In web design today, there are a handful of major no-no’s that we should all work together to eradicate from the internet completely, and awareness is half the battle.
The most important thing you can do is build your site for its users, making it easy for them to find what they’re looking for; be it contact information, company news, products to buy, or any other identified objective. So in the spirit of awareness, here are the 5 biggest no-no’s in current website design (in no particular order).
1. Splash Pages & Loading Pages
Your website shouldn’t be a commercial. People hate commercials.
Try to avoid the urge to bludgeon your users with self indulgent intro pages. Bouncing, swishing graphics and flashy ‘splash’ pages only add one more step between your users and what they’re after. Fifteen years ago when splash pages were all the rage, this may have been acceptable. As a user, you’d probably go through the same emotions in three visits that the collective internet has gone through since ’95. You’d arrive at a site for the first time to be greeted with a colourful intro page filled with swooshing graphics and dancing menu items and some catchy Muzak. “What a production!” you might think.
The next time you visit, and see the same thing, you look for a “skip into” link (if there is one). The next time, you may debate even going to the site at all. Imagine if you had to deal with this every time you went to Facebook or Google!
I understand, as a business owner you want your website to be cool and different, and it should! But the conventions that have been established on the web over the past decade are there for a reason: To simplify and streamline the whole process of getting information, for everyone!
The other type of intro page is the “please wait 5 minutes while our website loads.” If your site has to show a progress bar while loading, you’re probably doing it wrong. You’re also probably using Flash…
2. Flash Websites & Unnecessary Interactivity
Unless you’re talking about YouTube, which uses Flash as a video format, the term ‘Flash websites’ borders on dirty word amongst the web-savvy, for numerous reasons. Here are a few:
- Search engines don’t get along well with Flash. And they’re not inviting it to their birthday party.
- Flash is clunky (hence the aforementioned loading pages).
- Flash websites won’t even load on a huge number of mobile devices – most notably, Apple’s iPhone. Even if you’re using a browser on your pc, you may need to download a Flash player to see these sites. Remember that part about making it easy?
Flash websites often create numerous extra barriers for users to get what they’re looking for, mostly due to unconventional architecture, or navigation that makes you actively look around and hover over images to find things. It is imperative to have a persistent navigation bar on every page of your site that will facilitate getting around for your users. If they come in on a blog post (and, god forbid, bypass your intro screen detailing your website’s instructions) they should be able to get to your contact information, home page, other blog posts, etc. easily and with minimal brain work. Simply having a navigation, however, isn’t a smoking gun. Nav’s can also be plagued with self indulgence and bad practice…
3. Vague or Difficult to Use Navigation (aka Mystery Meat Navigation)
You may have the urge to label your site navigation with vague terms that metaphorically represent what’s on that page. Please don’t. No matter how clever your labels are, they are not what I’m looking for.
- I’m looking for Contact us, not engage
- I’m looking for Portfolio, not expressions
Another common method of artistic expression with site navigation is using images or (gasp) Flash to create moving, dynamic menus. These ones often produce infuriating results. Another thing to avoid in your navigation is the use of images…
4. Using Graphics for Text
This one’s simple.
- Where do you look for answers, products, or services online? Search engines.
- What do search engines use to determine the relevance of your site? Text.
- What happens if search engines can’t read any of the text on your site? Nothing. And your site will forever be ignored, by everyone.
You don’t have to be a search engine expert to use live text to describe things on your site. SEO can do a lot to bring in traffic to a website, but by simply using on-page text instead of images you’re 50% of the way there!
A simple way to check if your text is “live” or trapped in images is to try and highlight it, copy it and paste it!
PRO TIP: Find what you you’re looking for quickly on any web page by pressing Ctrl+F (Command+F on a mac) and searching for words on that page. This of course only works on sites with live text – but it can be an enormous time-saver on really busy, messy, over-cluttered websites…
5. Clutter, Chaos, & Poor Readability
This one is making a pretty graceful departure from the web with sites like eBay, Facebook, Amazon, etc. changing what people expect to see.
The advent of content-managed, dynamic websites has allowed for sorting and organization of information to keep the important stuff front and centre. More and more I find that the expectation is shifting towards clean and streamlined web design. This is wonderful, but there are still remnants of the 90′s kicking around and the occasional new website that tries to clutter your screen with more information and images that you could digest in a week.
A Few Dishonorable Mentions
- Burying your contact info or location more than one click away from the home page
- Broken links
- Music that plays automatically
Hopefully we can all continue to work towards a more standardized, usable web… without any No-No’s.
— Nick Pierno, SEO Analyst
Nick is an experienced SEO analyst at Epiar Inc. and a guest author of the Top Draw blog. His shared experience between web design and search engine optimization make his contributions uniquely insightful, and help bridge the gap between information architecture and aesthetics.
Follow @nickpierno on Twitter. For more information on SEO services, visit Epiar!
Just how important is Content on your website? Think about it… The web is Content! It’s the paragraphs, the headlines, the slogans and imagery that collectively tell your story.
Organized and accentuated by design elements and functionality, your Content is ultimately responsible for persuading visitors to do what you want them to do – buy now, call or email, fill out a form, go to your stores; or perhaps nothing today, but convince them to return next week or share your website with friends.
At Top Draw, you’ll hear the word Content a lot…Content mapping, Content audit, Content development strategies…and you’ll hear it even more after this week, as we have recently appointed Cindy Joly (that’s me), former Project Manager to the position of Content Strategist.
So, what’s all the hype about Content? At Top Draw, we don’t simply build websites that look good and rank well with search engines. We are committed to creating online sales reps that work for you 24/7. But in order to hit the quantitative goals that we set up for visits and conversions at site launch, your Content needs to deliver. And that’s where Top Draw is different.
Content development is an involved process that allows us to get close and personal with your industry and your business practices. It starts with the development of your site plan – the blueprint for your website.
Whether you enlist the search engine optimization services of Epiar or not (which is really something you should consider), the architecture of your site needs to make sense to search engines as well as visitors.
Once we finalize your site plan, we then conduct a Content audit. I review your current information, decide what works and what needs work and create a spreadsheet that outlines all the elements required for every page of your site. It’s a lot like building a house. Construction doesn’t start until the blueprints are complete with walls, electrical, plumbing, etc. The project manager needs to know where the windows and doors are going before the walls are up! Thorough planning sets the stage for success and also allows time for all the necessary pieces to be developed in the early stages.
Content development is a collaborative process. Not only do we work together to create a strategy that will achieve your goals, but develop the real narrative that embodies your company through text, visual language, imagery and style. This philosophy sets Top Draw apart in the industry and it’s what creates measurable success for our clients.
— Cindy Joly, Content Strategist
I can’t count how many times I’ve been in the mood for a specific dish, something different, something ethnic, something new… Something that I can’t seem to find anywhere online because most restaurants don’t seem to be applying even the most rudimentary search optimization principles.
I dream of a day when restaurants recognize that optimizing your site not only helps increase exposure to their business, but also helps their customers find what they are looking for.
Here are the top 5 reasons why I wish restaurants would optimize their websites.
- I often crave specific dishes and can never find a restaurant online who states they serve specific dishes. Many restaurants do post menus on their website, but most restaurants use PDF’s or images for their menu. Search Engines cannot read the content in images and often ignore PDF’s, so when someone searches for a specific dish like “Pad Thai Edmonton”, that website won’t show up. Put your menu in text form and let the search engines do their magic!
- Last week I found myself in an unfamiliar neighborhood wanting breakfast! So I pulled out my trusty iPhone and searched “breakfast edmonton” on Google Maps. Guess what popped up? Lots of bed & breakfasts, and a few obvious breakfast restaurants like Denny’s. Not what I was looking for. I wish, wish, wish that restaurants would state in their title tags & META descriptions that they serve breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert etc…
- Sometimes I’m lazy! Sometimes I want good quality food but I’m too lazy to make it, and I don’t feel like going out. Sometimes I don’t feel like pizza or Chinese but settle for it because I know these restaurants deliver. Why can’t restaurants mention in their META information that they deliver? You know, if you did, you would get more delivery business!
- If I’m in the mood for let’s say Vietnamese food I go straight to Google and search “vietnamese restaurant edmonton” Some restaurants show up, but not every restaurant does, even some of the well known places don’t show up. Unless you specifically mention “vietnamese restaurant” or “vietnamese food” in your title or h1 headings it may be hard to find you. I’m looking at you Hoang Loo-Ang Restaurant, maybe you should change your home page title to “Hoang Loo-Ang Vietnamese Restaurant”.
- Now for the top reason why I wish restaurant websites were optimized! I want to be able to find a restaurant easily when I’m hungry. Usually when I’m looking for a place to eat, I’m looking for a place nearby. I don’t necessarily want to drive 45 minutes to eat dinner. Please take 5 minutes to add your restaurant to Google Places so that I can find you on the map, close to me! Oh and don’t forget to state the ethnicity of your food & dishes you serve!
Thanks, I look forward to being able to find you in the future when I’m hungry, which is often!
Search Analyst, Epiar Inc.
Samantha is a talented search analyst at Epiar and a regular contributor to the Top Draw blog. Follow her on twitter @SammyTG. Epiar is a uniquely managed search engine marketing firm and search engine optimization company driven by extensive & innovative online market research. For more information, check them out here.
The glamorous days of Hollywood are long gone but the romantic mystique surrounding starlets and leading men is still tantalizing.
My theory behind why these once famous, now infamous, romances and scandals are still so popular is because to this day, no one really knows what happened. Tabloid magazines and paparazzi hardly existed and facebook, twitter and blogs weren’t even a concept.
However, thanks to the SEO magic of Epiar, here are 9 infamous love affairs we still cannot get enough of.
Jean Harlow & Clark Gable: 210 Global Searches Per Month.
The Academy Award winning Clark Gable is most memorable for his role as the devilishly charming and untamed Rhett Butler. In the 1930’s Jean Harlow was the first starlet coined as the “Platinum Blonde” and “Blonde Bombshell”. These two equally sexy actors starred together six times. To this day, they are often quoted as have been “lovers and friends.” Perhaps their on-screen magnetism was almost too convincing.
Tony Curtis & Janet Leigh: 880 Global Searches Per Month.
American Prince and Psycho’s leading lady are also the parents of Hollywood’s Scream Queen, Jamie Lee Curtis. For both, this was their third marriage and lasted 11 years, a milestone by Hollywood standards.
Vivien Leigh & Laurence Olivier: 1,300 Global Searches Per Month.
Vivien Leigh may be best known for her role as the very beautiful and incredibly spoiled Scarlett O’Hara, the love interest of Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind. Laurence Olivier is one of the most famous and revered actors of the 20th century. In 1937 Olivier and Leigh began an affair after acting as lovers in Fire Over England, when Olivier was married to actress Jill Esmond and Leigh to Herbert Leigh Holman. They were married for 20 years and in that time stared in movies, theatre and Broadway together.
Ava Gardner & Frank Sinatra: 1,900 Global Searches Per Month.
Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra’s relationship was fiery, capricious, erratic and volatile …. if only Twitter was around! ”No one ever loved a woman the way Frank loved Ava Gardner. She was his female counterpart—mercurial, volcanic, jealous.“*
Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier: 1,900 Global Searches Per Month.
Her title as Princess of Monaco says it all! Kelly had starred with Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Cary Grant and many other timelessly handsome leading men. Kelly met Prince Rainier of Monaco at the Cannes Film Festival in April 1955. They were married a year later.
Marilyn Monroe & Joe DiMaggio: 2,900 Global Searches Per Month.
She is unarguably the most infamous sex symbol of all time and he is baseball’s New York Yankee Hall of Famer. DiMaggio was Monroe’s second husband and she filed for divorce 274 days after the wedding. DeMaggio never remarried and after her death in 1962, he had a half-dozen red roses delivered 3 times a week to her crypt for 20 years
Lucille Ball & Desi Arnaz: 2,900 Global Searches Per Month.
The comedienne and her musician-husband’s show I Love Lucy remains a contender for funniest show of all time and is still syndicated in dozens of languages across the world.
Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton: 6,600 Global Searches Per Month.
While filming Cleopatra, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton fell in love … and they were both married to other people at the time. Burton was Taylor’s 5th AND 6th marriage!
…. and the highest searched couple in this list is ….
JFK & Marilyn Monroe: 12,100 Global Searches Per Month!!!
Fact or Fiction? Conspiracy or truth? Whatever really happened between Monroe and the 35th President of the Unites States still a hot topic. “JFK and Marilyn Monroe” are globally searched 12,100 times per month!
To learn more about Search Engine Optimization, Keyword Research, Negative Keywords and how Epiar can get you better website rankings, connect with us on Twitter, “Like” us on Facebook, comment below or contact us!
Dear Customer Service Girl,
Lately, you’ve been running around in my mind. I seem to see your comforting, familiar face everywhere and you’re always ready to take customer service calls with a smile! Our happy times are going to have to come to an end though, because I think you’ve been seeing other people. You’ve been in Oregon doing telcom support, you’ve been in the UK helping with web hosting, and even in Georgia as a bail bonds-woman; you are a Jack (Jill?) of all trades and a thief of my heart. I’m moving on to someone who is more real and true to life, someone who can actually let their hair down and keep their head on straight, and someone who doesn’t spend all day whitening their teeth. In the end, you’re just too high maintenance for me. Even though it was so easy to fall for you, to believe I was actually calling you, and I realize now that it’s all been a big lie. We’re through. Pick up your things and get out of my life. Don’t ever try to help me again!
— Adriel Michaud