Top 10 Biggest Mistakes of Website Design
Author: Scott Whitney
Word Count: 1404 (including resource box/author info)
Title: "Top 10 Biggest Mistakes of Website Design"
Description: This article details critical mistakes made during
website design, development, and deployment.
Copyright 2002 (c) Scott Whitney, All Rights Reserved.
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Top 10 Biggest Mistakes of Website Design
By Scott Whitney
Copyright © 2002
All Rights Reserved
Here's a seemingly easy question: What is the goal of EVERY
website in the world?
Ask this question of most website developers, and the answer will
be the same; "Uh, that depends on what you want, Mr. Cu$tomer."
The *real* answer, however, is quite clear:
The goal of EVERY website in the world is to increase the
probability of engagement (with the visitor, so you can sell,
support, or tell your story), and decrease the risk of exit (from
the site, resulting in competitive engagement).
To that end, there are three (3) areas of interest that must be
addressed when developing and maintaining a website:
1. Not taking advantage of the medium (or, I Can't Breathe!).
Surprisingly enough, some of the BIGGEST Websites in the world
fail to actually put the technology available to them to work.
What do we mean? Specifically, DOES THE SITE B-R-E-A-T-H-E?
A Breathe-able site is one that is able to automatically reformat
its content to fit a user's screen, regardless of their screen
size. When designing a website, in order to make the experience
pleasurable and as user-friendly as possible, make sure that
regardless of the visitor's screen size, the contents fits
perfectly. In other words, if you design your site for a user with
a 640 x 480 screen, anybody with a bigger screen (800 x 600, 1024
x 768, etc.) will be forced to look at a BUNCH of white space.
Interestingly enough, folks who come from the desktop publishing
world create many of the sites that do this. And while they often
make pretty Websites, theirs is a world where a dynamic, re-
sizable "page" didn't exist. Well, it does today, so if you REALLY
want to make the experience a pleasurable one for your visitor,
take the time to make your site BREATHE!
2. Forcing a visitor to scroll from left to right
Have you even been to a Website where you found yourself having to
scroll the screen left to right to read all the content? Chances
are, you have. Chances are also that after a while, you decided
against doing much of it. This is mainly because, while it is
intuitive to read down a page, it's less so left to right.
The visual distraction of having content cut off the right side is
very disconcerting. You'll see a great many sites do this for the
simple reason that the developer forced an absolute size width of
his web page, instead of allowing it to fit within the users
screen (see #1). Bottom line? If you make your visitor scroll from
left to right, they'll likely stroll to another site.
3. Dead Links
There really is no excuse for this one. Every Website development
environment worth its salt has the ability to check the integrity
of all its internal links. And although it may not be able to
check the integrity of links that lead a user somewhere outside of
your site, if it's important enough to link to, isn't it important
enough to see if it exists?
4. Ransom Note Design
Sites that suffer from this mistake fall into three categories;
~ Sites that spent time on creating a nice home page, but forgot
that a visitor might actually go beyond that page,
~ Sites whose webmaster is determined to use every color, font,
graphic, and animated logo and cool Flash movie he can get his
hands on, and
~ Sites that fail to use a consistent formatting technique.
For those folks in the first category, you're simply setting up
your visitor to be VERY disappointed once he ventures beyond your
opening screen. It also implies a lack of follow through and
continuity, which does not reflect well on the Website owner.
Our friends in the second category are no different then the
people who couldn't wait to try every font available when WYSIWYG
word processors came out. Problem is, nobody reads this stuff.
And folks in the third category choose to underline words leading
people to believe they're hyperlinks or forget to use consistent
font formatting (ie serif versus san serif fonts) on similar
pages. Besides looking goofy, it again reflects poorly on the
Website owner's attention to detail.
5. Poor Navigational Method
Simply put, if a user can't tell where he is within a given
website, at all times, they will eventually become disoriented.
There should always be a consistent navigational method through
the site that allows the user to know exactly where he is, and how
he can get elsewhere. If you make it hard for your visitors to
find their way around your site, they'll find their way to
somebody else's site.
6. Graphics (Yes, Size Does Matter)
There is nothing more annoying then waiting minutes for a page to
load. And while many folks are connecting to the Internet much
faster than ever before, if you don't design your site for the
lowest common denominator, you'll end up turning away the vast
majority of users who still surf the web at modem speeds.
We understand that graphics make for a much more visually
appealing environment. Just make sure to use the smallest graphic
7. Browser Bias
Oh sure, it would appear that Microsoft rules the world, but does
that mean all other browsers should concede defeat? NEVER!
When designing a website, it is important to recognize that
although the Microsoft browser owns the majority of the browser
market, it does not own it all! Depending on the site (and more
importantly, the content of the site), I have seen the Microsoft
browser accounting for between 50 - 80% of the traffic. That means
that 20 - 50% of the users ARE NOT using the Microsoft browser.
This, my friends, is important to remember!
The test of a great website designer is that he/she ensures that
their site looks and responds the same, regardless of the browser
being used. The truth is, without exception, almost EVERY website
I inspect fails this test.
Why? Because most WYSIWYG design programs do not write code that
works the same for all browsers. And most designers are too lazy
to take the time and test their work in both the Netscape and
Microsoft browsers (Opera & Mozilla too, for that matter).
Because the goal of every website in the WORLD is the same,
designing a site that ignores a particular browser is tantamount
to designing a site that ignores a particular visitor. Ask your
sale, support, or marketing VP if they want to ignore upwards of
50% of their visitors. Once they get off the floor, they'll answer
that question with the obvious response.
8. Lacking a Clearly Defined Message.
It is surprising how many folks rush out to show off their latest
design triumph without asking themselves this simple question,
"Who is your target audience?" Without being able to clearly
articulate who you're trying to attract, you'll have a very
difficult time designing a site that gets your message across.
Equally important is to realize that having too many targets is as
risky as not having any. Just as you can't be all things to all
people, neither can a well designed Website. Pick your target, and
you'll be surprised how much easier it is to decide what should or
should not go on your site.
9. Stagnation is not Where Single Deer Live.
Unless you are about to close the doors on your company, there is
always something web-worthy for your site. By establishing a
pattern of constantly adding or changing information on your site,
you'll entice visitors to keep coming back for more. Can't think
of anything to add? Then why should a visitor return?
10. Under Construction
Do not invite a customer to a section that has not been completed.
Either hide the section, or get enough content in that area to
make it valuable. Anything less is a waste of the visitor's time,
and is disappointing.
Even more concerning; if a visitor believes a section/page of your
site is "always under construction", the chances that he'll mosey
that way when you have completed it are nil.
Scott Whitney is a speaker, trainer, consultant, author and expert
in website development and broadcast campaign marketing. Visual
examples of the above mistakes, along with five bonus "mistakes"
is yours free at http://www.whitcom.com.
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About the Author
Scott Whitney is a speaker, trainer,
consultant, author and expert in
website development and broadcast
campaign marketing. Visual examples
of the above mistakes, along with five
bonus "mistakes" is yours free at