Six Common Website Design Flaws --
If something is hard to use it doesn't get used very much.

1. Budgeting for initial site development and ignoring maintenance.

Calendars and announcements seem like obvious reasons for site maintenance; but the fact is that there is no such thing as content that will never change. When a site becomes outdated it tells visitors that the site owner is sloppy and unreliable. It announces clearly that there is no reason to look further at the site or to return to the site.

  • Keeping information fresh and up to date is a considerable commitment that cannot be overlooked.

2. The home page does not quickly and clearly identify the site and tell visitors why they should be there.

The home page has a big responsibility in the overall success of a site. While it may be used to accomplish many tasks, the home page absolutely must do two things --

  • It must tell visitors what the site is, what it's for and why they should be there.
  • It must give an overview of what the site has to offer, usually through persistent navigation.

3. The site contains multiple navigation systems.

This becomes particularly troublesome when various navigation schemes contradict, duplicate or compete with each other. Such schemes fight for visitors' attention, bogging them down, putting them off and sidetracking them.

  • All navigation should have a clear and distinct reason for being on the page.

4. Letting visitors get lost - no indication of current page.

The virtual reality world of a Web site makes it easy to get lost or to feel lost. Page identification should be obvious. There are very good reasons to use page titles in the browser title bar, but since people rarely notice the title bar, it's not enough to prevent visitors from getting lost.

  • The navigation should indicate the current page.
  • Each page should have a prominent title near the top of the page copy.

5. The site's style is inconsistent.

The way you handle information on one page is the way you handle information on every page.

  • Avoid inconsistencies in copy writing style, design style, buttons and link text, descriptions, page titles and copy heads, etc.
  • If you use title case on lists, use it on all lists.
  • If you use captions on some photos, use them on all photos.
  • If you name a link or button, use that same name wherever that link or button is used.
  • If links are in a box and colored blue on one page, they should be the same on all pages.

6. Using backgrounds that reduce readability and obscure content.

Patterned and even solid color backgrounds can make text difficult to read. Years ago, I participated in a university study of computer screen readability.

  • Black type on a white background is the easiest to read.
  • Dark type on a light background is more readable than light type on dark backgrounds. If light type must be used on a dark background it needs sufficient contrast and weight to be workable.
  • Patterned backgrounds if absolutely necessary should be very light like a watermark and should have large unpatterned sections where type can be placed.

If something is hard to use it doesn't get used very much.