A website’s design can either help or hurt its objective depending on how it’s done. According to a recent survey performed by the web hosting company 1&1, 58% of respondents said they would avoid brands on websites with a faulty or low-quality design. This means websites suffering from critical design flaws lose over half of their traffic right out the gate.
Whether your goal is to sell a product, sell a service, produce leads, capture email addresses, or simply earn revenue through ad placements, you need to invest in a quality design that visitors respond positively to. The old days of tossing up some GeoCities’ website filled with flashy graphics are gone. Now, webmasters must focus on creating clean, professional websites that are properly optimized for the end-user.
Mistake #1) Long Blocks of Text
Let me first start off by saying that there’s nothing wrong with publishing text-rich content on your website. In fact, it’s a great way to attract new visitors while encouraging search engines to crawl your site more frequently. However, your text must be broken down into small, easy-to-digest segments to visitors can scan through it.
Here are some tips on how to make your website’s text more scannable:
- Use headings and sub-headings to define topic changes
- Incorporate bullet-point lists, such as the one you are reading now, into your content.
- Italicize and bold important words and phrases.
- Keep your paragraphs short so they are easy to read.
- Create internal links using relevant phrases.
- Add images and/or video.
- Avoid tiny fonts.
Mistake #2) Open Links In New Window
Some webmasters believe that forcing visitors to open links in new windows is beneficial since it keeps them on the site. Yes, adding the “target=”_blank” HTML code to your links keeps visitors on your site – even if they click an external link. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s beneficial for you or your site’s visitors.
Forcing visitors to open a new tab when they click a link – whether it’s internal or external – sends the wrong message about your site. Visitors should be given full control over their windows and tabs, so don’t try to take this away from them.
Mistake #3) Not Compatible With Mobile Devices
In case you didn’t get the memo, smartphones and mobile devices are taking over the internet. There’s even some belief that mobile internet users will surpass desktop users by the end of the year. Failing to meet the needs of your site’s mobile visitors is a serious mistake that can hurt your both you conversions and your brand name.
Note: you can click on the link previously mentioned for a list of helpful mobile optimization tips, but a responsive design offers the best solution for mobile traffic.
Google defines responsive web design as: “Sites that use responsive web design, i.e. sites that serve all devices on the same set of URLs, with each URL serving the same HTML to all devices and using just CSS to change how the page is rendered on the device.”
Mistake #4) Unconventional Navigation
It’s easy to handle navigation for small websites consisting of just a dozen or so pages. Toss a link for each page into the sidebar and voila – visitors have instant access to every portion of your site with a click of the button. Once your site begins to grow and expand, though, you’ll have to take a different approach to navigation.
Website Navigation Tips
- Place main navigational menus directly underneath the header.
- Limit the number of links placed in the footer.
- Avoid using an excessive amount of links on your website (note: Google initially said that webpages should contain no more than 100 links, but they’ve since updated their support page to say “Keep the links on a given page to a reasonable number.”
- Perform A-B split tests of different navigation designs to see which ones perform and which ones don’t. Even small changes, such as using a new color or font, can have a significant impact on your site’s performance.
Mistake #5) Too Many Advertisements
There’s nothing wrong monetizing your site through advertisements, but you should keep them to a minimum. Filling your website with too many adverts creates a bad experience for the end user, not to mention the possible negative effects it may have on your ranking.
Earlier this month, Google rolled out yet another algorithm change. Technically, it wasn’t a new update but rather a refresh of the Mountain View company’s previous ‘Page Layout’ update. The refresh aims to penalize websites showing an excessive amount of ads above the fold. If your website currently loads with more ads than content above the fold, you should probably rethink your design.
SEO folks: we recently launched a refresh of this algorithm: http://t.co/KKSXm8FqZW Visible to outside world on ~Feb. 6th.
— Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) February 10, 2014