May 18, 2010

Top Web Design Mistakes Small Businesses Make


Hostway Team

By Meredith Barnhill

To create a business presence in today's market, you have to have a Web site; however, a poorly designed Web site is almost as bad as having no Web site. There are several common design mistakes that can be easily avoided.

Content Overload

If a Web site is graphics-heavy it is going to take a longer time to load than a Web site with a balance between images and text. Spider House makes the mistake of lining the entire right column with image-heavy advertisements. The right-column in turn overpowers the news and events sections which house important information.

To cut down on load time, graphics should be kept to a minimum. You can also reduce load time by using lower resolutions of your graphics—72 dpi (dots per inch) is standard for Web sites.

Heavy-use of Flash

Flash is a multimedia program that allows users to create interactive elements for Web sites including video, audio and animations. Despite the capabilities of Flash, building an entire Web site using the program isn't ideal as seen on the Hey Cupcake! Web site. Hey Cupcake's design aesthetic is nice, but elements of the site take a long time to load. The Web site isn't search engine optimized, either. Apple mobile products like the iPhone and iPad can't open Flash elements, so you run the risk of losing visits from mobile-only users.

Make sure to minimize the use of Flash on your Web site or eliminate it altogether. There are other ways to add interactive elements to a Web site using other programming languages, like JavaScript, as seen on the Run Far Web site.

No consistency

Consistency throughout pages is paramount to a good Web site experience. Without fonts, colors and design elements linking a Web site's pages together, users may get confused. The only unifying factor on the Wheatsville Coop Web site is the business's logo. These inconsistencies make it seem like a user is navigating an entirely different Web site with each click of the mouse.

To avoid this, make sure that alignments, font sizes and styles and placement of graphic elements are consistent throughout your Web site. This will make transitions between Web pages more seamless and also promotes brand recognition.

Bad navigation

Having hard-to-find or difficult navigation is one of the more egregious Web site design errors. The Trailer Space Records Web site, while pleasing to the eye, is not the most user-friendly. The navigation is hidden in a polka dot graphic in the center of the page. The buttons are labeled, but it's not clearly defined that they are the only way to navigate the site. When users click on one of the buttons, the subsequent page doesn't have the universal navigation, so you must pass through the homepage to get to a different part of the Web site.

Ensure that your Web site has good functionality by having a universal navigation on every page. A universal navigation should include links to the main pages of content on your website and should be easy to read and use.

About the Author

Meredith Barnhill is a multimedia journalist working in Austin, Texas.

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