This is an updated version of a post I wrote almost five years ago, I updated it a little. I must have looked at
hundreds thousands of websites lately, trying to find good links for this weblog. And it’s quite amazing to see how many web pages suffer from very simple problems. I’m sure there are web sites devoted to design aspects of web pages. From my personal experience I compiled a list of my personal do’s and do-not’s. Needless to say, you might disagree with me here and there.
- Make sure navigational elements are clear and easy to find. You can’t imagine how many pages I saw - especially if Flash was used - where I basically had to guess what to do. Ideally, navigational elements follow some sort of unique pattern across the whole site. That gives the site a uniform look-and-feel, which enables the visitor to focus on the content and not on how to get from one page to another. In the worst case, people like me just close the page when they can’t figure out what to do. And it’s not that I’m too stupid to find out, I simply
am too lazy don’t have the time.
- People think when they use Flash they need to make it flashy. Let’s face it: If your website takes over a minute to load for a broadband visitor you messed it up. I’m also not sure how many people really like to look at several fancy intro pages before finally getting to the actual images. I personally do not bother to look at a site if, after two minutes, there still is some “cool” animation going on. Sure, you paid someone, who is a Flash wizard, a lot of money for a snazzy site, but let’s face it: Who, apart from the Flash wizard, really thinks the fancy intro is cool?
- Also, I’m not sure a website needs music. Music inflates the download time, and unless you’re aiming for a special target group it’s next to impossible to find music everybody likes. For example, I’m totally tired of this
“downtempo” muzak minimal techno, which is so popular on websites.
- Thumbnails are tricky. There’s a tendency for things to get too confusing and too messy, unless you do it right. Don’t have thumbnails point to images which are just barely larger than the actual thumbnail. That’s just ridiculous.
- Another gizmo I’m tired of: Slides shows where photos are shown in some small band, next to each other, which moves depending on how you move your mouse. I don’t know what it is but I lack the skill to move the band in such a way that I see every photo. Clearly: If I want a video game, I play a video game.
- I’ve seen many cases where the image compression was so bad that the photos showed very visible artefacts. Needless to say, that’s quite disastrous. Would you hand bad prints to a possible client? If you’re afraid of images being stolen from your site I think there are better ways to protect them.
- Apropos: Huge warning signs and long text about copyright etc., right before people get to see photos, are a big turn-off for me. If you’re so worried about somebody stealing low-quality images from a website (what can you do with those small images you usually find on websites anyway?) why do you have a website in the first place? Alternatively, use digital watermarks. Oh, and please avoid copyright text directly on the photos. That’s a real turn-off. (Hear that, Magnum?)
- Don’t make the images you’re showing too small. It’s amazing how many websites have sample photos which on the screen are about as big as a postage stamp in an album. Bigger is not always better, but smaller is almost always worse.
- If you have a Flash site don’t add sound effects for when the visitor does something. Clicking a navigational button should not result in some sound. It’s just goofy. A photo website is no video game.
- Having a start page is a nice thing. Not showing people where to click to get to the actual photo pages isn’t. Making people click on female models’ behinds to get to the main pages is even worse.
- Dead links (“404 page not found”) are just… horrible.
- Not really a design issue, but very important nevertheless: If you have projects, make sure there is at least some text that tells the visitor what is actually depicted. Do not assume that everybody will just know, even if it is something that is maybe widely known in your own country. So include a little statement (but please please please don’t make it too pretentious).
- Finally, certain restrictions apply. If you know your “audience”, cater to it as shamelessly as you want. That’s fine. However, if you want to cater to a wider audience test the site before going public by showing it to friends. And don’t tell them it’s your site so that they’ll give you honest feedback (“Looks nice” is usually not honest feedback).