Let me start by saying that while every rule is made to be broken it’s important to know the rules so you can break them properly (Dalai Lama).
While I acknowledge exceptions, there are a few things you should generally avoid, especially on your business website.
As a professional web developer, these are a few things I run into more often than I care to admit. They are the opposite of Best Practices, they are truly “Worst Practices” yet a lot of people still do them. If you are considering building a website, for your business or personal use here are 7 things to avoid like the plague:
- Music On Your Site: This is one of those, “just because you can doesn’t mean you should.” If you choose to use music make sure that it doesn’t automatically start playing when the page loads and the user chooses to turn it on. Why? Because I might be surfing the web in a place where quiet is expected (like the library or work). People also use music to create their own environment and when I have Pandora running my favorite 80’s hair band mix and your ethereal mood music suddenly comes on it creates chaos and confusion. Possible exception: If you are a musician, rock band or it’s your MySpace Page.
- Flash Intro Pages: I wrote an entire post on whether or not to use Flash Intro’s and the point of it was that if someone comes to your site and has to wait through an intro you loose. Lose the Bling-Bling and get to the point. Why? Because it’s only cool the first time they see it (if it’s well done), after that it is a nuisance and wastes time. Imagine having to watch a commercial for CNN every time you went to their website. Now imagine it’s the same commercial every time! You get the point. Possible Exception: If “bling” or “glitz” is what you sell. See the MGM Grand Intro from 2007. It works for them because it sells the hotel and the “fantasy of Vegas” but note, it’s also embedded in the site and is not a standalone intro I can’t navigate away from. I also have to request it to play (watch it, it is cool).
- Animated Gif’s: These things stopped being cool 15 years ago and look hideous on any site. Just don’t to it, ever, no possible exceptions. If you were even thinking of this go wash your brain out with chlorine and start over.
- Resize the Users Browsers Window: It’s annoying to the user and forces them to use their computer in a way that they were not planning/expecting. This is a big no-no, if you have to resize the users’ window to make your site look better redesign your site, no exceptions.
- Build Your Entire Site in Flash: I’m going to get hate mail for this one so I’ll try to be clear. You can build an entire site in Flash but the number of people/companies out there who can really do it properly (navigable, fast loading, SEO friendly, …) are damn few, will be very expensive and it’s generally just not necessary. Don’t get me wrong, Flash is a KILLER tool, and can be used for a lot of great things but unless you really know what you are doing don’t build your entire site in flash. Even if you do know what you are doing it might not be the best idea. Vetting someone else will also be hard unless you really know the technology well, and if you know it that well you would probably be doing it yourself. Generally speaking, Flash is a great tool for delivering video, audio, animation, some interfaces, … but unless you are truly A-list at Flash development or your web designer is (not likely unless you have a significant budget) your competitors will be far outpacing you with far less “advanced” sites. Exception: If you are an A-List Flash developer and that is what you sell. The ONLY company I know of right off hand that I would trust for something that just had to be all flash would be 2advanced.com. But then again, I have never built a site for myself or a client that really needed to be all flash. HTML, CSS and your normal scripting languages are you best bet. Other exceptions might include targeted micro-sites and some entertainment sites.
- Splash Pages: Similar to the Flash Intro Pages in #2. While slightly less annoying they are generally a waste of space. This one is a quick online business lesson. Your home page is typically (not always, but usually) your most landed on the page, it is your billboard, your face, your first and only chance to get people to do what you want them to on your site. That might mean getting them to buy something, maybe it’s to just read your article or give you information (like taking a poll or signing up for an email list). Either way, do not waste the opportunity that is your homepage. Most splash pages are pointless, give little information and have no call to action. In this A.D.D. web-age, we live in you don’t have 5 seconds to waste when it comes to your web viewers attention so get right to the point. Possible Exceptions: If you are already a huge, well-known name or brand and your site is purely informational and entertaining then you might get away with it. Think Coca-Cola.com or Budweiser.com (where the splash page serves as a gateway for verifying age before letting someone in).
- Click Here: This recommendation is just a general good practice and is an effort in getting people away from being lazy. When you create a link, do not use the phrase “click here” to get someone to click. Why? Because your link isn’t search engine friendly and “click here” is generally meaningless. Also because it’s not ADA compliant (not everyone uses a computer the same way and not everyone “clicks”). It also, and most importantly, it doesn’t tell the reader exactly what it is, it isn’t relevant and is totally relative. So be specific with your links. If you write a report and want people to download it, or create a video for download, make the link the name of the report or video. You can still use a call to action with it (before or after) but make the link name relevant.
While there are a lot of no-no’s when building a site, these are some of the more common things I encounter on a day to day basis. I hope they help you avoid some of the more common mistakes and help you to keep a healthy, sane relationship with your web developer if you hire one. If they don’t get the above 1- 7 by the way, find another.
What things annoy you most about websites that you wish they just wouldn’t do?