We could produce of a list of 50 top web design mistakes but lets limit this list to 5, to get to the point and help you speed the recovery of your site. As always, please comment on this list in case we’ve missed something you feel is more critical.
1. User doesn’t know what the purpose of your site is within 5-7 seconds.
Most users will give up soon after that quick window vanishes… You already know what you site is there for, so you take it for granted that the user knows too. But often they don’t, and boy oh boy when it comes to those ‘integration solution’ type businesses that appear to do everything and nothing all at once, it can sure be confusing.
A user should never have to work to figure out what your site does. Take that to the bank.
2. User has to wait for your site to load.
Again, users are impatient. Unless your site is a cult design site that users know will be worth waiting for, it’s an epic fail to make ‘em wait more than 5-7 seconds for the site to load. Many will say “3 seconds max, loser!!”.
Given all the places where latency can slow things down, don’t assume the user has the same lighting fast fiber connection that you do.
If you are a design house and want to show off, give the potential client (everyone who comes to your site is a potential client) a “work examples” page on your site where they can see your seriously tricky Flash work…but don’t lose the potential client before they see your work.
3. Make the most important parts of your site larger than items of lower importance. Use visual heirarchy.
Visual heirarchy. Learn it, live it. There are lots of good books on this topic at Amazon.
Select the most important things you want the user to see, 2-4 items… make ‘em bigger. Select a few more, make ‘em medium sized. All the rest should be small, or just links.
4. Disorganized layouts without a grid are a fail.
To gain the users trust you need an organized easy to understand layout. If your overall layout looks disjointed or disorganized, you are doomed as far as your user TRUSTING your ability to create something of value for them. Granted, some high end fancy design shops can get away with very arty layouts that are hard to navigate (yes it shows how creative you are, we know!)… but for 99% of your work, learn how to apply a grid and use it to organize your layout.
5. Too many visual motifs are a fail. Think simple.
Too many shaded buttons, colors, shadows, gradients, type faces, graphical elements will muddy things. Think simple. Simple is elegant. Create a style guide with some crisp simple elements and stick to it. Limit your main colors to shades of gray and 2 other colors. There is still something positively wonderful about Apple.com.