Nobody expects to have their website listed in a “worst of the web” list, but it happens; sometimes to people who mean well. Why? Because the most popular features aren’t always the best choices.
If you want to avoid ending up on an embarrassing “worst websites” list, forever immortalized as a “bad website,” here’s a list of the most abused design elements with some tips to ensure your website doesn’t get picked apart:
1. Intrusive popups
Somewhere in time, popups took over the internet. First, there were popups that appeared when a visitor landed on the page, offering a sweet digital download in exchange for an email address. Next, popups appeared after viewing the page for 30 seconds, anytime the mouse moved to the top of the screen, and upon exit. For some reason, people are now combining all four types of popups and bombarding visitors at every turn. Studies have repeatedly shown that people have negative visceral reactions to popups.
If you absolutely need to have a popup on your website, make sure it doesn’t annoy the visitor. Choose one form of popup, and let the rest go. Also, make sure your popup doesn’t continually reappear for visitors who have chosen to close it.
2. Comparison content with no consistent way of displaying it
If you’re running a website where you compare brands, businesses, or write reviews, the more consistent you can display your content, the better.It’s not enough to write a few paragraphs and bullet point the features you’re comparing. People absorb comparison information better when there’s a distinct visual separation between what’s being compared. This design handles the visual aspect and consistency extremely well, and it’s easy for the visitor to quickly skim through the items to spot their prioritized feature.
Why consistency works
When people browse comparison websites, once they find the features they’re looking for, they’ll keep scrolling with their eyes locked in the same spot on the screen so they can quickly scan for the same feature for each item.
Create a template you can repeat down the entire page and just replace the details with each brand’s specifics.
3. Too many calls to action
What do you want your visitors to do on each page? Each webpage is an opportunity to guide the visitor to take a specific action – whether it’s to buy a product, watch a video, download a report, or just read some information. There’s no right or wrong action for a visitor to take, but there is a right way to guide them to it.
Go through your website and determine what single action you want your visitors to take on each page, and then have a friend visit each page and see if they can tell you what the page wants them to do. Tweak your content until you get it right.
4. Difficult navigation
Your navigation should always be built for your visitors’ convenience first. This often means ditching your amazingly creative menu labels for words that accurately identify the content they lead to. Your menus need to speak the language of the user. If your visitors don’t know where they’ll be taken when they click on a given link, they’re not going to click. If you choose to use branded or trademarked slogans or company jargon to identify your content, your visitors are likely to bounce.
Use single words as menu item links wherever possible, and make them simple and clear. “Burgerlicious” might be the coolest name in history for your annual cookoff, but people discovering you for the first time won’t know that. By naming your menu item “Annual Cookoff” instead, you’ll get more clicks. It’s okay to use multiple words for menu items, just don’t go overboard.
If you can’t let go of using your company’s trademarked terms, it’s generally okay to use them on the page within your content (as long as there is enough context for visitors to comprehend your message). Just be aware that if a visitor isn’t already familiar with your company, they may not understand your content and might bounce.
5. Use of stock photos with the watermark still intact
We all want to save money, but using stock photos with the watermark is not only tacky, but it screams to the world, “I like to steal images!” It’s worth respecting the photographer’s copyright and buying your stock photos. Copyright infringement is a Federal offense, and extremely expensive.
It doesn’t take much to avoid getting your website listed in an embarrassing article dedicated to the worst of the web. Just use common sense and design to meet your visitors’ needs first.