I like to think that I write good quality web content – and my team do too – but once written it all depends on the design as to whether anyone ever reads it.  These are some of the things that really get my goat and are virtually guaranteed to stop people getting the message.

1.  Whizzy moving visuals across the top of the screen, either in the brand area (known as the masthead) or in a banner underneath that.  Every time something moves the reader’s eye is drawn to the moving image – after a couple of times this gets irritating and, if you have to put up with it for any length of time, stressful.

Solution:  Anything that moves should move gently.  Continuous fade in and out is easier for the brain to tune out than stop-start motion.

2.  Menus that are in the wrong place.  Most of us have been brainwashed to expect the navigation to be either on the left in a column (vertical) or on a bar underneath the masthead (horizontal); if the menu is above the brand most people won’t see it, as it’s above their eyeline.  If it’s on the right, some people won’t realise that it’s a menu.  It’s not that they’re stupid – just that they’re not looking there for it.

Solution:  Stick to menus where people expect them to be if you want people to be able to use them to find their way around.  This is not about innovation; it’s about usability – as soon as you start making people think, they start thinking about looking at someone else’s site that might be ‘easier’.

3.  Menus that are chopped up with bits here and there.  If you’ve got a horizontal menu with more than about eight choices, there’s a danger that it will wrap onto a second line.  This is not generally good practice so some designers will solve the problem by extracting the core pages (usually Home, About and Contact) and popping them up in the top right-hand corner.

The challenge here is that because there is already a menu your user expects all the options to be there.  If there doesn’t seem to be a home tab, it can be enough to send them away.  Some people will resort to using the ‘back’ arrow, but don’t count on it.  If your contact details are well hidden, don’t expect to get many calls!

Solution:  Arrange your menu so there is enough space to fit the tabs in a single menu bar or use a left hand vertical menu.

4.  The ‘Patchwork Quilt’.  This is when the home page is used as a means of setting out all the options on a single page in the form of a block of boxes with headlines and calls to action, or in some cases, a paragraph or two of text followed by ‘read more’.

Why is it bad news?  Because you’re giving people too many options and web users are lazy and impatient.  Lots of choice means that they have to spend time working out what it what and then making a decision; if it looks like hard work they’ll be off, without looking at any of your options.

Solution:  Have a single dominant point of engagement on each page and then use the message to encourage people to explore further.

I could go on – but maybe on another blog!


You can find out more about how to get your website working better by calling Lesleywriter on +44 (0)1245 473296