Everyone makes mistakes—even web designers. However, some mistakes can be disastrous, such as those that affect traffic. You never want users to click away because the site’s interface is too complicated to navigate. According to akamai.com, 79% of shoppers who are not happy with a website will probably not return a second time. Decrease your bounce rate instead by avoiding these common web design mistakes.
1. Slow-loading web pages
The time it takes for a page to load plays an important role in a visitor’s experience. Most people do not have the patience to wait, even if it means loading web design ‘extras’. In addition, page loading time affects your search engine rankings. A study by gomez.com found that more customers abandon a website the longer it takes to load. In fact, another study on the tagman.com blog found a one-second delay can result in a 7 percent loss in customer conversions.
So how can you prevent slow loading pages?
One way is to watch out for large images. They look great, but can slow things down considerably, taking as much as 10 times as long to load than normal-sized images. There are other ways to prevent large images from becoming a problem, including compressing large images, browser caching, and combining images into CSS sprites. And never use images just for filler - they should always enhance the user experience.
2. Unclear links
Links are important, but can easily get in the way of navigation.
- They should always be easy to identify. Unfortunately, some web designers insert links in the same colour as the rest of the text on the page, making it impossible to tell the difference.
- The link area should also be large enough to click on. If the area is too small, users can become frustrated. There has to be some type of emphasis made to the links so that they stand out.
The same is true of visited links. If they revert to the default colour, users won’t know if they already clicked on them. Users need to understand where they have been to be able to figure out where to go next. You don’t want them to click on the same links over and over again just to end up on the same pages.
3. Confusing external links
There are two schools of thought when it comes to how to open external links. Some designers believe external links should always open in a separate window so that you don’t risk losing your visitor to another site. Other designers think it’s better to give the user an option. Their argument is that opening extra windows can be confusing because it disables the Back button. A user with a small screen can also get inundated with multiple open windows. Although it is a personal web designing decision, it is probably best to have links open in a separate window so that you reduce lost traffic.
4. Missing search functions
Most users have some idea what they are looking for when they go to a web page. If a website is more than a single page, a search bar is essential. Even though there are users who prefer to search Google regardless of the search bar on your website, leaving it out will alienate many users. According to user testing by Nielsen Norman Group, web users expect a website to have a search box with a button labeled “search” that provides a search engine results page (SERP). Including a search function is easy. There is no need to code your own. Either use the built-in search functionality of a WordPress platform or install a Google search bar on your site so users don’t have to leave.
5. Registration rules
There are few things more frustrating on the Internet than finding a website that has what you think you need, only to be required to register before you can actually see it. It is a waste of time, especially if it turns out not to be what you were really looking for. Don’t alienate your visitors. At least give users try out the site so they can make an educated decision about whether or not to register. If you believe in your product, you don’t need to trick users into registering. Instead, they will like what they see and immediately want more.
6. Small mistakes
If you want to decrease your bounce rates and increase your conversation rates, the little things can make a big difference:
Don’t autoplay auto and video. Visitors find it annoying when they land on a website that starts blaring content immediately. They usually click right out of there, never to return. Let them control their own experience by giving them the option of pressing play on their own terms.
Include contact info. When visitors go to your site to find out how to reach someone, they don’t want to be disappointed. Clicking around a website to find contact information is just plain annoying. It is good customer service to display your contact info clearly on your landing page. It doesn’t have to be your personal information - calls don’t have to go to your mobile. But at least post an email or contact form that bots don’t scan. You can even direct them to your Twitter or Facebook page.
Store the important stuff. The one thing worse than having to enter information on a website is having to do it twice. Don’t ask visitors for information they just gave you. If the data is important enough that you need it, save it automatically the first time.
Communicate. Things happen. No matter how well you stay on top of your site, sometimes visitors are going to end up with an Error Message. Don’t leave them hanging. Briefly explain what happened on the Error Page. And while you’re at it, why not add a link back to the homepage so they can get back on track. Adding a search bar is a bonus.
7. Design inconsistency
Although an attractive website is important, readability is the key to an effective website. Gear your site toward your target audience, because it has a direct impact on how they see the quality of your business and services. The site should behave the way a user expects it to so that they always feel in control of the experience.
Text needs to be scannable. What’s the best way to achieve that?
- Small chunks of text
- Bulleted lists
- Highlighted key words
- Larger font size
- Appropriate font
- Line height
- Simple writing
Don’t add distractions like confusing background colours, strange links colours, etc. Your design principles need to remain fluid.
8. Alienating your visitors
Incorporate graceful degradation or progressive enhancement, complicated sounding terms for very simple concepts.
Graceful degradation is the process of building functionality while keeping in mind the needs of all of your visitors - even those with lower level browsers. You can design your site for modern browsers, but still make it usable for people who never update their browsers. You don’t want to lose those visitors.
Progressive enhancement is the reverse. Design your site for lower level browsers but have it increase functionality automatically for visitors with more advanced browsers. You can’t control what type of browser your visitor is using, so be proactive.
While you are at it, test your layout in several browsers, or at least Firefox, Chrome and Internet Explorer. It should work in all three.
9. Off-putting carousels
Anyone with access to the Internet knows that if a promo box looks like an advertisement, people are going to ignore it - especially if it is located on the right side of the page. (Studies show that people look to the left first when reading a web page.) Carousels are just as useless. They look like ads. Auto-rotating carousels - those that show a new panel every 5 seconds or so - are the worst. Most people don’t’ have time to read the text before it disappears and won’t want to wait around for it to come back. Auto-rotating carousels are particularly frustrating for people for whom English is not their first language and slow readers.
Remember…keep it simple.
….And three last mistakes to avoid:
- Never design a full Flash website. A large number of mobile devices don’t support Flash, making it a bad idea to put important content in it. When the dreaded blank box appears on a screen, you’ve just lost another visitor. Switch to HTML5 for your videos.
- Stay away from animated GIFs. They are so distracting that your visitor doesn’t know where to look first. As are too many widgets. There are some you need to include for social media purposes, but many of them are just a waste of space.
- No horizontal scrolling. Ever.
Check out your website - have you made any of these mistakes? Fortunately most of them are quick fixes and the team at Activate Design is happy to help out. And next time you design a website, keep these ideas in mind so you can build traffic, keep visitors coming back and boost those conversions.
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