Along with knowing what makes a web site good, it is also important to avoid the mistakes that can ruin a small business web site.
- Sites designed with Front Page – This program has allowed just about anybody to be a webmaster, and while that is a noble cause, the implementation of it is very flawed. Front Page creates the most bloated code of any program I’ve seen, and it is so Microsoft dependent, that sites built with it often don’t work when used with browsers other than Internet Explorer. Fortunately, Microsoft realized the error of their ways and discontinued the program.
- Flash – I’ve seen very few instances where I thought having Flash on a web site added to the appeal of the site, and they were all entertainment sites. For business web sites, I guess I’m just more of a substance kind of guy. Usually when I go to a web site it is because I’m looking for information. I don’t need to be entertained with animations that take forever to download and play. Flash not only requires a plug-in, it seems like you never have the latest version. Worse than the Flash intro (which thankfully can usually be skipped) is when the whole site is navigated by Flash. Often buggy to the point it doesn’t work at all, most implementations of Flash navigation are not very intuitive. I’m not going to spend much time trying to figure out how to navigate a site. I’ve seen several sites where they just have some weird non-intuitive symbols and you have to roll over each one of them to see what they go to. Flash also hurts your search engine rankings because there isn’t any text to index on a Flash page. So where do most people put their Flash animation. Yep, right on the home page, the most important piece of real estate when it comes to search engine indexing. Need a second opinion?
- Music – I have over 400 music CDs burned onto my hard drive so that I can listen to my favorite music whenever I want. The music is played through a set of nice speakers. It does not need to be accompanied by some cheap MIDI interpretation of Muzak. Music also takes extra time to download. Also since a lot of non-business related web surfing goes on during business hours, the person planning their next vacation while the boss isn’t looking isn’t going to appreciate your music giving him away.
- Frames – Frames were a good idea, unfortunately the way they were implemented in HTML was very poor. Frames make it hard to navigate, bookmark, and print web pages. Search engines are getting better at indexing them, but due to their design, it’s hard to get the user to the right complete frameset.
- Browser or page size requirements – Best viewed on IE or best viewed at 1024×768? What a nice way to make me feel left out if that’s not what I have.
- Tiny font sizes – Usually a result of designers using Style Sheets and not checking their work on Macs. If I was granted three web design wishes by a magical genie, the first would be have PC’s and Mac’s display fonts equally. 9 point on a PC looks a lot larger than 9 point on a Mac. People designing sites on PC’s often use legalese sized fonts that display so small on a Mac that they can’t even be rendered well enough to read. It’s not a question of having good eyesight, but there simply isn’t enough detail to make out what the letters are. It’s further complicated by the fact that Internet Explorer’s default font size is 16pt, which for most people is too big. So designer’s make the fonts smaller and if the user has already chosen a smaller font, it can get really hard to read. I prefer to use the default font size for the body text, and let the user change it if they need to.