bad-web-designGo and look at your Facebook page. Go on, right now. And don’t pretend
you haven’t got one, we’ve been watching you and we know you spend six
hours a day playing Mafia Wars.

OK, so what do you notice about it?

How
about cleanliness? Facebook takes a lot of flak, but one thing it does
well is design.

Recently we’ve started to see the introduction of
customer landers, backgrounds and headers, but even these are worked
into the basic layout.

You can have a hundred boxes on Facebook and it
will remain a clean, clear masterclass in whitespace management.

One of
the main reasons it managed to crush the crazed glittery-zwinky world of
MySpace is that it doesn’t ever make your eyeballs catch fire. Anyone
can use it easily.

Now let’s have a look at your website…

As a marketer, your goal is to increase traffic for that site, and you’ll often be asked to qualify that, providing reports on traffic, pageviews and other analytics.

Depending on your goals, you need to transform that traffic into either direct conversions, or an increase in ad revenue on the site itself. If it’s the latter there are plenty of tricks you can use to increase pageviews.

Problem is, all of them are awful, terrible ideas that will wreck the user experience, actively turning customers away in droves. And here they are:

Subscriptions.

If you are charging for exclusive content, then fair enough. If you aren’t, then why are you asking me to complete long registration forms?

I want to read an article. If it’s good I’ll probably come back to your site. But I’m not going to if I have to give you my name, address and Justice League Junior Fanboy number in advance.

Making users register to comment is another no-no. Yes there’s a chance of spam on your boards, but there are plenty of quick and easy ways to identify users that don’t require them to fill anything in.

You can link your comments section to Facebook, Twitter or an email server and ask people to sign in with those. If it’s one click then I’ll do it. If it requires filling in a form and receiving a confirmation link it’s an instant turn off.

Users already have too many logins and passwords to remember. Let people in easily.

If they are purchasing ask if they want to leave details to make it easier next time, but don’t grasp at their information at every step. A simple API link will be fine.

Pop-ups.

Yes, they still exist. Born in an age when animated Gifs were all the rage, popups and popunders now look just as classy.

I have no problem at all with ads on a site, I understand the need to monetise and if they are relevant I’ll often click on them.

If I suddenly hear a video for an online poker site running in the background, my first reaction is that I’ve broken my computer, followed by annoyance as I hunt around for a way to close the new window.

The click-through rates on pop-ups are nearly nonexistent and they not only annoy your visitor, they actively distract them from your content.

Avoid at all costs.

Paged Lists.

As you can guess from this post, I like lists.

I admit to having a short attention span, so having things laid out in an easy to digest form works well for me. 

Lists are engaging and usually generate solid traffic, but increasingly though, sites present them as slideshows.

The thinking behind this is sound. A visitor clicks to the next slide, and you get an extra pageview.

All well and good, apart from it being an annoying waste of time that destroys the whole reason lists work well in the first place.

Paged lists are time consuming turn-offs for visitors.

Links that open in a new window.

Hi Mr. Marketer sir, I’m one of the new wave of internet savvy customers you’ve been courting recently. Thanks for assuming that I don’t know how to set my own preferences or control my own browsing experience.

Opening an entirely new window for links looks crass and if you’re a multi-tab browser like me, then it’s a serious processing power suck.

If you have links make sure they are clearly labeled and should take you directly to that page. If the customer wants them in a new tab or window they can right/ctrl-click and make the decision themselves.

Dictating preferences is condescending and actively disrupts the customer experience.

Intros

Flash intros, automated video and  audio, splash pages, each one the work of the devil.

If I’m visiting your site then chances are I already know what you do.

Screaming about your fool-proof used car marketing strategy from a hard to find audio stream isn’t going to win you any friends.

This is the internet equivalent of a pushy salesman. If it happens to me in a shop I leave, and it’s a lot easier to leave a site than a shop.

On TV, people routinely skip the ads, so having to sit through one at the start of a video or being directed through a gimmicky flash intro is highly likely to make them abandon you before they ever get to your content.

Stop the madness now.

Despite years of hard work, these features are still widespread online. If you can combine all of these then you’ll have a crass, badly organised and annoying site that will completely destroy your click through rates, discourage repeat visits and actively harm your business.