Top 15 Webmaster Mistakes
Here are some common mistakes made
by web designers
1. Using Frames
Often web designers break up the browser
window with separate sub-windows. These divisions are called
frames. Although frames are supposed to help web visitors
navigate easier, frequently they just confuse them. When clicking
on an item to move forward, visitors are uncertain what information
will appear where, or in what sub-window. A sub-window used
as a reference can suddenly disappear and be filled with new
information about the last thing requested. And to make matters
worse, after hitting the back arrow to return to the sub-window,
the visitor may be popped out of the entire web site altogether,
possibly jumping back several places to the earlier page,
just before entering the framed web site. This can be particularly
frustrating for the web visitor.
Another difficulty is many framed web sites
depend on specific screen sizes. When a visitor with a different
sized screen tries to view the framed page, all of the site's
information may be garbled or misplaced. Designers who insist
on using frames should create a no-frame version of their
site, as well, for the people who prefer it.
2. Going Overboard with High Tech
Some designers delight in using little
"tricks," such as input boxes, opening new browser windows
or background music. The first time a visitor experiences
these, the visitor may be impressed. However, after a few
more visits, the viewer will just be annoyed. It is best to
stay away from these types of things.
3. Under Construction Signs
All good web pages are always under
construction, but some web designers still insist on placing
a under construction icon on their site. This graphic comes
from the designers feelings of insecurity. They know their
page is incomplete or not functioning, so they put up a little
sign that is supposed to excuse them from any problems their
site may have. Problem sites are recognizable with or without
under construction signs. Good web designers should not put
up a site until they feel comfortable enough to display it
without the under construction warning.
UC icons say about you!]
4. Misusing Graphics
No matter how fast an Internet connection
is, the graphics on web sites take a long time to load. Large
graphics can take several minutes to load, because the average
computer user is only receiving 28,800 bits of information
per second. To avoid having people leave a site, due to boredom,
designers must omit large graphics or large amounts of graphics.
When selecting images, they should include only graphics that
add value to their site content, and they should "shrink"
large graphics using computer software specifically made to
Because some users still cannot see pages
graphically, a web site should not be overly dependent on
graphics. For graphics that direct the visitor to an alternate
location, designers should include a graphic's text equivalent
through navigational bars, and the ALT attribute when using
the IMG element. The ALT attribute allows web visitors who
are using text based web browsers to view a short text description
where graphics are normally displayed.
5. Ransom Notes Fonts
It is a problem with desktop designer
newbies and now it is a problem with web designer newbies.
Designers are caught up in all the available fonts, colors,
sizes and styles, and they are using them all. Because text
needs to convey information, and not complicate it, good designers
must limit themselves to one or two fonts. Also, when text
is too small or too large, it is difficult to read. Type for
body text should be set to "normal" while headlines should
be a little bigger (+1 to +3). Large body copy is distracting,
and a sure sign of the web designer's insecurity. "Big" information
does not hide a page's lack of content.
When emphasizing text, do not underline
it. Highlight text by using bold, italics or different colors.
Underlining makes words more difficult to read and it also
confuses the web visitor, because text that links visitors
to alternate locations, is underlined as well.
6. Complex Backgrounds
Many web sites offer libraries of background
graphics that designers can use free on their web sites. It
is tempting to pick the most beautiful or ornate background
styles, but these should be avoided at all costs. A complex
background may make a beautiful art piece, but it does a lousy
job as a backing for text. It confuses the eye.
In this same vein, designers must remember
to use contrasting colors for the background and the text.
If a light text color is used on a light background, it will
be hard to read, as dark text on a dark background will be
hard to read as well.
For web visitors unable to view graphics,
text should be readable for them as well. Even if the designers
have a background image, they must assign a background color
for their site that does not blend in with the text. For users
who can see graphics, it will not make a difference because
they will see the background graphic, and for users who cannot
see the background graphic it will make all the difference
in the world. Remember, type must always be readable.
7. Too Many Animations
must never include more than one or two page elements that
move constantly. Moving images have an overpowering effect
on vision and distract the viewer from observing any other
elements. These misused moving elements include animated graphics,
blinking text, and scrolling marquees.
8. Orphan Pages
All web pages should include a clear
indication of what site they belong to, because some users
may access the minor pages indirectly without coming through
the main home page. For the same reason, every page on a web
site should have a link returning to its home page.
9. No Organization
Pages should be user-friendly. An index
or menu helps the web visitor find the desired information.
To support simple navigation between the pages on a web site,
designers should use a similar layout between one page and
10. No Unique Content
One of the biggest threats to the Internet
is the amazing number of people beginning to use it. It is
starting to become a large entanglement of meaningless information.
Many pages say nothing more than "This is my home page," with
a collection of links that connect to the same collections
of sites as the last page the web visitor just looked at.
The real key is content. Before any site is created, its designer
should have something to say. The web site should not restate
what other web sites have said, and should not attempt to
create the ultimate navigational tool for web visitors. A
page of only links adds to the clutter and chaos of the web.
There are plenty of great search engines out there, like Yahoo
and Alta Vista, that
already provide an adequate assortment of links.
11. Too Many Ideas
Some people have too many things to
say. They are excited about the opportunity to make a web
page, but they do not know why they want to make one or what
they want to accomplish by doing so. Many small business pages
also include hobbies and facts about their employees. Although
personal information can be interesting, it does not belong
on a business web site. It is unprofessional.
Personal web sites can also run into the
difficulty of mixed motifs. Some web designers start out by
saying their name, and then talk about the company they work
for, and then their pets, and then how much they like scuba
diving, and then all the great things that can be done with
shell fish. This information is unfocused and scattered, and
does not display well on a web site. The web designer's solution
is either to focus on one topic or to create a menu page that
includes links which bring the visitor to separate pages for
12. No Authoritativeness
What makes the web so frustrating is
that there are no tests or rules designers have to take or
follow before they can post information about anything, and
claim they are experts. A web page should be more then another
unsubstantiated source of information. Designers should include
their names and credentials on their web site, and provide
the source materials and raw data to justify any conclusions
they may make.
13. Outdated Links or Information
If a page claims to be current, designers
should put the time and effort into it by keeping it current.
No one wants to read outdated information or see broken links
14. Negative Declarations
With the discouragement that some web
designers receive after realizing how hard it is to create
a good web site, they become negative and insecure towards
their page and themselves. This frustration causes numerous
designers to put negative comments about their page through
out it. It is not uncommon to see a page start with, "This
is my stupid page." Even though these statements may help
the web designers feel less embarrassed about their web pages,
negative statements make the site worse. Most web visitors
are turned off by this approach. If the page's own designer
thinks the page is stupid, why would any one else want to
15. Link Problems
When creating documents, links should
be meaningful and readable. The text of links should flow
well within the context of the rest of the text, and the text
should be able to stand alone as a printable document. Oftentimes
designers either make full lines of text link-able or use
click-here statements to navigate the web visitor. Instead,
keywords should be highlighted and link-able within the text.
Content is by far the most important element
on any web page. If the page says nothing, the web visitor
will leave. By avoiding these 15 mistakes, web designers can
use design as a tool to enhance their sites' content, rather
then distract from it.
© 1997 Holly M. Burns
(This paper may be
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