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Common Web Design Mistakes — And the Exceptions that Prove the Rules

There are those web design mistakes that are so normal, we’ve come to accept them as standard practice when they really, really shouldn’t be. There’s a mountain of items I could list if I wanted this to be one of those five-page blog posts, but I’m going to keep it concise today.

Seriously, be done with the popups and modal windows already.
There are few things that annoy me more than clicking through to an article and then having a modal window pop up over my content that I have to deal with before I read — but I’m not sure that I could discuss any of them in polite company. If someone has managed to click through to your content, it’s because they want to read your content, and begging them to sign up for your newsletter, register for your site, or share their opinion isn’t relevant to their intent. Give them what they want, offer them the chance to do all of those things on a polite little sidebar, and wow them with your site’s quality.

The Exception that Proves the Rule: Modal windows are great for allowing people to do things they want to do without leaving the site they’re currently on. For example, using a modal window as your web-based email form and having it return the user to your content once they hit ‘send’ is perfectly legitimate provide you allow them to call up the window in the first place.

Remember, this is a website, not a tract or a direct-mail letter.
One of the best parts of web design is that you have a huge variety of things you can do with the web. One of the worst parts of web design is that a large number of those things suck. One of those things that suck is filling a webpage with a giant wall of text and expecting someone to read it. If you want to market a business, don’t do it by explaining the business in words — at least not on the landing page. Tell a story with a few powerful words backed up by a few powerful images, and let the surfer click somewhere to learn more if they want to.

The Exception that Proves the Rule: It’s called Wikipedia. Seriously, though, if your website really is little more than a giant catalog of information, or if you’re deliberately creating a huge blog post to ‘go deep’ on a subject, it’s all good. You should try to make sure that your title and description on the search engines make it clear what the surfer should expect on the way in, though.

Everyone likes to think outside the box, but please at least keep the box on the horizon.
LIMITLESS POTENTIAL!!1! That’s what the beginning of every web design project can feel like. The problem is that while innovation is important, there is definitely a ‘feel’ to business websites that people have grown to expect. If you don’t get the basics right, you’ll drive your potential customers away with a bad taste in their mouths. Keeping your innovation in a familiar and simple frame is an art that takes quite a bit of skill.

The Exception that Proves the Rule: When you’ve got an established client and you’ve proven that you know your basics with their core sites, you can often swing a little bit of leeway on a side page. Use those pages to explore your unusual ideas, and bring the success stories into your core portfolio.

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