Wednesday, 29 May 2013

KOP: Common Mistakes in Website Design

In the last post in the Killer Online Platform series, I looked at the various different media you could try playing around with on your sites. So, have you started your own website yet? If not, why not?

Maybe because you were afraid of making some obvious mistakes?

Well never fear, 100FD's here!

Today I'm going to cover some of the basic mistakes many people make when first setting up their own website. They're easy enough to avoid and will keep your readers coming back.

Feature Overload:

Okay, I fully admit that for my first blog I did have the little widget that was a square of fish that followed your cursor. Why? Well, it was pretty cute. (and I wasn't sure my content was all that exciting).

In the end, these things really just clutter up your site and distract your readers away from the great content you should be providing them.

Writers are suckers for overcrowding. We like to have our books on display (obviously), and all the different writing groups we are part of, and the awards we might have won, and other people's books which we liked, and our other artistic endeavours, and the word counts for our current projects, even if we are working on ten different projects at once, and our blog roll, and, and, and... you get the point.

In website design terms, just think: more is less. More distractions, less people are going to connect and find what they are looking for. Confused reader = website fail.

You don't have to give these things up (okay, maybe some of them), but it's all about positioning and clear sign posting so people can find the good bits without being bombarded.

No Search Box:

People go to the web to get information. And when they're directed to your site, they are definitely looking for what you have to offer. So why stop them from finding it?

If you've been blogging for a while, there will be loads of information on your site, the best of which might no longer be on your first page.

Think of all those times you've read something great on a blog, then gone back but couldn't remember the title of the post just that it had a great quote from Stephen King. This is when you want a search box because it might not be covered by labels or tags.

A search box is a free widget and works without you doing anything, so why wouldn't you add it?

Finally, think about your placement. So make sure that the search box is above the fold of your website (so is on the top part that displays first).  If someone comes wanting to find something, they don't want to have to scroll through all your favourite reads just to find the search box. Give your reader what they want, and they'll keep coming back for more.

Poor Readability and Legibility:

Okay, designing your own webpage is pretty exciting and all the different theme options can go to anyone's head. However, a good interface design should grab attention but also allow your audience to actually read what you have written!

Crazy fonts, bright coloured text, strange flashy things... yes it grabs attention, but no one has a clue what you are saying. Writer fail.

If in doubt, copy the colour scheme of your favourite website. It's the sincerest form of flattery.

Poor Structure and Navigation: 

Searching a website should not be a like an epic adventure through a labyrinth, where no one knows where the required piece of information will be found.

Websites without a clear structure are frustrating. It is impossible to tell exactly how to get to the page you want, and easy to get lost on the way. And what happens when people get lost? They leave your site never to come back. They'll find the information they want somewhere else. (And if the website structure is so bad, how bad must the books be!).

Similarly, imagine trying to follow a road map where you know where you are, and where you want to finish, but everything in between is blacked out and you have to keep guessing which way to turn. What would you do to that map maker?

Even if the structure is good, if it is not clearly sign-posted then your reader isn't going to thank you either. 

Spend time physically drawing out your site map if you have to in order to make sure everything clearly links to the next page, and everything can be found with a minimum number of clicks. More clicks, more chances to click away!

Flash Pages and Heavy Images:

It's true, everyone except the English hate waiting. So if you are writing for anyone outside the British Isles, the longer they have to wait for your site to load, the more likely it is they will close your tab before they have even seen how great your page looks.

Flash intros or pages with large data images can be very catchy, but they are not SEO friendly.  This is especially true if the intro doesn't actually lead anywhere. They take too long to load and often annoy people that they waited for something that had no content.

Skip to the chase and get your page to load as fast as possible.

Just think: 'Candy is Dandy, but Liquor is Quicker'... though for webpages.


When designing a website, don't get overexcited by your own brilliance. Always keep the reader in mind.
Think what a reader coming to your page might like/hate.
Then think what you as a reader enjoy/want to murder on other people's pages.

In the end it's all about the customer experience.


To get you on the right path, go now and spend 10 minutes checking out some of your favourite websites and see what they have got going on that keeps you coming back again.

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