More Web Design Faux Pas

In the last post we looked at the three most common issues that afflict websites. Today let’s delve into some simple but deadly-if-ignored, design flaws.

1. Forgetting not all of your visitors have Superman laser vision. While the Man of Steel can read tiny, badly contrasting text, most of your visitors can’t. There was a time when orange text in a 6 point serif font on a black background was common. Today, you’re probably only going to find that on gaming enthusiast sites that have been built by¬†use good contrast on your text so it can be read easilytwelve year olds.

However, a new villain in text readability has crept into the mix. Grey text on a white background. You really must be certain that the contrast and the type font and the type size are readable by ALL visitors, not just the ones with super powers. If your visitor can’t read your web content, how do you expect to solve the problem that brought them to your website to begin with?

This goes for graphics, too. I often see graphics that create a bad contrast problem for parts of the text even if some of the page is readable. When you place an image behind the text, be sure that text can still be easily read!

Solution: Have your 90 year old grandmother check out your site. If she can read it – you’re good to go. Seriously – check every page of your site and be sure it passes the contrast test. Use black text on light backgrounds, or white text on dark backgrounds. Use a sans serif font, and unless you’re making a page like a privacy policy that no one ever reads anyway, don’t go lower than 10 points on the font size.

2. Forgetting to get out of the way of a sale. The golden rule of internet marketing is “Don’t do anything that gets in the way of the sale.” And yet I see this rule broken over and over again.

When I”m ready to buy, I want to buy NOW. I don’t want to go through a confusing or convoluted checkout process. I want to see ONE page, with a summary of what I’m purchasing, and all the details I need to enter to complete that purchase. I’ll sit still for two pages – but if you start hitting three or more, I’m outta there! As are most customers.

And boy howdy you better make sure all the links in that checkout process work! Every page, every process, every form field you throw in between the beginning and the end of the checkout process adds to the potential of a lost sale.

Solution: Use a one page checkout system whenever possible. Keep the information you’re asking the customer to fill in to a minimum. Start asking survey questions at checkout and you’ve lost the sale. Use a cart system that saves customer info so they can come back later and complete the process if they need to leave the page. CONFIRM THE SALE. Even if you send an email confirmation – and you should – have a “Thank You For Your Order” page to let them know you have successfully recorded their info and the sale. Showing a review of the order is a nice touch, but do SOMETHING to let them know you have the order.

3. Forgetting that text is text. Are you writing words? Use text. Are you displaying pictures? Use images. With the advent of CSS, designers can do almost ANYTHING with text. Images are pictures. Text is text.

Text is read by search spiders, images that say things with text are not. Image text is harder to correct. Image text adds to the size of the page as it loads. Image text is often hard to read. Use it sparingly – if at all.

Solution: Use CSS to add spiffy effects to text when needed. Save images for pictures.

4. Forgetting that not everyone loves Flash. This is probably my own number one pet peeve on the net. Flash intros are slick – and some of them are jaw dropping in design and function. But if I have already seen it once, do NOT make me watch it every time I come to your site. And don’t force me to watch it before I can get to the content.

The problem with Flash is that it can enhance a site or it can make it painful to visit. Poorly designed Flash elements get in the way of good user experience. Add to that issue the fact that not everyone is surfing on a fiber optic network or some <gasp> may not have Flash installed, or some may be using a Mac or a browser that may not support Flash.

Solution: Have an opt out button on your intro. Let me watch it if I want to or skip it if I don’t. Look at every Flash element on your site very carefully and answer question “Does this add a valuable customer experience?” for each one. If the answer is anything but a resounding YES, find another solution. Have a non Flash version of your site for your visitors to choose if they can’t or don’t want to have the Flash experience.

Tomorrow we’ll go over the last of the web design mistakes on our list, starting with the all important site navigation.

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