Over the years I have come across many mistakes that people make when getting a website built for their company. There are easy mistakes to make (especially for your first website), so here is a list of common website design mistakes to avoid. Please note that some of this stuff comes from other articles on the web (I can’t remember where, as I have compiled this list over some time).
Your website cannot appeal to everyone
The harsh truth is that if you build a website for everyone, it will appeal to no one. It is important to be extremely focused about your audience and cater your design and content to it. Does this mean you should ignore your other users? Not at all. Your website design should be accessible by all and not offend or exclude anybody. However, the website does need to be primarily aimed at a clearly defined audience.
Your website is not all about you
Where some website managers want their website to appeal to everybody, others want it to appeal to themselves and their colleagues. A surprising number of organizations ignore their users entirely and base their websites entirely on an organizational perspective. This typically manifests itself in inappropriate design that caters to the managing director’s personal preferences and contains content full of jargon.
A website should not pander to the preferences of staff but should rather meet the needs of its users. Too many website designs are rejected because the boss “doesn’t like green.” Likewise, too much website copy contains acronyms and terms used only within the organization.
Make sure you are getting value from your web team
Whether they have an in-house Web team or use an external agency, many organizations fail to get the most from their Web designers. Web designers are much more than pixel pushers. They have a wealth of knowledge about the Web and how users interact with it. They also understand design techniques, including grid systems, white space, colour theory and much more.
If many people are involved in the website process, don’t fall into a trap
Design is subjective. The way we respond to a design can be influenced by culture, gender, age and even childhood. What one person considers great design could be hated by another. This is why it is so important that design decisions be informed by the user, rather than personal experience. Unfortunately, this approach is rarely taken when a committee is involved in design decisions.
Instead, designing by committee becomes about compromise. Because committee members have different opinions about the design, they look for ways to find common ground. For example, if one person hates the blue colour scheme, while the other likes yellow, they ask the designer to go for a green colour scheme in the hopes of finding middle ground. Unfortunately, this leads only to bland website design that neither appeals to nor excites anyone.
Be careful not to have too much content
Part of the problem with content maintenance on large websites is that there is too much content in the first place. Most of these websites have evolved over the years, with more and more content having been added. At no stage has anybody reviewed the content and asked what could be taken away.
Many website managers fill their website with copy that nobody will read. This happens because of:
- Fear of missing something: by putting everything online, they believe users will be able to find whatever they want. Unfortunately, with so much information available, it is hard to find anything.
- A fear that users will not understand: whether from a lack of confidence in their website or in their audience, they feel the need to provide endless instruction to users. Unfortunately, users never read this copy.
- A desperate desire to convince: they are desperate to sell their product or communicate their message, and so they bloat the text with sales copy that actually conveys little valuable information.