There are many questions and decisions made during web development, answering those questions of what to include and what to leave out is perhaps one of the hardest task to deal with. Hardest in a sense that until now, many webmasters still did not realize what netizens dislike in a website.
What will it be? Ask this question to yourself. It can be annoying pop-up, splash page that tests your patience or locked content that screws you up when you thought you finally got something you need. You don’t like these features, your visitor don’t like them too.
Below is a list of design features that every webmasters should probably avoid in order to brew an awesome website. The next time you update your website, or start on a new project, this article may help you in the process of considering what to avoid in your website.
1. Pop-up / Pop-under
Many people love surprises, but not the kind where an unsolicited ‘extra’ space popped right in front of the monitor without warning. There is a very good reason why modern internet browsers have built-in blockers to protect the unsuspecting users from these invasive advertisements, that is because people do not fancy being told what to look at.
Another point that webmasters should consider is that 99% of people who have spent a good time dealing with pop-ups and pop-unders already have developed a good reflex for closing every window in a second. Below is a fair example of what I am referring to.
(Image source: Wikipedia)
If I may add, this includes flash advertisements that expand and occupy half of the screen. Yes, like what Yahoo!’s homepage used to do. Pop-up domination also enters this category, where a website asks visitors to enter their e-mail address and name to sign up for the newsletter. I am not against this, in fact this is a good strategy to gather large subscribers, but it is not a suitable strategy for long run.
Avoid placing anything in front of the content as it tends to annoy everyone and disregard it instantly. Worse scenario? Visitors will leave. Take for example YouTube’s advertisements. 10 seconds into the video clip and an ad appears, what is the initial reaction? Find the close button.
2. Marquee Text (Or Anything That Moves)
There are only few websites that use this today as it is not a good approach because it functions like scrolling texts for the news on Television. Anything that moves can catch everyone’s attention, and it takes effort to disregard these objects.
3. Splash Page
Splash pages are cool only if the information a person wants is already there, or at least a summary of how awesome the website really is. There are websites that use splash page to advertise which is probably a bad idea.
For example, I have seen tons of these pages where visitors are required to sit through a 10 second advertisement before being redirected to the content.
4. Locked Content
This is a stunt that many websites pull just to increase their earning and subscriptions. It’s pretty odd that they let you touch a tool but won’t allow you to actually use it. ‘Sorry, you need to be premium to use that’. Of course revenue is important, but no matter how cool the website is, if it tricks people into thinking that they can use a feature but actually they can’t, that’s misleading.
Here is an example base on my experience, you googled and ask anything about web development, and what you might see is one of the top ranking site, Experts Exchange. The question is there, and answers are locked. I discovered this during my freshman year in college, studying Information Technology, it is not a pleasant experience.
5. Registration + No Proper Warnings
Learn from the awesome websites of today like Twitter. You can actually sign up for a Twitter account under 20 seconds. There are still lots of websites that ask their users to register and login to use certain features, and I’m not against that. What I am against is the hefty amount of data a website needs before you can use their service, like commenting.
Adding to this, there are still a lot of websites that do not incorporate proper warning system that tells you that a field is ‘required’ or ‘already taken’ and should be replaced. What happens then? After clicking ‘send’ all data are refreshed/erased and you’re back to step 1 just because you forgot one field. Take a look at Twitter’s registration page, bummer.
At first having a CAPTCHA is the best method to ward off spam on comments and registrations, but as life over the internet became quicker, people starts to hate this technology. In order to comment or register, the user will have to input a combination of letters and numbers correctly, which is usually not less than 5. I dare to say that CAPTCHA is one of the reasons why commenting on blogs and websites declined.
There is an easy fix for this, an intelligent spam filtering service called Akismet. Many websites are now using this, good bye to several minutes of trying to decrypt Da Vinci’s code.
Think of Akismet as the collective consciousness of all users; all spams are identified based on millions of users’ experience, then comments or trackbacks marked as spams won’t be posted on your website, unless you unmark them as spam. If Akismet is not our prime choice, you can opt for others as long as it is a convenient spam blocker.
7. Social Media Integration Toolbars
Apparently, many websites are now using these for you to easily connect with your friends at Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, YouTube, you name it! There is too much social interaction nowadays that webmasters tend to think it’s a good thing to keep their visitors connected, but people don’t like too much of these as it will consume more space in your website. Instead of collecting a whole barrage of it, pick few that most users use.
Content is king, but when the content is split into several pages the magic weakens. Even popular websites do this when they can just include it all in one place, especially when it’s all text. Say, a two thousand word article is divided into 3 pages, readers will have to click “next” to proceed. Doing this is not really cool, even though it adds to the revenue but very anticlimactic.
9. Irregular Window Size
There are websites that are great with horizontal scrolling, but this should not encourage you to design your website this way. Scrolling vertically is the universally accepted way to navigate a website, no buts. Although at times, screen resolution plays a great part in this, it is best to design a website that will fit in every resolution possible. Over 3 months ago I was still using a CRT monitor and almost every website I visit don’t support my screen’s resolution. I had to scroll horizontally every single page.
Another no-no is resizing your visitor’s web browser. Never resize for your comfort. Instead, be the one to adjust based on the visitors’ preferences.
10. Reset Button
Especially when it’s right beside the submit button on forms. People have now developed common sense to just hit F5 to refresh, they no longer need a button to do that. Think of it, there are now tablet computers like iPad and smart phones that rely on touch screen.
Tablet computers and smartphones’ touchscreens are smaller and only few people are using their stylus, making accuracy low. Imagine accidentally clicking reset button instead of submit after filling up a very long form. You get the picture.
One more: No Right Click
There are tons of ways to earn and make a website famous, ways that are less annoying. The only thing you need to remember is perseverance and high-quality content/service without these annoying features and designs.