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We’re putting our foot (feet?) down. Too many websites are committing design crimes with impunity, and while we’re not quite committing ourselves to vigilante retribution, we’re happy to whistleblow for everyone’s benefit. There are around two billion websites floating around the internet, and the majority look and behave horribly.
Fortunately for these digital fugitives and their bad website design, there’s time to change. As graphic designer Neville Brody puts it:
‘Digital design is like painting, except the paint never dries.’
Web design isn’t easy. We’re not denying that – our own design team, the Pixels, regularly astonish the rest of us with their digitised genius, and plenty of hard work goes into their finished projects. To help you on your way to an astonishing website of your own, we’ve decided to help you avoid the really big mistakes. We’ve gathered nine website design trends that it’s time to retire, because it’s just as important to know what not to do!
1. Centred text
You’ll find this gripe on most ‘bad website design’ lists, and for good reason. Centred text is fine when it’s used as a header or for a short snippet of text, but an entire paragraph? The text is ‘ragged’ on both sides, rather than one, making the reading experience akin to scrambling up a scree-covered incline. It’s an easy one to fix, too – just change that alignment!
2. Massive, bold fonts
Huge fonts can look great and serve a purpose when you’ve got a very basic point to communicate. If there’s no good reason for them to be on your website, though, it comes across as shouty and unwieldy. You risk sacrificing legibility and ease-of-use for bold design.As with so many of these gripes, it’s better to err on the side of caution.
3. No bullet points
Is it a novel, or a website? Save your beautifully-written prose for your magnum opus, because bullet points and subheadings are a far better way to get internet users – who are prone to scanning – to actually read your copy.
4. Cheesy shadows
Too many websites are starting to look like de Chirico paintings. There’s a subtle way to do shadows that can give your page some exciting three dimensionality, yes. And then, there’s the alternative – extreme drop shadows that are too big, too dark and too far away from the object that’s ‘casting’ them.
Drop shadows done right on our own home page – if we may be so bold.
A very strange website with some very strange drop shadows.
5. Infinite scroll/one-page websites
What do we mean by infinite scroll?
that make you
read their copy
That was annoying, wasn’t it? One-page websites are frequent offenders when it comes to demanding Sisyphean scrolling from their visitors. While one-page sites aren’t exactly bad website design – they can be great for mobile visitors – they do hinder your SEO efforts by making it hard to target multiple keywords.
6. Scrolling arrows and the ‘fold’
It’s not 1999. People know how to use websites, and they don’t need arrows to tell them to scroll down a page. Multiple studies have found that nearly every web-page visitor will intuitively scroll down a page at some point.
This also means that the ‘fold’ – the part of the page that visitors see before scrolling – no longer needs to be crammed with all of the content you want them to see. There’s an entire website dedicated to debunking ‘the myth of the fold’, and we’re hoping it’ll prevent anything like this from ever happening again:
Who is responsible for this?
While these have long been the staple of many a ‘modern’ website, slideshows and modules that feature auto-scrolling images and offers actually kill conversions. They take up a load of space, and split your visitor’s attention between multiple offers, decreasing the likelihood of their clicking on any of them.There’s a phenomenon called ‘banner blindness’ thanks in no small part to this trend, so it’s best to avoid it altogether.
8. Excessive animation
Animations, when used in moderation, can be fantastic for creating an engaging website. Don’t get us wrong – websites like this look incredible, but as far as usability goes, it’s pretty distracting and don’t exactly highlight the website’s content that well. Too much animation can also seriously dent your page speed, which will in turn hurt your SEO. It’s best to exercise restraint, like the folks at InVision.
9. Button blunders
These complaints come straight from our very own design team, so take note! There are several ways in which modern websites are mishandling their buttons, but one of the most common is the ‘bubble’. This one’s aesthetic – a button with fully rounded sides – makes it difficult to add text that doesn’t have big empty spaces to the right and left. Try a rectangle with rounded sides for a happy medium.
What lonely text!
The subtler alternative.
The other clickable faux-pas that some websites blunder into is also aesthetic, but can impact your website’s usability and traffic as well. Space is at a premium on your site, so why on earth would you want your buttons, be they calls-to-action or your logo in the navigation bar, to take up more room than they need to?
Bloated buttons take up real estate that could be given over to valuable content – content that can be keyword optimised, drive conversions or establish your site as a bastion of thought leadership. Put them on a diet.
Articulate: nine. Bad website design: nil.
Do what you can to eliminate some of these page-tarnishing trends, and you’ll find yourself with a much better-looking website that does more work for you. It isn’t just about making the site look prettier. Keep Steve Jobs’ wise words in mind:
‘Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.’