Posted: 23 Jul 2014 12:13 AM PDT
So you have a website that brings you compliments by the dozen on a regular basis? You are proud of the aesthetic elements it sports and are happy with the conversions that it gives your business.
But what if I told you that it could all be even better? You could improve your conversions and build your brand cachet by avoiding some fundamental, yet often overlooked mistakes that plague most website designs?
Sounds interesting? Read on in that case!
1. Not Browser AgnosticIn our bid to make our website design as aesthetic as possible, we sometimes overlook the fact that the need to be functional is sometimes more important than the need to be aesthetically pleasing. Many web designers create their pieces of art with only the most popular or worse, their personal favourite web browser in mind. A common suspect that often gets left out is IE, especially older versions of it.
Don't make this rookie mistake. You don't want to be a 'browser racist' and close the doors of your site to users who use less popular browsers. Write browser agnostic code that works equally well on all browsers. Avoid including special plugins like ActiveX on certain browsers to avoid compatibility issues. Most importantly, carry out regular tests of your site on various versions of each browser family to ensure it displays well on all (or most) of them.
Better still, opt for drag and drop website tools like IM Creator or Wix that will automatically take care of these browser compatibility issues for you. Creating a level playing field will maximize your opportunities of converting a potential customer using any particular browser.
2. iFrames, Flash and Shoddy CSSTry and avoid using iframes as much as you can – they load poorly on many browsers and slow down the site load time considerably. If you must use iframes, make sure they are titled to ensure the user knows what it's about even if it does not load.
Flash is another idea whose time is past. Not only does HTML5 do a much better job of what flash can offer your website, it is also compatible across browsers and devices, unlike flash. No other option for this – just avoid it.
CSS with its deceptively simple looking code, can sometimes confound browsers on how to display your website correctly. Avoid lazy CSS coding like using color names instead of the exact hex value of the colour you want to use or not having fall back fonts for older computers that don't have that exact font you selected installed on it. Doing this prevents putting control of the how your website looks to the mercy of a web browser and keeps it firmly in your hands.
3. Messed Up URL StructuresCreating logical URL structures with categories, sub categories and product names/ IDs showing clearly helps not just the user to navigate better around your site using it or to pick your site from a SERP, it also helps improve rankings by guiding search spiders with clear instructions on what the page is all about.
A URL structure that looks like this is what you need to avoid:
Something that's closer to this is what you want to aim for: http://www.sugarcrm.com/products/marketing
4. Contact Details Not VisibleMany e-commerce companies shy away from giving out too many points of contact apart from their 1800 – toll free number in the fear of being plagued by customer calls and messages constantly.
Bad idea. When you put up your contact details upfront where any customer can see them, it instils faith in a customer's mind that you are reachable should anything go wrong with the purchase.
Non-ecommerce companies must have their contact number and / or email IDs displayed prominently upfront to get more leads and convert the ones that were already far along the sales funnel.
This could be better:
This is what you need to do:
5. Social Sharing MissingSocial media is the lifeblood of the internet today. Most people spend more time on social media than on any other online pursuit. Sharing cool finds online with their peer network makes people feel important and appreciated.
Feed into this basic human need for appreciation by bringing social media onto your site. Ensure every page on your site has social sharing buttons to enable quick sharing. Also, in case of e-commerce sites, allow sharing product level images and information to create social conversations about your product and brand.
6. Search Bar Not Easy to FindThis is a true irony if there ever was one. When customers have something very specific in mind, they prefer to simply type it in, into the search bar than navigate through the different sections of your site hunting for what they want.
No matter how well designed your navigation is, invest in a search bar in a prominent location on your site. If you think your design does not permit you to have a full-fledged search bar, use a collapsible search bar that serves the twin purposes of saving space and offering regular search capabilities.
7. Fonts Not ReadableWhile web designers spend hours mulling over the best layout or the most effective color combinations; they give little thought to the typefaces they'll be using across the site.
With most websites, 80% of the content is in text form. So if your website has to convey information efficiently, it has to have clear, legible, yet attractive fonts that communicate crystal clear to users.
The size of the fonts used is a another matter of concern oft overlooked. For best readability, use 16 pixels at least for your web copy, as per studies conducted on the subject.
Space out your text well enough to prevent cluttering your core message by overcrowding it out of comprehension. Use contrast in choosing your font colors vis-à-vis the background you picked for the site. A combination of dark colored font against light colored backgrounds works best from a readability perspective.
Am I Missing Something?Web design does not have to be rocket science. With a little bit of care and a lot of patience it is definitely possible to create and market winning web designs. The next time you do a site audit or when you're building your site from scratch, make sure you don't make the silly but significantly important errors I pointed out above.
Do you know of more such design faux pas that we unwittingly hardwire into our sites? Share your ideas here and help the rest of the community develop their skills and design more efficient websites that have the added advantages of being easy on the eye while still being user friendly.
About Guest BloggerLori Wagoner is an independent content strategist who gives online marketing advice to small businesses. Lori has blogged at Tweak Your Biz, The Social Media Hat and many other business and tech blogs. You can reach her @LoriDWagoner on Twitter.
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