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7 Unforgivable Sins of Web Design

Author: Ivana Taylor   |   January 20th, 2012

A few months ago I got the distinct impression that people didn’t like me or my business any more. The first sign was way more people were leaving my site, once they found it, than sticking around to read it.

The problem was…My bounce rate had doubled!. If you’re not familiar, the bounce rate is the percent of people who leave your site after only visiting one page. This can happen for a variety of reasons but one of the most common is the design and layout of your website.

Treat your website like a virtual home
One of my favorite analogies for the web is that it’s exactly like your home – only digital. There is a reason we call the landing page a “home page”. Your home page gives a first impression – it’s what lends digital curb appeal to your site. If your home page doesn’t “look and feel” comfortable people will leave or on other words – bounce.

If you’re not updating your web site every two to three years, you’re going to have all sorts of problems because browsers update and change, plugins and applications update and change and before you know it, your web site is not just ugly – but it repels prospects rather than attract them.

Here are seven mistakes small businesses make when it comes to their web site and how to fix them.

1. Not telling visitors where they are. This is a fundamental rule of web site design. You must tell your visitors where they are and what they can do or get on your site in less than five seconds.

2. Too much MOTION using Flash or moving gifs. It’s not uncommon for cool technological bells and whistles to take over your site. Flash is one of the most common offenders as are using lots of small moving gifs. If you’re currently using flash, stop. Mobile devices ; ipads and iPhones, don’t like flash and won’t show it and since most of your audience is using smart phones, they won’t be able to see and read your site. Upgrade your site and use HTML5, CSS3 instead. HTML5 will give your site an interactive component your visitors will appreciate and won’t interfere with any text or information coming through.

3. Poor contrast between text and background. Don’t make your web site difficult or painful to read. When you have a busy background and then place light colored text on top of it – it makes it extremely difficult to read. Instead use a white, gray or black back background and make sure that the text is big and bold enough to read. You want to have a comfortable contrast between the text and the background so that people can quickly and easily get the information they are looking for.

4. Colors that clash. There really is no reason or excuse to put colors like green and orange together on a web site. Putting colors that don’t work well together on the screen is not only difficult to read, but it’s ugly to look at. There are countless free themes and templates out there that you can use that are professionally designed. If you’re using a WordPress platform check out DIYThemes or simply search google for “Free WordPress Themes” and you are sure to find something that works for you.

5. Hard to read fonts. Although cool typography is a big trend these days – save your cool fonts for headlines and design elements and NOT the text. Stick to traditional, easy to read fonts such as Helvetica or Times. Keep font size to 10 or 12 points.

6. Broken layout. A broken layout is something that happens when browsers or other apps are updates and your site doesn’t follow suit. This is what causes text to jumble together or overlap and makes it impossible to read. To avoid this, be sure to budget time and money for at least an annual update of the back-end of your site and a redesign every couple of years to make sure that your web site is current with standard browsers and apps of the time.

7. Too much text. This is a tough one. In some ways, having lots of keyword rich text is a good thing. But often, too much text – especially on a home page can overwhelm visitors and send them running. Create a large header with large text that clearly states what your site is about and who it’s for. Then you can have more text below the fold.

Treat your web space as you would treat your home. Make updates and conduct preventive maintenance so that it works the way it’s supposed to. Focus on your online marketing objectives and then design for your desired call to action. You’ll see your bounce rate go down and your conversions go UP in 2012.

About Ivana Taylor
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