Designer’s website design pt.2

Here’s an extended rant on things to avoid in continuation of part one. This section also includes do’s and don’ts for blogs.

Web design irritants:

  1. Re: google adsense. I found one site this morning that had google ad links sending potential customers to all of his competitors. Are you in the business of selling products or links? If you are a destination site in the business (or hobby) of providing content, go wild. Otherwise, adsense links make me think (a service or product based) business is too marginal to afford webhosting fees. This doesn’t increase consumer confidence.
  2. Like adsense above, flash sites are so bad they also warrant a rerun. Flash is lovely but these sites can’t be indexed by search engines and you’ll rank a lot lower than you could be. Here’s a quote:.

    Search engines analyze website based on text. Flash, unluckily, is not text. According to How to Design Website Guideline, search engines are not able to read content presented by Flash. They just treat Flash as an embedded object or graphics only. If you use a Flash Intro as your homepage, you will never get good rankings. In addition, many Flash intros do not offer additional and meaningful content to visitors. Ask your visitors, how many of them are really interested in seeing your Flash Intro before going straight to your website content? Ask yourself whether the Flash intro is really useful and does it offer usable information to your visitors?

    There is a difference between “decorating” and “design”, akin to the difference between being a designer or being a stylist. Most designers these days are stylists, using a template as a basis and using pretty fabric to sell it so they’re really fabric sellers. Design is akin to engineering, resolving problems and enhancing communication. Decorating -or styling- means making things pretty -and there’s nothing wrong with that- but a site must be navigable, usable and functional as well as attractive. Flash isn’t; it doesn’t serve your long term interests. Also see “frames”.

  3. Don’t use frames. It minimizes the likelihood that others will forward your links, or if they do, that the recipient can find the specific page to which they are being referred. Give site visitors the option of connecting directly to a specific page on your site (the specific URLS should be visible in the address bar). Don’t force them to land on the main page and wade through buttons and submenus to find that one page. One of my favorite people (a great resource too) does this and it irritates me to no end. I link to him a lot less than I would because I have to include convoluted instructions to get the right page. Sure, there’s ways to harvest URLs from framed pages but I’d guess the average web user doesn’t know (or easily remember) the work around. This is too much work for someone who is doing you a favor.
  4. Do not disable right click. Yes, I know you have content people can steal. I have over 2000 pages of content that people can steal but I don’t disable right click. It irritates users, don’t force visitors to learn an entirely different navigation structure proprietary to your site. Besides, if people really want to steal your stuff, they can, one way or another.
  5. Music: I can’t believe we’re still having this discussion. The default setting is OFF! Anything else amounts to an auditory ambush or assault of those who are doing you a favor. This is the web equivalent of being the bully in elementary school who enjoys jumping around corners scaring little kids. If you insist on ambushing visitors with noise, don’t make us hunt around to find the off button. If there’s no off button (or it’s hard for us to find) or navigating to an interior page restarts the tunes, I’m out of there forever. If you don’t know these things are dirty pool, I’ll wonder what else you don’t know about getting products together that you should know but don’t.
  6. Please, do not use blue text on a red background (an example that includes adsense sins). It’s not readable.
  7. Do Not Hijack My Desktop! I will hate you. An example of that is Cheek Magazine but there’s many others. When I say hijacking my desktop, I am referring to sites that are coded to fill my entire desktop real estate. I see this as nothing less than unmitigated arrogance. Why do the designers of these sites think their sites are so fabulous that they have the right to cover up anything else I may be doing? If your site does this, don’t send me an email promoting your site because I won’t link to it (other than for illustration purposes), especially if I write you back and you ignore me.
  8. Splash. As with flash, skip the splash page. Whatever is this for? It’s dumb. I shouldn’t have to click a link to enter your site, I should already be there.
  9. And lastly ~sigh~ watch the javascript. As with flash, many search engines can’t read javascript codes so you won’t be indexed or found. Aside from your site rankings, this is beyond annoying because it makes it much harder for people like me to write about you because we can’t copy and paste your material in excerpts and you are not so wonderful as to be worth the effort of retyping it all. I’ll go to the next similar site on my list instead. Good grief, your artist’s statement or philosophical meanderings over your sources of inspiration are not so pivotal or seminal that you need to protect them with javascript. HTML (or XML) is best, leave javascript in external files.

Blog design irritants:

  1. The descriptive nouns used to refer to the updates you add to your site are entries or posts. An entry is not a blog. A blog is the whole shooting match. If you only have one blog, do not say you write blogs. You write entries. You can manage blogs, program blogs and design blogs but you do not write them.
  2. There is no crime in using blogger templates while you stretch your legs and learn blogging; blogger is a great solution until you decide whether you’ll stick with it. Properly configured, there’s nothing wrong with using blogger as a long term solution either. However, do remove the links in the sidebar that say “edit me” especially if you are a marketing and PR consultant who’s selling proposition is that you know how to harness the power of blogging to promote your clients. As a kindness to you, I won’t publish your url until your site has been customized and minimally, the “edit me” links removed.
  3. If you have a WordPress blog, do not force people to register on your site, getting a login that is exclusive to your site just to make a comment. If I had to get a login for every blog I visited, I’d never comment. If you have a WordPress blog and are wondering why you hardly have any comments, that’s why.
  4. Ditto for Blogspot blogs that require a proprietary login. If you’re not a blogspot blogger already, you can’t comment. You are limiting participation on your blog to other bloggers -and only blogspot bloggers at that- because most people do not have blogs or specifically blogspot blogs (and those of us who do, we can’t remember our login). Allow anyone to comment and enable comment moderation if you’re worried about spam. Again, I’m never surprised to see how few comments these sites get. The people most likely to spread word of your site are people who comment. If they can’t comment, they won’t return to your site or tell anyone about it.
  5. I still intensely dislike MySpace and LiveJournal. I won’t click on most of those and I’ll never add a link to one. They are some of the ugliest websites I’ve ever seen -with music to boot. These may be options to start but when you grow up, you’ll need a real web page for your product line. As above, the average person cannot contact you if they don’t have an account. Why would you eliminate potential customers? They want to buy your products, not buy into your crowd or club. Do you only want to sell to people you like? If not, then why do you force people to be your “friend”? Isn’t breaking the market hard enough? If you could kick the butt of the person most responsible for everything wrong in your life (or product line) you wouldn’t be able to sit down for a month.

Web usability:
Again, the fastest to read, easiest to learn and apply as well as least expensive good book on web design and usability is Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think. And yes, I know that Jacob Nielson is the guru but he’s harder and longer to read and implement. Krug is down and dirty for people who don’t have a lot of time.

I found a quiz on website usability that is educational although I wish it included blogs too. I missed one question on the quiz and I think it matters a lot. The question (#3) was:

3. An expert review is:_________.

I picked:

Representative of real users

The correct answer listed was:

Relatively quick to do

I disagree because an expert review is only valuable in so much that it should measure and analyze real users behaviors and many experts assess based on their own behaviors being too far removed from the average user experience. I also don’t agree a good review is relatively quick to do if it’s done right. You have to survey users. I don’t believe one person peening the site through a vise will be accurate. Experts tend to behave in similar ways but neophytes employ endless variety in navigation strategies.

A similar problem is using yourself as the testing model. Just because you can navigate your site well, doesn’t mean others can. I mean, you designed the site so if you can’t navigate it then it must be really really bad. It’s like making a pattern and expecting a contractor or sample maker to have an easy go of it because you didn’t have a problem sewing it. Silly silly.

Also, don’t design a site to match your browsing preferences. I was talking to the right-click-disabled guy yesterday (a very very nice man) and he thought disabling right click was okay thinking that very few people use right-click for the “back” feature because he never does. He uses the back button in the upper part of the screen. In this case, disabling right click meant he was forcing visitors to conform to proprietary programming on his site, working the way he does, meaning they’d have to change their behaviors for just his site. Now, I can see doing it if your way is more efficient but do not force more sophisticated web users to use a less efficient method. If you expect people to alter their behaviors, your site had better be worth it -and few sites are.

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