ARTICLES FOR WEBMASTERS
Your web site stinks
by Richard McSwain
Your web site stinks. That may sound harsh, but may indeed be accurate,
since estimates are that about 60 to 70% of all web sites, even sites
belonging to giant corporations, suffer from serious design flaws.
One of the worst offences is content. Your content should be logically
divided into sections, like chapters in a book. Don't spread content
across multiple pages for the sake of page count, and don't try to cram
all of your content into one or two pages. Your content should also be
consistent. A visitor to your site should know what your site is about,
no matter which page he entered on, and should be able to access any
page from whatever page he may currently be viewing, which brings us to
Navigation should be consistent across the site. Don't have horizontal
tabs with drop downs on the home page and then switch to vertical tabs
or text only links on other pages. This is confusing and can give
visitors the feeling that they have left your site and stumbled onto
A site that loads slowly discourage visitors.
Giant graphics, videos, and flash animations all use bandwidth
and take time to transfer from the web server to the visitor's browser.
Not everyone has high speed internet and broadband access. If you feel
it is imperative to use these things, make sure your text loads first,
or give the visitor an option to bypass the fancy stuff and get to the
meat of your website.
Error 404 or "Page Not Found" is a web site killer. Check your
links, both internal and external, often. There are many link
validation programs available as well as free online validation
services. You just enter the URL of your site, and it generates a
report of any dead links. Broken links and other server errors cause
your visitors to question the validity of your site, and makes the most
professional of sites look amateurish.
Do not force visitor to scroll down. "Above the fold" is an old print media term
that describes content on
the top half of a newspaper page, so that it is visible even when the
paper is folded. This is important for web sites as well. You should
have meaningful content "Above the Scroll", meaning that if a visitor
was forced to scroll down to get past large header images, intro
videos, etc. before finding anything interesting, he is probably
already bored and considering looking for another site with similar
Unrelated advertising is not only distracting but offensive to many. If
your site is about knitting, don't allow some link exchange or pay per
click company serve advertisements about football to your visitors. An
occasional related advertisement for related products or services may
be acceptable, but respect those who do not want to be subjected to it,
and allow them the option to block pop up. Avoid the new Vibrant Media
popup ads that cannot be blocked like the plague.
If you must advertise on your web site to generate revenue, allocate
some space on your pages, and serve the ads there, as if they were part
of your content.
Colors can make or break a web site. A black background with bright
text might look good for a teenager's Myspace profile, but is annoying
and difficult to read. A white or pastel background with dark text may
sound boring, but it is easier on the eyes and your visitors will
Take a lesson from Google. Why do they get about 80% of all Internet
search traffic? Because they provide a clean, fast loading page with no
advertising, annoying popups, animations, movies, or other
distractions. You should do the same for your visitors. Make your home
or landing page clean and get right to the point. If a visitor sees
that your site provides the content they are looking for, they will
look deeper into your site. Display your advertising and entertainment
media within the site's other pages. This way, if a visitor decides to
leave a page, they are more likely to click the back button and remain
on your site, rather than return to the link that brought them there.
In web design, just because you can do something doesn't mean you
should. Most people would rather drive a sleek fast sports car than a
large slow clunker loaded with junk. Keep your site clean and lean, and
your visitors will reward you.