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The Most Common Mistakes In Web Design And How To Avoid Them

Copyright Mike Rohde

When you are designing a website, there are plenty of mistakes that you can make, especially if you are a beginner. You will be tempted to use some ideas that are not too good or, even worse, ideas that could ruin everything. Every day, we see examples of poor design or bad practice, but with a little attention, you can easily avoid these problems. In this article, you can see the most common problems in web design, problems that are making the usability a nightmare.

Crowded web pages

A web page should offer a balance between the space occupied by the information (text, images and menus) and the white or negative space (the background, the distances between paragraphs and other elements of the page). A web page should look clean and simple.

The visitor must be able to easily read the content and to find information of interest without any hassle. The solution to avoid this mistake is to use “padding” and “margin” style when you create the page, the columns, paragraphs, images etc.

Browser compatibility

Make sure your site is correctly displayed in all browsers. This is a big problem, it needs much work, and you have no other choice but to make the site compatible with the latest and most popular browsers.

Hard to find information

This is a common mistake found on many websites. The visitor enters a site with a purpose: to look for information. If in the first few seconds after entering the site he has not found what he has needed, he will leave the site. Important elements should be highlighted, and the same thing should be done with the portions of the text that provide the essence of the information.

Using a Flash intro that is too long and doesn’t have a skip button

I am sure each of you has seen sites that have a Flash Intro. I, for one, am totally against these because it is like watching a commercial: it takes my time and I can do anything besides waiting. When you reach a site, you want the information to be as easily accessible as it can be, and not hidden behind 100 flash animations.

Musical background

Do not add musical background: since the beginning of the Internet, (probably there was a romantic period), web developers tried to integrate music on websites. In most cases, the effect was exactly the opposite, users closing the pages immediately. However, in some cases, an audio file might be necessary. An audio speech or a guided audio tour can be an interesting solution, but in this case, you must give the user control buttons like play, stop etc.

Improper fonts

Do not use unreadable fonts: a good font will help you have a more expressive website, but first of all, keep in mind that the text must be read with ease. If the main objective is to deliver a message as clearly as possible, this process would be more comfortable for users. For the same reason, do not use fonts that are too small or too large.

Contact page that is hard to find

Make sure that the contact details are clearly displayed [preferably on the top of the page], because there is nothing worse than a site where you have to look for a contact on every page and eventually you find it in a totally different part than where it should be. This is not only bad for visitors, but also for you because you will not receive messages from the site.

Links that are hard to find

The links are the most important elements in a webpage, from the visitor’s point of view. If these links cannot be easily found, the visitor could leave that webpage. There are two basic principles
to keep in mind when making a web page:
– the links must be distinguished from the rest of the text by a different color or by underlining;
– you should avoid creating a text that is not a link but it looks like one

Enormously long pages

All the SEO experts say that the text and the content that is periodically updated is the key to success. However, avoid putting huge text blocks that could be summarized in few words. The reader will be so “demoralized” when he sees how much he has to read, and there is a higher probability for him to leave the website. SEO is good to bring visitors to your site, but do not exaggerate.

Discouraged image format

Standard formats for images used on websites are JPEG, PNG or GIF. Using other formats can lead to heavy loads on the web page. There are also examples of sites that use these formats although correct, loading times are very large. The problems are various, but the most common problems are unprepared web images (re-sized and saved for web) or the use of improper-sized images as background for page elements (this problem shows that the designer has a lack of experience in the techniques of slicing).

The use of flashy colors

Flashy colors or a bad color combination may be unsuitable for human eye because it detracts the visitor from valuable information and it also tires his eyes. Two important things must be taken into account when choosing the set of colors for the site: the combination should be pleasing to the eye and to not use more than three primary colors (the rest can be just shades of these colors).

Ambiguous website

The user must know very clearly what is on your site: basically, you have available only a few seconds. If a visitor does not find out quickly what your site offers, he will close the page and look elsewhere for the information.

Poor text formatting

The content must be easy to read, because this is the Internet, not a book, so do not make large paragraphs. Visitors do not have very much time to spare, so make sure you have the opportunity to read the entire content quickly. Use points, headings, notes, lists and everything that will help make text more readable.

Useless user signup

Ask for user registration only if it is absolutely necessary: the information or services that you offer should worth the time allotted. Most of the times, the user will not only refuse to give up his data, but he also will not access the site anymore.

The lack of notifications

If you use PDF files, show it very clearly using an icon, which should be a link to that file. Otherwise, you can confuse the user who does not want to leave the site area but wants to download the file on his own computer.

Improper advertising placement

Do not mix advertising links with the website’s content. Blending advertising like AdSense units within content could help increasing the number of short-term revenue, but in the long term, this will reduce the number of visitors.

Horizontal scrolling

Do not implement the horizontally scrolling: if the vertical scroll is ok and quite common, the horizontal one is obscure and difficult to the user. The most common screen resolution at present is 1024 x 768 pixels, so your site must not exceed the horizontal dimension. This can be an exception if your website is built this way. Check out this one.

The lack of Call-To-Action

The fundamental error of many sites is the lack of a “call to action”, which means an indication about what the users should do once they reached the site. Small businesses often have brochure-style sites, which include only descriptive paragraphs. If you do not suggest an action to the users (to buy a product or to contact you to subscribe), you can lose them.

Complicated navigation

Use a simple navigation structure: sometimes less is more. This rule usually applies to people and choices. Make sure that your website has a single, clear navigation structure. The last thing you want is to confuse the reader regarding where he should go to find the information he is looking for.



Bogdan is the founder of Top Design Magazine. You can find him in Bucharest-Romania so next time you want to drink a beer there and talk about web and stuff, give him a message.