There’s a neat tool that lets you simulate color blindness on your website here.
#2 – Over complicated navigation
This one is a little vaguer than the other two but probably the most prolific problem. I can’t count how many backflow industry websites have confusing navigation. Adobe Flash navigation – it was all the rage in 2005-10 but don’t forget, it doesn’t work *at all* on phones and many browsers are excluding it – so your users might not even *have* navigation while looking at your website.
Navigation buttons that don’t tell you where they are going until you mouse over them: annoying on a computer, broken on a phone.
Navigation should: tell you where you’re going, be in an obvious place on the page, and ideally tell you where you are if there is any question of that. That means don’t put it on a different place on each page, have it move when you click it or make a giant gong sound when you click on it or move your mouse over it!
#1 – Auto playing music or a video
This is the automatic close the page or hit the back button for me. The worst part is always the unknown volume that it’s going to start at – sometimes it’s a subtle whisper that has me confused, other times it’s an unexpected scream of a video introduction. Your website should not have sounds of running water in the background; users know why they are visiting your site.
If you can’t with 100% confidence say that a user when landing on a webpage is expecting a video or audio to play – DO NOT PLAY IT. If YouTube doesn’t automatically play a video on their homepage, neither should you!
Are there any other web page elements that drive you crazy?