Our Web Design Pet Peeves

Good web design requires more than making your website look pretty. Sometimes making things look good can cause issues with users. Let's take a few minutes to explore what you are doing on your website that may be driving visitors away.

Knowledge is power, as they say, and knowing what not to do helps you choose the right moves. Here are our greatest pet peeves.

1. Videos

Videos are a great way to engage with your visitors but they can slow down site loading speed. If you have video content you believe is essential for visitors to see, be sure to disable autoplay so they can interact with the video at their convenience. If you really want to provide a great experience, consider including a transcript or summary of the video content for those who want to quickly access the valuable information in the video without having to sit and watch it. This has the added benefit of improving your search results and ADA compliance.

2. Busy Backgrounds

Flashy animation, a slideshow of images, or a blurred stock video. We've all seen these used as backgrounds for page elements and you might even remember some of the backgrounds themselves, but do you remember what content was displayed on top of them? These backgrounds draw the eye, distract the viewer, and cause a loss of focus, rather than supporting the rest of the design. A single color or subdued pattern that matches the overall look and feel of your brand will be far more impactful than a flashy image behind some text. Your background should enhance your content, not draw the eye away. And yes, that means saying no to video backgrounds.

3. All Fluff, No Substance

Visitors come to your site with a purpose. Each page should respect that purpose and contain only the necessary information. When they arrive and find shallow content such as ads, partial information that requires going to yet another page, or pictures and link that have nothing to do with the content, they'll leave. With each element you add, ask yourself if it provides value to a visitor of a particular page or if it is unrelated content that should be pruned or moved to a more related page.

4. Getting Lost

How many times have you ended up on a page and had no idea how you arrived there - or how to get back to the homepage? Visitors need a road map of sorts that will help make navigating your website easy. The more patience that is required to find their way around, the less time they allow themselves to absorb your material. Make sure menus are visible, utilize breadcrumbs, and include a link to your homepage.

5. Autoplay Music

The web has come a long way since the days of Myspace playlists. Visitors don't enjoy being greeted by your favorite tunes playing in an infinite loop anymore and will probably think they were accidentally redirected to a spam site. This leads to most visitors immediately leaving. Spam sites have a clever reason for intentionally appearing unprofessional, but that is a topic for another time. Essentially, if you must play music, your site had better be ABOUT music. And that music should only be played at the request of the user, usually by clicking the play button.

6. Lack of Mobility

Each year, more and more visitors use mobile devices to access the web. While these visitors present unique challenges, they also provide an opportunity to set yourself apart from the competition. A well-designed, responsive site lets your mobile visitors know that you want to connect with them just as much as you do with any other visitor. Be sure to give them an experience they won't soon forget.

7. Ads Everywhere

Some websites have so many ads that is difficult to find the content on the page. Visitors don't want to be inundated with advertising every time they want to find something. There are times when a well-placed ad is necessary but keep advertising to a minimum on your website. If you can, ensure the ads are related to the content of the page they are displayed on. That way they enhance the page not detract from it. Your visitors will appreciate it.

8. Pop-ups

This shouldn't even need mentioning but here we go... Popups are associated with adware, malware, and every other shady practice in web development. Pop-up ads serve one purpose, irritating visitors. If you really want them to look at something that isn't your page, go ahead and use a popup. The user will immediately close it, provided their browser doesn't beat them to it and then leave your page worried you tried to give them a virus or something. You (or your content strategist) should easily be able to come up with a subdued way of providing your critical information to visitors.

Final Thoughts

These are a few of the pet peeves I have with websites. Fortunately, I don't see them very often anymore. The web is constantly changing and design trends are always evolving. Each client or project is a new opportunity to reevaluate your design guidelines and rules, so don't be afraid to question these pet peeves in your work. Who knows, in a couple of years, Pop-ups may be the trendiest new design fling, and while I doubt they'd be a good idea at that point, you might find a project that put them to good use.