Web Design Fails
A company's website says a lot about them. Good websites help establish trust in the visitor which is important if you are trying to encourage repeat visits or ecommerce sales. On the other hand a bad website can send a visitor reaching for the back button. According to web credibility research conducted by Stanford University, 75 percent of people admit that they make their judgment on how credible they view a company based on their website.
If you search the web you will find no shortage of sites that point out examples of bad web design. These types of sites are amusing, especially to web designers, and give us all a good laugh but they are impractical for someone looking for what to avoid on their site. After all, it's hard to find anyone that is using marching ants or cheap looking scrolling text anymore. Anyone who is designing a site and is copying that early 90s welcome to HTML 1.0 look should bookmark this article to read later. You have a bit more research to do.
Instead of stating the obvious, these examples show more ways that design can fail in the modern era of the web.
Fail 1 - Forgetting the mobile user
Mobile web browsing accounted for 30% of all web traffic in 2012 and is expected to grow to 50% by 2014. If you are ignoring the mobile browsers then you could be giving half of your visitors a reason to go somewhere else for what ever it is they think you can do for them.
Fixing this fail is easy as there are three options. The first choice is to build a mobile version of the website. The server will direct browsers that are on mobile devices to this version of the site. The drawback to this option is that two different sites need to be built and maintained. The second choice is to use a mobile app to render web content to visitors. This is the choice preferred by most visitors, but it requires an app to be built for different devices, which could be costly. The third choice is to opt for a responsive website that will display properly regardless of screen resolution (size). Since there are a number of good responsive web templates out there to build from this is the best all around solution because only one version of the site needs to be built and maintained.
Fail 2 - Complex navigation
If users are confused on how to move around a website they are going to go elsewhere for what they need. They should be able to find what they want after a minimal number of clicks and should be able to get back to their starting point without having to use the back button.
This fail is fixable by incorporating easy to use navigation elements that do not rely on Flash or technologies other than HTML and CSS. Breadcrumbs are another way to help visitors keep track of where they are and how they got there. Finally, a good search option can help users find what they need when it is not listed anywhere else.
Fail 3 - Slow to load
There was a point in time where a good number of websites utilized a Flash based splash screen to introduce the site. Those are not popular anymore, and not because iOS devices don't support Flash but because they took forever to load and people just didn't have the patience to sit and wait. However Flash is not the only culprit that causes slow loading times. Poor code, large file sizes and server configurations can all take their toll as well.
Fixing problems associated with page loading is more complicated that some of the other fails because it requires the designer to identify what is causing the problem first. Using a tool like the Pingdom Website Speed Test is a start as it will provide a score with some feedback about what is causing bottlenecks. Once these issues are identified, they need to be addressed either by the designer in the case of coding or optimization issues, or by the hosting provider if the fault lies on the server side. The truth is, these web design fails are much more serious than a standard ugly looking site. Aesthetics can be fixed with a template rather easily, but not designing a site to work best for all of its visitors can prove to be costly in the long run. Taking the time to audit a site for any of these mistakes will not only make visitors more comfortable, but each of them will help with the search engine rankings as well.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jeff is the web content developer for PhishMe, a security training and awareness company. He frequently writes about design, blogging and WordPress. You can follow him on Twitter @jeorl