Ten Greatest Web Design Taboos

Every web designer has a top 10 list of things that piss them off in web design. I helped teach a class on introductory web design, and I constructed the following list to hopefully keep those students from making the same mistakes I did.

1. Be cognizant of other viewers and demographic.
When we design for the web, we must understand that the majority of the time your website will not look the same as you see it on your screen. Web design is a difficult field, because the designer has some many constraints in designing their sites. Here are a few considerations when you are designing:

  1. Resolution
  2. Screen size
  3. Depth of color on screen
  4. Potential accessibility concerns
  5. Different browsers
  6. Using different client-side programming languages
2. Kill the Intro pages.
On the Internet, there are too many web designers who feel that an intro page adds a dimension to their site, and it does—frustration! Most of the time they are done in Flash, have a large file size, and out of scheme with the rest of the site. It’s always best to have the user go straight to the content, and that leads to our next point.
3. Information should be conveyed in five seconds.
This is a liberal estimate actually. Think, What should my user learn about my site in five seconds? Think about yourself and the way you browse the Internet. If you come to a page and it takes a long time to download, if it’s hard to figure out what the site is about, or if the site is simply not clear you’re not going to stay to figure it out. In five seconds, a user should know what your site is about and where they can get information.
4. Navigation is clear, not a mystery.
Have you ever gone to a site where you can’t figure out where the navigation is at? Some people hid navigation behind images and set up other navigation hindrances. Make sure that your navigation is clear, able to be seen by the largest amount of viewers, and is always accessible. Also, make sure they always have a way home.
5. Design for the global market.
A lot of really good sites, while good in concept, spend much time and effort in conveying a mood or theme through color or other culturally-specific means. While it is a powerful tool, there are things that make this a risky play. For instance, in the global market you might use a color that is of no offense to an American, but a Chinese browser might find it quite offensive. Be sure to always keep that demographic in mind (see point #1).
6. No separation of presentation, behavior, and structure.
Many web design tools such as Dreamweaver, FrontPage, and GoLive, all design in a manner that does not separate presentation and structure in particular. They will use the notorious tag, or if they use CSS it will be inline styles. Make sure your HTML file contains tags that relate to structure. Define the paragraphs, headings, lists, etc. Put your presentation, or the way the page looks, into an external CSS file to make updating easier. And strive to put behaviors (JavaScript, DTHML, etc.) also in external files. Study XHTML to learn more of these topics.
7. Frames: always say no!
Frames are notorious for being on bad design lists and for a reason. They often make navigation, instead of clear, more complicated. It is hard to bookmark pages, and it breaks the Back button. There is no reason to utilize frames in navigation.
8. Relying on WYSIWYG editors.
WYSIWYG stands for What You See Is What You Get in other words when you design in FrontPage, the way it looks in the program is the way it will look on the web. This program, along with Dreamweaver and GoLive are two notorious programs for bad markup. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the code that is actually being written. Always strive to less in design mode and more in the coding mode.
9. No large images, and don’t put necessary content into images.
Many get frustrated that their content looks different from user to user so they go to putting content into images. This is bad for several reasons. First, it adds to the load time of your webpage quite significantly; two, the content cannot be read by search engines or screen readers; and three, often times the images will look different anyway. Strive to put as much content as possible in pure text. It will alleviate many headaches.
10. Design elements to stay away from.
Here are a few design elements to stay away from. These either detract attention from your content, increase the load time, and/or keep potential repeat customers from coming back.

  1. Blinking text and animated gifs
  2. Background music
  3. Needless use of JavaScript (pop-up windows, messages, etc.)
  4. Text is not readable on background
  5. Flash