9 Things to Avoid in Web Design for a Small Business
When you’re shopping around for a small business website design, do you know what to look for and what to avoid? Do you know which design elements will make your site more appealing and which elements will turn visitors away?
If you’ve spent much time surfing the web, you’ve probably noticed that some websites’ design elements are distracting, annoying, or just plain ugly. We’ve all bumped into a few websites that make us want to scream. Luckily, escape is just a click away.
But if you’re a small business owner, you definitely don’t want visitors clicking away from your website, especially if they’re seeking escape because the design is unappealing or irritating.
9 Small Business Website Design Elements to Avoid
Here’s a list of design elements that people frequently complain about. Most of these recommendations have been on web designers’ things-to-avoid lists for years, but these frustrating features keep rearing their ugly heads all over the Internet. Be smart and avoid these small business website design faux pas:
- Automatically Playing Music: This is number one on the list for good reason. Nothing startles a website visitor more than loud audio suddenly protruding from the speakers. Maybe the visitor is already listening to background music. Maybe they’re trying to focus on your content (and if your content is not centered around music, the sound is just a distraction). Maybe there’s a baby sleeping nearby. Be considerate and make audio optional.
- Flashing, Blinking, or Scrolling Text: If it’s subtle, you might get away with it. But like audio, moving text is nothing more than a distraction. Sure, you might be using it to get the visitor’s attention, but once you do and they start seriously perusing your site, it’s just going to become an annoyance.
- Animations: Some animations work well with a design. If you’re an illustrator or an animator, go for it. But if you’ve got a website that’s centered around some product or service that doesn’t include art or animation, then keep your content static.
- Pop-up Windows: No. Just no. I don’t care if your windows pop up in front, in back, or right on the page. Don’t do it. Some websites are still using pop-ups or have returned to pop-ups. They will never be sustainable because they’ll ultimately annoy people, especially your repeat visitors who have to face the dreaded pop-up every time they are kind enough to visit your site.
- Loud Image Backgrounds: This one almost didn’t make the list because there are a lot of image backgrounds that work well, especially textures. So this is not so much a design element you need to avoid as one you need to use judiciously. As long as the images are fast-loading and blend seamlessly into the design, you should be okay. But if the visitor’s eyes are drawn more to the background images than the foreground content, your site is in trouble.
- iFrames: These days, with CSS, content management systems, and other design technologies so readily available, frames are just an unnecessary and outdated technique for organizing the content on a site. The problem with frames is that they are not compatible with all browsers and may render differently on different computers. So opt for a content management system (like WordPress) instead.
- Excessively Wide or Long Pages: This should go without saying, but I still run into these types of websites on occasion. I always wonder if the designer is using an enormous monitor and has forgotten that most people use 15- to 17-inch screens. And try to remember that visitors don’t like to scroll endlessly down (or across) the page. Except on archived sections of your site, keep scrolling to the length of two or three pages.
- Indistinguishable Links: Have you ever hovered your mouse over a web page and it caused a window to open or carried you off to some other page? That’s just plain weird. Links are meant to be clicked, so make sure they’re clickable and make sure visitors can distinguish a link from regular text.
- Opening a Link in a New Window: There are some instances in which I don’t mind links opening in a new window, but usually I prefer to make the decision myself. All I have to do is command-click (Windows users can right-click and choose “open link in new tab/window”). When web designers use this functionality, website visitors end up with dozens of open windows, and there’s a good chance the window with your site on it will get lost in the fray. Let people use the back button. That’s what it’s there for.
Exceptions to These Website Design Tips
These design elements should be avoided, but not always. Whenever you’re reading a list of tips, it’s important to remember that there are always exceptions. In the list above, I’ve pointed out some obvious exceptions, but you should remember to use your best judgment and keep in mind that sometimes breaking the rules or defying convention is a good thing.
If you’re not sure whether a particular small business website design idea would have a negative impact on your site, ask your website designer or consult with an online marketing specialist. Also, ask friends, family, customers, and professionals in your network. Nothing beats user feedback!