Gary Helm

Twelve Common Web Design Errors

Originally published as "Ten Common Errors in Religious Web Sites" but the same principles apply for any website.
Copyright 2000, 2004, 2016, 2019 Rev. Gary Helm. All Rights Reserved.

Mobile First is Ignored
Every website design should start with "Mobile First".
With "responsive web design" (RWD) there is need for only one website, and that website should be designed with mobile design first, and traditional design second.
There was a time when mobile web designs did not exist. Everything was designed to be viewed on a computer screen,
Then there were parallel sites, one for computer screens and one for mobile devices.
With Responsive Web Design, websites automatically adjust to fit the screen a person is using. To do that it is best to design the website for mobile first.

No Apparent Goal or Purpose for the Site
"Having a web site" may not be reason enough to have a web site.
What do you want to accomplish with the web site?
Does your web site accomplish this purpose?
Is the purpose of your website obvious to the visitor?

Obviously No Understanding of the User's Goal
It is important to know why someone visits your website, now create a reason for people to return to your website; otherwise, be surprised if they do.
Does your website meet the visitor's need or desire?
What is your understanding of why people visit your web site?
What are they looking for when they visit your web site?
If you do not know why people will visit your web site, they will probably not visit the web site again.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an Afterthought
Every website should be "search engine optimized" from the very beginning.
SEO helps search engines find and know what your website is about, and in turn helps people find you when they use a search engine looking for what you are offering on your website.
Search engine optimazation should be developed into your website during the initial design phase.

Limited or No Means of Contact
If you are going to have a web site, it should go without saying, you might want web-visitors to visit or contact you.
Be certain you include the physical address and your mailing address, your phone number and email address. It may be desirable to provide directions or a map for those who are new to the area.

Lack of Information about Persons
Not only is a website is an excellent place to introduce persons to your company or organization, is it also a place to introduce persons or personnel to the website visitor.
Who are the leaders; who are the key personel, and who to contact for information or services?
A WORD OF CAUTION: be aware and beware of scammers and hackers who could use personal information to their advantage, so use information about persons with caution and forethought.

Gratuitous or Overbearing use of Technology and Graphics
As recent as 2020, I am constantly frustrated by websites that have so many ads and videos that I cannot easily view the web page. Popups are constantly poping up, videos play automatically, ads of different sizes make pages jump around.
If you have been using the Internet for very long, you have tried to open web pages that take "too long" to open, or create errors because of some unnecessary technology, and then discovering the content was not worth the wait.
You may be able to remember going to websites and having to install extra software to see the page. This is not as bad of a problem as it use to be, but one should still keep in mind who is trying to view your website.
And one I frequently get "computer repair" questions about is when a person goes to a website with technical errors, but the error message to the visitor suggests there is something wrong with their computer when the actual problem is the website.

Poor Navigation
Navigation should be user friendly and easy to use.
A popular style in 2019 is the one page website, and navigation should help the visitor move down and up the page with minimal scrolling.
Poor navigation in some web sites can be solved by putting a simple link back to the home page. Nothing fancy, just a link. It is always amazing to me when I come across a website which is a series of independent pages with no relationship to one another.
Smaller sites could have links to every page from every page. Larger sites should have more effective links, and the links should be logical to the user.

Outdated Information and Under Construction
Unless your web site is a very static brochure, your web site should always be under construction.
In other words, avoid posting "Under Construction", keep your website up-to-date.
Also, a static page is not supposed to be updated so don't put an "updated" date on a static page.
Keeping information up-to-date is more than very important, it is a necessity. A web site lets people know what they can do today, tomorrow and in the future. Very few things can be as frustrating to a web visitor than going to an events page and find the information two years out of date.

Lack of Interactivity
Persons are accustomed to having something to do when they visit a web site.
Include opportunities for web visitors to respond where they are, on your website. This can be a basic level of interaction.
"Simple" technologies now allow people to interact with you where they are, on the internet. Why should we wait for them to attend our facilities?

Lack of "Cross Pollination"
For over twenty years cross pollination continues to be one of the most neglected possibilities on the Internet, especially for small business owners.
As a business owner you probably know and to some degree interact with other business owners in your area. A website may be a good place to recommend each other's products and services.
Cross pollination is when two or more non-competitive, dissimilar companies have links on each others websites. This may be no more of a handshake thing, where both mutually benefit by advertising each other's business, but it can also be part of your "search engine optimization".
Cross pollination is not "affilate marketing". Affiliate marketing is when you may financially benefit through a visitor clicking on an advertisement.

"Thinking inside the box"
On the Internet thinking outside the box in new and creative ways is always needed, and may be beneficial.