As a child of the 90s, I’ve grown up with the Internet. From newsgroups and BBSes to the .com boom and the rise of mobile and social media, I’ve been right there through it all. Some of the biggest and most notable changes throughout the years have come from the constant changes in web design and how developers continue to improve usability functions for both the end user. With the advent of standardized tool-kits and Google’s page ranking structure, modern web developers today have a much clearer understanding of what people want out of a website. We have certainly come a long way since hit counters, guest books and Comic Sans!
While there’s no doubt that today’s websites are much more refined than those from even just five years ago, there are still some things out there that make us cringe. Here are five of the most annoying design elements we see all too often.
Image Sliders and Carousels
These seem to be all the rage among online retailers and content rich sites like entertainment blogs eager to show the user as much new information as possible. Sliders and carousels seems like they have a lot to offer from a usability standpoint, but in reality they end up being much more of a headache for the end user. For starters, the biggest problem with dishing out content this way is what Conversion XL calls banner blindness. According to a test run by Notre Dame University, only 1% of visitors interact with the slider – and that’s only for the first image! There are much better and more efficient ways to highlight weekly or featured content.
Too Many Page Breaks
This is one I’m sure we’re all too familiar with. Sites have used pagination as a tactic to increase their page views on a particular story or blog post in an effort to squeeze more page views from the user resulting in more money from their sponsors. This is a very antiquated tactic and can often hurt a site’s SEO page ranking in the long run. Most importantly however, it’s just frustrating from a usability perspective. It turns reading an otherwise fun blog post into a chore. The number one thing bloggers should keep in mind is that pleasing their reader base comes before all else.
Difficult Contact Forms
Corporate sites are the biggest offenders here. One of the best reasons to run a website in the first place is to build brand loyalty and tap and engage your customers. What better way to build loyalty and keep people happy then by giving them an open channel of communication in order to answer all of their questions?
You’d think this would be a no-brainer by now, but this is actually not the case. There are many sites that make the user dig around looking for the contact form or support mailer. Sites will also hide their corporate email, forcing the user to use a generic contact form with a character length and a complicated captcha. These are roadblocks that stop good customer service.
Site navigation is one of the main things every developer needs to focus on before implementing everything else. The end-user should never feel lost while navigating a page. While what make a navigable interface good is subjective, there are many things sites do to make it harder for the user to get around such as:
- Glitchy menus where items are hard to click
- Too many confusing dropdown menus
- A search bar that doesn’t work well or no search bar at all
- Making menu items too small
- Inconsistency in layout across various parts of the site
Too Much Registration
Perhaps our biggest gripe about the new-school of design is the endless barrage of user registration forms. It seems like you can’t get anywhere these days without identifying yourself. Users should be able to browse all parts of your site without having to worry about logging in first. Even in the case of surface level interactions like blog comments, there are ways to allow the user to participate without forcing him or her to sign in. Locking away core site functionality behind a registration is rarely a good strategy to build readership. Sites should instead entice the user to register after hooking them with great content and perhaps and an appealing pitch.
These are just a few of our biggest gripes about modern web design that can often be avoided with just a bit of critical thinking. At the end of the day, putting the audience first and making usability as simple as possible is the best strategy to build loyalty and retain a strong readership.