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Seven Daft Things Not To Do To Your Website

1. Splash pages

Most of the time splash pages are uncalled for. There are only a handful of reasons why you may ever need to use a splash page on your website but these reasons don't seem to apply to most of the splash pages you can see on the Internet. The worst example of a splash page is when a company creates a page and adds their logo with no content. They may also add a 'click here to enter' button link when there is no reason to have not entered already.

If a website was a printed brochure then it may be fine to put a company logo on the front cover with no text to accompany it - however on the Internet it is a bit of a no-no. Print and web are different mediums and as such require different approaches.

I say get to the point and get to the point fast, as you only have about 8 seconds to impress the typical visitor so you don't want to throw obstacles like splash pages in their way.

2. Create large file size Flash Intros

Its ill advised to put a heavy loading flash movie right at the top end of a website, especially if you actually want people to read pages on your site. A flash intro can look impressive but used irresponsibly can alienate a proportion of users. Even for those interested in motion graphics the novelty will likely wear thin after a couple of viewings so you need to offer a skip intro button if you use a Flash Intro Movie.

At the same time you can make sure you do get value from any Flash motion graphics you commission. Think of a flash movie more as a commercial and they become more useful tools. Get the intro made as a general purpose sales movie and you can put it on CD ROM or include it as part of any online or mailing list promotion.

3. Make pages full of exceedingly small text

Really small text is an often ignored but growing problem. Webmasters can spend time and effort creating content for their website, upload it to the web server so the world can see what they have to say, but then they decide to show it in a tiny font size.

There is a simple rule here; text needs to be easy to read if you want people to absorb your message. It's respecting the user to provide any content you wish them to read in a size that is suitable for the web. Font size 2 would be the smallest size you would want to use. If your target audience is over 40 then it is recommended font sizes are increased to point size 3. Do not assume your website visitors all carry a magnifying glass with them - keep body fonts at a sensible size.

4. Very long or complicated enquiry forms

Most folks have a million and one things to do, and one big reason people like using the Internet is to SAVE TIME ? so bare this in mind.

Whilst website owners need to capture a certain level of customer info on lead generating websites, visitors like things to be quick, easy and simple. So an online form with 25 mandatory input fields so a user can make an enquiry is not a good idea.

Keep online enquiry forms down to essential info only. Keep it simple but get the information you need. Quick and easy signup forms can still be effective and you could always chose to offer a short form and a longer option - that way the user can decide which option is best for them.

5. Complex rollover navigation systems

Complex rollover navigation bars using JavaScript or a similar code can seem like a great option and you can be excused for wondering why this is seen as a bit of a no-no.

The reason why these rollover or drop downs are not always such a hit is that after analysing user behaviour on a number of websites, it shows that very few people seem to use rollover button options more than one deep. In essence the idea that these navigational tools made things easier for users seems a little flawed.

The simpler the navigation is, the more it will connect with users. Limit the options and use clear common sense descriptive labelling for buttons and this will often out-perform a complex roll over approach. Keeping the navigation simple also makes for smaller file sizes and quicker loading pages.

6. Excessive movement & animation

Contrary to popular belief, constant movement and flickering may not be a successful way to engage a website user. The reason being is that web users are developing a level of 'advertising immunity' or what Jakob Nielsen of www.useit.com has referred to as 'banner blindness'.

Banner Blindness is a technique surfers have developed to filter out adverts and promotional material. They have learned after some experience that these types of ads are generally unhelpful and so are less likely to click on them. So if you use a lot of moving pictures and flickering images on your website you can run the risk of key areas of your website being ignored.

Where once banner ads got reasonable click through rates, the number has fallen dramatically in the last few years. A safer way to promote important areas of the site is via static buttons that are clearly identifiable and use descriptive language to tell the user which page they lead to.

7. Lots of links out to other sites from your homepage

When time and effort is put into attracting a visitor to your site why would anyone want to give that user a chance to leave the website on arrival? It makes sense to avoid placing lots of links out from your homepage to other sites - unless you're an advertising or affiliate website.

Visitors are your prospects. You work to get them there and your job is to keep them there and direct them to your key destination pages. If you need to link out to partners from a top-level page on your site, then think about creating an internal page for this purpose and link to that from your home page.

Written by Gareth Davies 2005. You are free to reprint this article with both disclaimer and copyright notice in tact.

Gareth Davies is a web designer and Internet promotion consultant working for GSINC Ltd based in the UK. If you have any questions then feel free to email Gareth at garethskettyATyahoo.co.uk or visit http://www.garethsketty.com/html/e_marketing.html


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