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Fri, Dec 02, 2005 7:15 am

Top Ten Mistakes in Web Design

I came across a webpage Top Ten Mistakes in Web Design that echoes many of my pet peeves regarding websites.
  1. Bad Search

    I appreciate it it when websites offer a means to search the site. Sometimes I've been looking for a paricular piece of information on a business site that has many webpages. I expect the information to be there, but would certainly prefer not to spend a lot of time clicking on various webpages trying to find it. But the site will offer no or very limited search capabilities, leaving me frustrated with the site. Fortunately, Google offers one a means to search a specific site, e.g. suppose one wishes to search for SomeCompany's phone number on their website. I could go to Google's site and enter "phone site:somecompany.com" to search for "phone" only on the somecompany.com website. But, of course, I won't be able to find any pages posted on the site subsequent to the Google search engine's last index of the site.
  2. PDF Files for Online Reading

    When I'm looking for a manual for a particular piece of hardware or software, I like to be able to download the manual in PDF format from a website, so that I can store it on my computer for easy reference later. But I find some sites use PDF files in what I consider to be inappropriate ways. For instance, I've gone to a website to get information on a particular piece of software I'm interested in buying. There's a link on the site to view what the company views as the main features of the software. The link points to a PDF file, which when opened shows a one-page list of the software's main features. Why didn't the company present that as a webpage? By presenting it as a PDF file, they've interrupted my perusal of their site. I have to wait for the PDF file to be downloaded and Adobe Acrobat Reader to be opened on my system to view it, slowing me down. Of course, I also want pricing information. I've got to download another PDF file to get the pricing. At this point I'm wondering if they considered usability in their software design.
  3. Not Changing the Color of Visited Links

    I also find it aggravating when visited links are displayed in the same color as ones I haven't visited. Why would a site designer make them the same. I'm slowed down when perusing a site, because I can't tell if I've already viewed a particular page while searching for information.
  4. Non-Scannable Text

    I've seen webpages where the entire page is just one blob of undifferentiated text, making it less attractive than it could be and making it harder to read. I don't get too aggravated by that, though, unless the webpage is not even broken up into manageable paragraphs.
  5. Fixed Font Size

    I've seen a number of websites where the text is presented in a tiny font that I can hardly read. This occurs on business sites as well as other sites. I'm not going to put my face up next to my monitor and squint to read the webpage. I quickly leave sites that have such webpages.
  6. Page Titles With Low Search Engine Visibility

    Put a descriptive title on your webpages. I often have many instances of Internet Explorer or other browsers open at once on a system. At the bottom of my Windows screen I see the Internet Explorer icon with the number of webpages I have open. I can click on that icon and see the titles for the pages. Some websites don't put descriptive titles on their webpages or put ones that make it difficult to determine which site the page is associated with or what information is contained on the page. For instance, right now, in my list is a webpage titled "Home". That happens to be the homepage for my credit union, but I've had these browser instances open for a couple of days now and when I look at the list it isn't immediately apparent that "Home" is the homepage of my credit union. After all, how many other websites my use the same description for their main page? And when I want to bookmark a page, I often have to change how it will be saved, because the webpage designer didn't put a title on the page that clearly describes it. Sometimes the problem is that the title is incredibly long, which I shorten when I bookmark the page, so that I won't have issues when I try to backup such a long file name to a CD when I backup my "favorites" list, since the name might otherwise exceed the allowable filename length.
  7. Anything That Looks Like an Advertisement

    I also tend to ignore things that look like banner ads and find that any flashing or blinking text tends to be annoying unless it is highlighting something that is truly critical. And I tend to close popup windows before their contents are even displayed when I suspect they will be advertisements.
  8. Violating Design Conventions

    Basically, users will get frustrated if things don't work the way they expect them to work.
  9. Opening New Browser Windows

    It can be annoying when your visiting a site and the site opens a lot of new windows on your system. You can't back up with the back button on your browser.
  10. Not Answering Users' Questions

    Jakob Nielson lists this as number 10 on his list of "Top Ten Mistakes in Web Design", but for me it would be much higher on the list. If I'm interested in a product, I want to know its price immediately. Yet many business sites don't list their pricing. You must get the prices by sending an email or calling someone. Do they think this will make me more likely to buy? Do they think "if you have to ask, you can't afford it?"

    In the case of some "enterprise" software packages, the pricing is geared for medium or large corporations, i.e. you are expected to buy a license that will gove 50 or more systems. Well, let me know that immediately. And if the minimum license is a 10-user license, let me know its price on the website, so I know immediately whether the product is suitable for a small business that may only be able to afford a couple of hundred dollars for the product.

    If I can't find pricing on a compable product elsewhere, I may come back to a site that doesn't offer pricing and get the phone number or email address, but the odds are I won't be back to the site and will be buying a competitor's product instead. One of the strong points of the Web is that you can get instant answers to questions at any time of the day or night, even on holidays. And most of my web surfing is done outside of normal business hours, so I'm not going to have to wait until the next business day just to find out if the price is reasonable for my requirements. So I find it very irritating when sites won't provide pricing on the site.

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