Websites and web design are forever evolving. If you look at a website that was designed over 10 years ago you will notice a major difference in design, navigation and usability. For any website owner or webmaster, it is essential to keep on top of their website’s design and usability and follow the trends set by other bigger websites.
Here are few things for website owners and webmasters to take note of and avoid:
Something that is very handy to a lot of website users is the ability to search what they are looking for rather than navigating through menus and pages. Websites using a CMS like WordPress or Joomla have a built-in search function, so this it is easier to implement. But for website’s that do not use a CMS, there is another easy option… Google Custom Search. It’s free and people are familiar with the Google layout. One downside is the free version displays ads, but it is powerful and has functionality that is hard to match.
Layout/design is one of the most important parts of any website. People do not want to use a website that is ugly and and has a poor, difficult to follow layout. If your website is messy and people find it hard to find the content they want, you are going to lose the viewer instantly. The best motto to go by is, “less is more”. Try to keep things simple and do not cram loads of elements, images and text into a small amount of space!
Finding your way around a website should be easy. People want to find the content/page they are looking for with no more than a few clicks. A menu should be clear and simple, this also applies to megamenu’s which are often overcrowded and overcomplicated. Another thing to consider in addition to having a main navigation menu at the top of the page, is including a side menu in a “tree” layout that links to further content.
Breadcrumbs are also good for improving a website’s navigation. They give the user a trail of pages so if they want to go back to a previous page it is easy to do so.
This point is pretty self explanatory. Poorly constructed sentences, bad grammar and spelling mistakes do not look good, and no one likes to see them. Ensure that you proof read your content multiple times before publishing it, and get someone else to read through to ensure that you have not missed anything.
Making sure that a website works on different screen sizes and devices is essential, especially with the rise in tablets and mobile web browsing. A website will not always display in the same way with different devices, therefore thorough testing must be completed to ensure that there are no layout issues, causing problems for the end user. Responsive Web Design is the best and easiest way around this.
Something that was more common with older websites, but you still see it sometimes. Back to an earlier point, keep it simple! Use images and animations in moderation, and make sure they are positioned in a place that is not too distracting for the user. This also applies to advertising banners.
Not all people have perfect vision, so if your font size is too small you could be losing visitors who cannot read your content properly. Of course you don’t want your font to be a ridiculous size, but somewhere around 12-14px for regular text is advisable. Also it may be worth including a button that gives the user the option to change the text size (bare in mind that this can cause layout issues).
You used to see this very often, not so much any more but some websites still think there is benefit in having an intro page. Usually a big animation or large image with a button underneath that says “Enter Here”. There are many issues with this, mainly with SEO. Your homepage is the most important page on your site as far as search engines are concerned, it is important that it contains as much relevant content as possible.
It is very important to remember that people use different web browsers. Testing your website with as many different browsers is very important. Internet Explorer makes cross browser compatibility extremely hard for web designers, but they still hold a majority of users so making your website compatible is a must.
Different browsers to test on include: Internet Expolorer 6, 7, 8 & 9, FireFox, Google Chrome, Opera & Safari.
Unless a visitor has clicked on a link to listen to a song or sound, they generally will not want to listen to it. Even a small “jingle” audio clip that plays upon entering a site is annoying. Ensure that if you are using sounds or music on your site, that the user can initiate the playing of it. This way if they don’t want to listen to it, they won’t.