Since web design’s early days in the late 1990s and even to the present day, designers have been trying to meet corporate clients needs by producing web sites that are user friendly, good looking and functional. This has always been something of a balancing act, as these factors can often be clouded by both the designers ‘and the clients’ own individual perceptions and opinions.
Web designers often have to decide for themselves if, in the interests of fulfilling their client’s requirements, they are not at the same time producing a terrible web site, whether it be from a design, functionality or usability perspective. There are always lots of really badly designed web sites out there that have cost the client/company many thousands of dollars/pounds but it may not always be due to the designer’s bad judgment, but rather the client’s.
What are the issues that need attention and why are there still so many very expensive badly designed web sites out there? It seems that there are certain undeniable and very common mistakes that are made when designing high- end web sites that we will examine briefly here.
The home page ideally needs to contain a clear statement to the user what it is offering in the way of products and/or services and how they can be differentiated from the competition. When a potential customer or client first visits a home page they need to be sure they are in the right place, they often end up there as a result of a search engine enquiry and they are probably in a hurry.
They need to be able to see at a glance that they have found a company that will be able to give them what they want. So many web designers seem to have forgotten this crucial point and instead they will tout company slogans or pointless marketing one-liners that have no meaning at all to the user and will often make them leave the page in search of a better option.
What is often needed is a clear definition of the company’s purpose, which is usually hidden away out of sight somewhere, (or in the about us page) so the user has to actually look for it. Company slogans and useless tag lines do not convert, good content may do and can often be totally overlooked in favour of flashy graphics and pompous corporate marketing, that may actually put potential clients off completely.
Photographs and corporate graphics may look great to company directors and investors but how well does it perform in the real world? It could be that having an actual picture of the product or service in use may be more successful and even cheaper than a lot of the overly stylized and gratuitous visual content that web designers seem to love.
Instead of opting for all these expensive trimmings maybe designers should be getting back to the basics of, say, having a description of their web site and its purpose in the title area of the browser window? It is free SEO and yet is often overlooked. Also why is it that so many web site designers put a home option on the menu on the home page?
It is fair to assume that the user has arrived on a different page to start with and needs a home link on the menu of that page, but what is the point of a redundant link that many users will press just in case they aren’t on the home page already? It is frustrating and a waste of time. It would be much better to remove it entirely, but it is so often there and it can look unprofessional and badly thought out.