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Common Web Design Mistakes That Very Few People Recognize

Common Web Design Mistakes That Very Few People Recognize

Web designers are wonderfully creative people. We love what we do; we love to experiment; we love to put our artistic “thumbprint” on all that we do. But, it is often too easy to get carried away with the “art” of it all and lose sight of one important fact – the website is designed first and foremost for the user, not the designer. And users want very specific things when they access a site. Here are some all-to-common web design mistakes that a pro may not even notice — but an end user certainly will.

1. Failing to Use a Grid When You Design a Page

Yes, grids can be seen as “confining” at times, but without one, the page looks “off” to the visitor who may not appreciate artistic asymmetry. The vast majority of users need a visual experience that makes sense to them vertically and horizontally – it makes them feel like the company is organized and structured. Unstructured design is best left for framing and mounting on a wall.

To correct this, you may be able to take your original design, superimpose it on a grid and make some changes. If that is going to be too hard, then keep your great design ideas, get a blank grid, and start again. You want your creativity to “shine” through, but you will have to temper it with structure. And, consider using a design tool (e.g. UX Pin) for grid design.

2. Using a “Canned” Theme and Failing to Customize It

Let’s be certain about one thing. There are some really great theme kits out there, and most designers make use of them. They result in consistency of pages throughout a site, and users like consistency. In fact, when you need to get a site up and running very quickly, a design theme kit is really the way to go. But, you will want to modify in order to really customize it for your purposes after that, so it doesn’t look like thousands of other websites.

If you are a bit stuck with what modifications you might want to make, search around for customized sites that you really like, and copy their URL’s. Then go to “What Theme is That?” and paste the URL in – you can find out what tool kit was used. You want one that will let your change things like color and typography. And if you are still stuck, you can use a white label partner, that your client doesn’t even know about. These consultants assist designers when they are having difficulties and act as fully “silent partners.” An excellent way to get a second opinion or a few practical solutions to your problems. The design community is typically more than willing to help one another.

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3. Not Designing for Multiple Platforms

If you design a site with the intention of just making everything smaller for tablets and then smaller still for phones, you will lose your mobile users. They will be swiping horizontally; the pages will be too cluttered, and their experiences will be poor.

Be certain that you use responsive design or a “mobile first” strategy as you design the site. Starting with mobile is usually a good idea, because it is a lot easier to add content and media as you move to larger screens than it is to take out content after the fact. Using a mobile first strategy also forces you to focus on the really critical aspects of a site first.

4. Getting Too “Out There” with Color and Font

Designers are, above all, artists, and artists love to experiment, especially with color and texture. If, when you finish your design prototype, you get feedback that things seem “out of place,” it is probably because you have not matched color palette and typography well enough. In general, viewers like things to “match.” It gives them a sense of security and the feeling that they are more in control.

Start with a color palette and typography that matches, making only minor tweaks at first. User test it all along the way – better to know now than later when your boss or client objects. And, be certain that the color and type you use are consistent with the type of business for which the site is designed. Sophistication requires black, white, and grays, sometimes navy; entertainment, travel, and leisure require brighter colors and more “fun” type; serenity uses calm blues and greens; professional sites should use navy, blues, greens and white. And if the company has a logo (think Starbucks), use the same colors for brand consistency.

5. Loads Too Slowly

This goes for the landing page and every other page on the site. It’s fun to add animation, videos, photos, and other media, but if those things are slowing down access, visitors will be move on to another site. Remember 2-3 seconds is a good target. And loading times will vary across devices, so that has to be accounted for too.

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You will need to find the “culprits” and get this fixed. And, you may need to eliminate or really compress things in order to speed up load time on tablets and phones. Again, user testing your prototypes before finalizing a design is pretty critical. One intermediary step you can take is to use a “loading video” which entertains the visitor while the site is loading. This can only be a temporary fix, however, unless you plan to hang out that video often. People will get bored.

6. Navigation is Just too Complex

Users don’t want to have to spend time figuring out how to get to what they want, nor do they want to spend time on lengthy drop-down menus. If it takes them too long to get where they want to go, it is just easier for them to bounce and go elsewhere.

The best fix for this is to have just a few links at the top of the landing page, and other pages that will get users to the main pages of the site. From there, they may find link to sub-pages. But, a good “rule of thumb” here is 3 clicks. A user should be able to get anywhere with that number. Another pretty effective design, especially when a site has lots of pages, is to put a sidebar menu for all of your more minor pages. This is far easier than that long drop-down.

And menus for mobile devices, especially for phones, have to be simpler. Drop downs may be better for phones, but there should only be 2-3 choices.

7. Using PDF Files for Reading

Users expect PDF files when they access educational and governmental websites. And they expect PDF files for lengthy things (e-guides, manuals, etc.), but they are irritated by them because of the slow loads. In some cases, PDF is essential because it keeps the original formatting of the page you are sharing.

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This is an easy fix, and it really is only a matter of remembering – PDF only for large files.

8. Not Having Color Changing Links

One of the nice things about a Google search is that when a user links to a site and then comes back, the color on that site link has changed, telling the user that s/he has accessed it already. It saves time and irritation. If you have not put that feature in your design, you should – users really appreciate it and it helps them get to where they are going.

9. Hiding Your Prices

You are a bit at the mercy of your boss or client on this one, but you are the expert and you should try to convince them that one of the most irritating things for visitors is not to be able to find a price very early in their navigations. Check competitors’ sites, and, if they are showing prices early, then you must do the same.

10. Not Having Enough White Space Around Important Elements, Like CTA’s

Too much clutter around the really important information and the CTA buttons confuses visitors, and they will miss things.

The fix of course is to clear things out and simplify as much as possible. Place buttons above the fold and put white space around them, using a distinctive color for them. And the button text should be a clearly contrasting color, to grab the eye. One more thing about buttons: Make the edges curved not squared off. Curved edges draw the eye in to read what the button says; squared edges take the eyes out and away from that button text.

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11. Not Having Simple, Large Registrations Forms

How much detail about someone is absolutely necessary? Users do not want to give out too much information or wait while you verify an email address; they want speed and simplicity. And mobile users, as well as most people over 40, really want larger form fields and buttons.

Be certain that you are only asking for the essential information on all forms, and make them a decent size for readability. Another thought here: It’s a nice idea to give users the option to enlarge text – “over 40 eyes” will thank you.

12. Not User Testing Every. Single. Thing.

If everything is not tested, and problems are discovered, then you have to go back and fix things while the site is already up and running. This means taking pages down as they are repaired, and it is a bit irritating for a user to link to a page, only to read, “Under Construction.”

If you user test absolutely every aspect and feature of the site, on multiple platforms, you will have a site that is “ready to roll” when you demonstrate it for your boss or client. And you should not do that user testing yourself. Ask a trusted colleague or use a white partner for this activity.

The Takeaway

Design begins with thinking like a user. S/he wants:

  • Visual appeal
  • Consistency
  • Simplicity
  • Easy navigation
  • Readable and broken-up text
  • Fast loading pages

Think like that user first and then add your creativity. You’ll have a design that users like and of which you will be proud.

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Last Updated on February 15, 2019

7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively

7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively

Now that 2011 is well underway and most people have fallen off the bandwagon when it comes to their New Year’s resolutions (myself included), it’s a good time to step back and take an honest look at our habits and the goals that we want to achieve.

Something that I have learned over the past few years is that if you track something, be it your eating habits, exercise, writing time, work time, etc. you become aware of the reality of the situation. This is why most diet gurus tell you to track what you eat for a week so you have an awareness of the of how you really eat before you start your diet and exercise regimen.

Tracking daily habits and progress towards goals is another way to see reality and create a way for you clearly review what you have accomplished over a set period of time. Tracking helps motivate you too; if I can make a change in my life and do it once a day for a period of time it makes me more apt to keep doing it.

So, if you have some goals and habits in mind that need tracked, all you need is a tracking tool. Today we’ll look at 7 different tools to help you keep track of your habits and goals.

Joe’s Goals

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    Joe’s Goals is a web-based tool that allows users to track their habits and goals in an easy to use interface. Users can add as many goals/habits as they want and also check multiple times per day for those “extra productive days”. Something that is unique about Joe’s Goals is the way that you can keep track of negative habits such as eating out, smoking, etc. This can help you visualize the good things that you are doing as well as the negative things that you are doing in your life.

    Joe’s Goals is free with a subscription version giving you no ads and the “latest version” for $12 a year.

    Daytum

      Daytum

      is an in depth way of counting things that you do during the day and then presenting them to you in many different reports and groups. With Daytum you can add several different items to different custom categories such as work, school, home, etc. to keep track of your habits in each focus area of your life.

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      Daytum is extremely in depth and there are a ton of settings for users to tweak. There is a free version that is pretty standard, but if you want more features and unlimited items and categories you’ll need Daytum Plus which is $4 a month.

      Excel or Numbers

        If you are the spreadsheet number cruncher type and the thought of using someone else’s idea of how you should track your habits turns you off, then creating your own Excel/Numbers/Google spreadsheet is the way to go. Not only do you have pretty much limitless ways to view, enter, and manipulate your goal and habit data, but you have complete control over your stuff and can make it private.

        What’s nice about spreadsheets is you can create reports and can customize your views in any way you see fit. Also, by using Dropbox, you can keep your tracker sheets anywhere you have a connection.

        Evernote

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          I must admit, I am an Evernote junky, mostly because this tool is so ubiquitous. There are several ways you can implement habit/goal tracking with Evernote. You won’t be able to get nifty reports and graphs and such, but you will be able to access your goal tracking anywhere your are, be it iPhone, Android, Mac, PC, or web. With Evernote you pretty much have no excuse for not entering your daily habit and goal information as it is available anywhere.

          Evernote is free with a premium version available.

          Access or Bento

            If you like the idea of creating your own tracker via Excel or Numbers, you may be compelled to get even more creative with database tools like Access for Windows or Bento for Mac. These tools allow you to set up relational databases and even give you the option of setting up custom interfaces to interact with your data. Access is pretty powerful for personal database applications, and using it with other MS products, you can come up with some pretty awesome, in depth analysis and tracking of your habits and goals.

            Bento is extremely powerful and user friendly. Also with Bento you can get the iPhone and iPad app to keep your data anywhere you go.

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            You can check out Access and the Office Suite here and Bento here.

            Analog Bonus: Pen and Paper

            All these digital tools are pretty nifty and have all sorts of bells and whistles, but there are some people out there that still swear by a notebook and pen. Just like using spreadsheets or personal databases, pen and paper gives you ultimate freedom and control when it comes to your set up. It also doesn’t lock you into anyone else’s idea of just how you should track your habits.

            Conclusion

            I can’t necessarily recommend which tool is the best for tracking your personal habits and goals, as all of them have their quirks. What I can do however (yes, it’s a bit of a cop-out) is tell you that the tool to use is whatever works best for you. I personally keep track of my daily habits and personal goals with a combo Evernote for input and then a Google spreadsheet for long-term tracking.

            What this all comes down to is not how or what tool you use, but finding what you are comfortable with and then getting busy with creating lasting habits and accomplishing short- and long-term goals.

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