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Top Ten Mistakes in Web Design - The tell-tale signs of an amateur Web site and how to avoid them

by Christine Collie Rowland, Blue Cat Design

At last count, the World Wide Web's Google search engine database had more than one billion Web pages registered with it. That's like one billion television channels competing against yours. The competition is fierce. Your business Web site has to be outstanding in its category in order to get noticed and be effective.

Below are some of the tell-tale signs of an amateurish Web site that's not yet ready for prime-time exposure. Every effort should be made to avoid them in your business Web site:

  • Construction signs. Instead of putting up a picture of a little worker in a hard-hat and saying "Under Construction", wait until the site is finished and presentable. If management insists on getting the site up "now" before it's completed, then only put up one professionally-designed page with your corporate logo, mission statement, contact information, and a "Check back for the official launch of our site" notice.

  • Blinking text. A sure give-away of an amateur site. Blinking text can also be distracting and interfere with your site's message.

  • Dangling HTML tags visible on the Web page. Often caused by inexperience, carelessness or using some of the "automatic" Web page generating software.

  • Typos and misspelled words. Use a spell-checker! (Also be aware that some words have more than one correct spelling, for example: misspelled and misspelt.)

  • Text and logos with jagged edges. Anti-aliasing of graphics is a must for a polished look. Some graphics software programs, such as Adobe Photoshop, have an anti-aliasing feature.

  • No corporate ID branding to show the world it's the professional site of a professional company. Consistent identification graphics such as a masthead titlebar at the top of each Web page help to remind a visitor whose site they are visiting.

  • Huge image files that take forever to load on your computer monitor. The difference in the file size of two identical images can be dramatic; one can be 80k and the other, having been compressed and optimized for the Web, can be a quarter of that. Consequently the image downloads four times faster.

  • Typography boo-boos. Text too big or too small, or all upper case. Use upper case sparingly only for emphasis.

  • Sites with little or no useful content. Net surfers expect more than just print advertising plunked down on the Net; they won't stick around unless there is real content and not just a pitch.

  • Color combinations that make your eyes water.

  • Background colors or background graphics that make it all but impossible to read the text on the page.

  • Java or Javascript that crashes not only your browser software but your whole system.

  • Animations that intrude and distract for no reason other than it's possible to have an animation. A simple, well-organized, easy-to-navigate site can have greater impact than one that is flashing with animations and techno gizmos that make it difficult to see the site's real message.

From a strategic marketing point of view, it is better to have no Web site than a poorly designed, ineffective site. An embarrassing Web site can wreck havoc on a corporate image. Avoid having to implement damage control by waiting until you've got your business Web site finished - and just right - before loading it onto the Web.

More Web 101 quick articles & tips at Blue Cat Design.

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