When I’m on a website, I’m focused on one thing: information. While I enjoy websites that are aesthetically pleasing, ultimately I’m on your website to find an answer to a question.
I admire designers who take artistic risks, but it drives me nuts when beautiful visual elements tell me nothing about the organization. Here are four of my greatest pet peeves when it comes to website design:
Your about page isn’t actually about what your company does
I appreciate that many websites try to display information in non-traditional ways. Telling a story about what your company does through various testimonials, graphs, or infographics is a great way to catch the reader’s eye, rather than through a clunky paragraph of text. But when you rely too much on using flowery language or eye-popping visuals to tell your visitors what you do, it can leave your potential clients looking confused.
The about pages that I enjoy the most include some mix of:
- A tagline at the top of the page
- An in-depth paragraph in the middle of the page
- Testimonials from customers
- Pictures or videos of the product
- Infographics explaining different ways to use the project
By using a mix, you have the short description for those who are just quickly scanning your website, the more detailed block of text for those who are more curious, and an artistic way to display information for the visually-inclined.
Above all, just make sure that you’ve designed your about page in a way so that any visitor who leaves your website can tell someone else exactly what you do in a sentence or two.
Your contact information is hard to find
This is probably my biggest point of frustration when it comes to web design. Pages that have a seemingly endless amount of information to scroll through might look cool, but placing the contact information at the bottom is really inconvenient to get to. News sites are particularly big offenders when it comes to poorly displayed contact information, as they’ll display new articles for you to scroll through once you’ve reached what you thought was the bottom of the page.
It may not be the most visually creative thing on your website, but when it comes to displaying your contact information, basic is best. If you’re not using a contact form, make sure to include a phone number, an email, AND an address, so that if a visitor needs multiple ways to contact you, they can find ways to do so easily.
You have too many images and videos that don’t have enough context
When it comes to images and videos, I’m easy to please—as long as your website doesn’t use cheesy stock photos, you’ve already won in my book. But I still think that many companies don’t think carefully enough about what images to include on their websites.
Remember, you have no idea how much background information users have on you before they visit your website. Don’t rely on photos or videos that are too abstract—I’ve seen videos on websites that show how a product is made without ever showing the finished product. Or there’s the “generic photo of a clean desk with a cup of coffee and some papers on it,” to visually symbolize a company’s work ethic. The image may look nice, but what makes your desk different from any other desk?
When designing a site, think, first and foremost, “does this photo or video tell visitors something that’s unique to this organization, or this person?”
I recently visited the website of a company that did a beautiful job of integrating video on its homepage. The business, a robotics company, used a video as its first piece of content in the body of the homepage. The video opened with a shot of one of the company’s robots, so users—even if they only stayed on the website for 10 seconds—knew exactly what the product looked like. The video then showed shots of the robots performing various tasks, with the company’s tagline and a “learn more” button displayed at the bottom. Even if I didn’t click on any other pages on the website, I knew exactly what that company did.
Your navigation tabs end up leaving your readers more lost
Good navigation isn’t just about clearly displaying tabs at the top or the bottom of the page. It’s about making sure your tabs are descriptive enough so that visitors know exactly what they need to click to get the information they need. You can play with word choice— “purpose,” “about,” or “our story,” are all good titles for your page that describes what you do. But make sure the page name is specific, or if you have a tab name that’s more broad, such as “resources” or “services,” make sure to include subheadings so users looking for a specific service or product can find it easily.
Finally, even though it seems like common sense, make sure that all of your links work. It’s incredibly frustrating to have an “error” pop up when you click on a contact page or a link to a Twitter account. Even though designing a company website takes a lot of work, user experience is key. Even if it’s just one customer you lose due to poor design, that’s one customer you could have kept with a little more thoughtfulness.