It’s tempting to think that bad website design died out in the 1990s with Comic Sans and frame elements, but unappealing websites are still being launched. Bad website design isn’t the only thing that makes customers grind their teeth, either – other common problems include dreadful copy, illogical navigation, and 404 errors.
Choosing a mobile-optimized WordPress template doesn’t guarantee consumer respect. The ten elements below are guaranteed to drive site visitors into the welcoming arms of your competitors…
1. Single page sites.
Attention spans are short, and people won’t scroll down without good reason. So why create a single-page site with twenty separate text blocks? Hamburger menus may be unpopular, but everyone can work them nowadays. Plus, splitting content across several pages gives each one more focus and relevance.
2. Slow loading speeds.
Domestic broadband speeds are increasing, but so is web traffic. Delivering content within three seconds of a page request is imperative for customer engagement, not to mention the fact that search engines penalize slow-loading sites. Overloaded servers and inefficient coding remain as detrimental as ever.
3. Autoplaying video files.
This builds on the last point. Thumbnail videos buffer for a moment before exploding into life and scaring the pants off of everyone in earshot. If you must use video, embed it from a third-party host like YouTube. Choose an arresting thumbnail, disable the sound and TURN OFF AUTOPLAY.
4. Inescapable baskets.
Locking customers into a basket with no Back or Home button is unforgivable. What if they want to double-check an item’s specifications, or add extra products to their basket? Few examples of bad website design are more obvious than a customer having to close their browser to avoid completing a transaction.
5. Badly-written content.
Debate rages over the use of serial commas and exclamation marks, but these are matters of taste. A more definitive issue involves mangled syntax and grammar, of the sort you’d expect from those whose first language is not English (ESL speakers). Long, rambling sentences are almost as unappealing as spelling errors – it isn’t difficult to run a spell check. However, watch out for gotchas like “form” and “from” – a spell checker won’t pick this up as an error as both words are correctly spelled, so give your copy a very close check, or ask someone else to cast fresh eyes over it.
6. Poor images.
There’s a famous Getty Images shot of two smiling people shaking hands with a grinning woman in a suit, outside a house. What would that image say about a real estate agency, apart from revealing a lack of originality and imagination? Blurry, low-resolution smartphone photos also imply a lack of professionalism, so find that middle ground.
7. Oblique menus and page titles.
Customers want to know the who, what, where, when and how of a business. They don’t want to guess which of these areas is covered by a page called “Our Pledge to You”, for example. They certainly don’t need pages listed on some menus but not others, or web addresses stretching to hundreds of characters.
8. Silly fonts.
Comic Sans isn’t the only inappropriate font for business websites. Heavily italicized text is also inadvisable, along with inappropriately small point size or narrow kerning (spacing) between characters. Fonts like Courier and Helvetica might be familiar, but they’re rarely responsible for bad website design.
9. 404 errors.
This is the default message when a host server can’t find content requested by a client, and it might be triggered through referral sites like Google and Twitter if a page has been moved/renamed/deleted. There are tools which automatically update links when a page’s title changes, so there’s no justification for 404 errors.
Even if your firm can’t survive without advertising revenue, it’s imperative to ensure ads aren’t overly pushy. Hover ads spell the end for many site visits. Intrusive interstitial messages are also very irritating, though “before you leave” dialog boxes are still tolerated in response to imminent tab closure.