Remember 10 or 15 years ago, when websites were still fairly new and people who designed and programmed them thought it would be cool to have a little background music launch as soon as you landed on their sites? Or when they designed sites to open on a flash page and, once you finally got past that, every page was about a third of the size of your browser window – and static?
You don’t see these much today, but instead of the corny stuff that plagued us in the 90s, we still see things that make most visitors cringe – some related to design and other to the user experience. Here’s a look at some of my personal least-favorites:
Horizontal Page Scroll
Every once in awhile you come across a site that utilizes horizontal scrolling rather than vertical. This kind of view works nicely for portfolios because it feels a bit like you’re paging through a coffee table book, but it’s counterintuitive for today’s audiences who are accustomed to scrolling vertically, courtesy of Facebook and Twitter (though I hear Tinder does things differently). My advice on something like a horizontal scroll is: Don’t go entirely against established norms unless you have a good reason.
White Type on Black
White type on black is only okay in very small doses; generally, though, it’s difficult to read, outdated, and usually doesn’t accomplish what the sites creators’ hoped it would, which is to communicate a certain elegance or sophistication. Would you read a book that was entirely white type on black pages? Check out this site – not a bad site, but here’s their Our Team page. Yikes. (Oh, and also: horizontal scroll.)
I’m not a fan of the hamburger nav – the three short lines stacked vertically like a hamburger, usually in a site’s upper left corner. The idea behind it is great – declutter the page by putting most or all nav tucked into this dropdown – but as they say, “out of sight, out of mind.” Why hide where you want people to go? Here’s an example of a cool site, but why not normal nav? (Also, holy load time!)
On mobile hamburger nav can be difficult to reach, too, and might be hiding notifications or messages, depending on what’s behind there.
“Enter Site” Pages
Did you ever visit Forbes magazine online? Don’t put up a wall that requires the visitor to wait through an ad, a song-and-dance thing, a tip or a thought-for-today. People want to get into your site, so let ‘em! Nothing you can offer, short of a huge discount, can make up for the annoyance of the roadblock you’ve set up.
No Communication Hierarchy
A homepage should lead visitors’ eyes directly to your most important message or an action you want them to take. Too many sites are passive, offering “stuff” and failing to direct traffic. Here’s the homepage of a commercial cleaning company (though, as a sidenote, it looks like they sell office furniture):
Compare that to this commercial cleaner’s home page. It’s pretty clear what they want you to do:
A homepage should also make some sort of statement about what you are, why you’re different and/or how you can satisfy a need. Manage the experience with a strong impression, like this site that tells you exactly what they do:
Too Much Going On
What’s going on here? Is this a mistake? Intended to be artsy? This is a bit of an extreme example, but others abound. Keep things simple, organized and easy to understand – don’t try to get clever for clever’s sake.
When developing your website, put yourself in the shoes of your prospects, but keep the uninitiated top of mind – prospects who got to your site without typing in your URL and who may not fully understand what you do. Tell them immediately. If you don’t state what you do the first chance you get, you’re assuming people know, and that’s probably cutting out half or more of your visitors.
If you just landed on this page as a result of a search (and hadn’t read the meta description), would you know this company does?
(It’s “...a nonprofit organization that exists to empower Utah’s tech community to learn, connect and serve in order to make entrepreneurship open and accessible to all.” Probably could be more clear – I still wanna ask, “Yeah, but what do you DO?)
I’m always letting myself be bothered by poor design and ineffective functionality, so you can probably expect a followup to this post soon. I think the next will be icky logos, so stayed tuned!