Do me a favor and pull out your high school yearbook.
Yikes! Is that your real hair?! What were you thinking? Well, at least you’ve changed your style a few times since then.
Now, imagine you didn’t. You still have that same, ridiculous mullet and those pleated, acid-washed jeans. Would you go on a date looking like that? To a job interview? If so, you would only have to do it once before some good Samaritan called How Do I Look? to get you a makeover.
Just like fashion and home decor, websites have “styles,” too. And in 2013, 2-minute flash intros and underlined links have followed Hammer pants out the door.
We live in the Information Age, which means that technology and the internet are constantly (and rapidly) changing. So why are we still coming across sites that look like they were built 12 years ago, at the turn of the century? (And you thought bringing out your yearbook made you feel old.)
Sadly, many of these sites are relatively new, which means that web developers either don’t know or don’t care about keeping up with the times.
Like your fashion choices, your website plays an important role in how your customers and competitors view your business. Does your site make you look like an intimidating key player in the industry? Or does it make you look like a charity case? We’ve created a list of some of the biggest offenders. If you recognize any of these design faux pas in your site, it’s probably time for an update.
I remember back in 2000 when I first learned how to use Flash. It was like being a movie director! I couldn’t wait to create an elaborate intro with the zippy text and changing colors to really hook everyone’s eye.
Well, back in those days, Flash was new and cool, and it was common to have to wait 3 minutes for a website to load, so most people didn’t mind an impressive little movie-intro. But people nowadays will move on if your site takes more than 2 seconds to load. And even with high speed internet, it’s still super frustrating to have to sit through a 3-minute animation that doesn’t give you any useful information.
Instead, try offering a YouTube video or (silent) animation on your home page that won’t interrupt the user experience. You might think that Flash video looks cool, but frequent visitors to your site (you want frequent visitors, don’t you?) will just be annoyed if they have to see that same intro over and over again.
Oh, and since Flash is not compatible with Mac devices, those millions of people that use Macs, iPhones, and iPads won’t be able to get past your animation or use your Flash-based menu.
2. Old School Formatting
Baby websites were a lot like human babies. They all kinda looked the same.
The menus were arranged the same. The fonts were all the same. And when you clicked on those blue, underlined links they would turn purple. (In 2003, that was the best we could do.)
Now, of course, our links don’t need an underline and CSS will let us use any colors and styles we want. Dress it up. Give your website its own little personality.
3. Use of Tables For Page Structure
During the internet’s infancy, using a table layout to build a website was easier and (when done right) could look pretty snazzy. But remember, you thought that skorts were pretty snazzy, too. The world has moved on from the ancient, linear forms of table layouts into new systems that allow for greater flexibility. And frankly, using tables is one surefire way to label yourself as a noob in the design world.
It might take some extra time to get used to a new system, but think of it like learning a new language before you relocate to Europe. This is information you need. Table layouts slow down your site’s load time and they are not search engine-friendly. (Which means that Google surfers won’t be able to delightfully stumble upon your website like Lucy stumbled into Narnia.)
Now, there might be instances when tables work, but do everyone a favor and jazz it up a bit so it doesn’t look like you designed it while watching Who’s Line Is It Anyway? (Still an awesome show. Makes me want to look up the re-runs on YouTube!)
4. Not User-Friendly
Why are we still seeing websites with all of the text and pictures piled onto one page? It’s like the digital equivalent a denim jumper: outdated and woefully boring.
These types of sites come across as purely utilitarian. There’s no attempt at style or aesthetics, just a seemingly endless page of text, image, text, image, text, image. Rinse, lather, repeat. Without something to visually “land” on, your readers will be exhausted.
A more updated look breaks up the information into smaller pages, keeping it easy to read and understand. And don’t forget to include a call to action, such as “sign up here!” “follow us on Facebook,” or “Buy it Now!” so your customers won’t get confused.
Gosh, I couldn’t wait to install a counter to find out how many people had visited my website. Then check the next day to see how many people visited. And the next day. And the next.
At the time, this was the greatest thing since Milli Vanilli. But—spoiler alert!—technology has vastly improved since then. Now I can see not only the number of visitors to my site, but also their screen size, browser, operating system, and city without having to inform the whole world about it. (Seriously, do you care how many visitors my site got?)
By the way, remember when websites used to have “guestbooks” for people to sign in and make a comment? A content management system with a blog and commenting system is much more user-friendly, and you still have the option of keeping your conversations private with the trusty contact form.
Oh, man, these are painful. Websites with frames have a very “Frankenstein’s monster” feel to them. You have a menu in one “window,” the text in another, your logo in another…and they are all stitched together into one, big, digital abomination.
Like table layouts, frames are not search engine-friendly, as the crawlers that read your site aren’t exactly sure where to look. They are also slow to load and can cause weird formatting glitches with many browsers.
7. Clip Art
We wrote an earlier blog post against the use of Stock Photography, but every time I see clip art on a website, I die a little inside.
And we’re not just talking about little icons of stick figures holding up a globe, but animated GIFs or silly sketches that make that talking paperclip from Word 97 look sleek and refined.
Clip art makes your website look like a 7th grade history paper and has no place in the professional market. If you really want to add images, stick with a photo of your product, staff, or location so that people glean some information about what you do. That little guy holding up the giant file folder tells them nothing, other than the fact that you don’t have access to a digital camera.
If any of these describe your site, please, please, put down your Tamagotchi and consider a web makeover!
Think of your site the way you would approach a date or a job interview and put your best foot forward. Even if you don’t have the money or time for a complete re-haul, you can take down your counters and replace your clip art with an updated, high-quality photo (that you took yourself, of course). Your business (and your customers) will thank you.
Clarity Creative Group is a web design & internet marketing company located in beautiful Orlando, Florida. We weren’t in business in 2001, but if we were, we would have updated our old web sites by now.