I recently read Seth Godin’s The Big Red Fez: How To Make Any Web Site Better for my graduate course on New Media. I found the book to be very interesting and could relate to many of the “negative” examples of a poorly designed site or feature to the site. Although some of these examples were based on the early stages of the “world wide web”, they are still relevant to today’s web designer. Here is a list of ten useful tips relating to web design.
1. Don’t make it easy for you, make it easy for me
Web engineers can create the most flashy, eye-catching website on the Internet, but if it doesn’t please its consumers, you have an ineffective website. Users want accessibility and know what they are looking for, especially if the user is a repeat customer to the website. If the website is not user-friendly it is worse for a first-time user because they will most likely not return to that website.
Example: my.sbu.edu This website is for St. Bonaventure University students to check e-mail, register for classes, check their grades, etc. It is not very user-friendly due to countless and repeat log-ins to gain access to other parts of the website. The site also expires after a period of time retiring your session and also reaches a maximum number of “cookies” which after this fails to load any web pages.
2. Search engine problems
Searching for something on a website and having nothing show up in the results can have a negative effect on a user’s experience to your website.Example: It is especially odd if you are on a college website and you search “financial aid” and nothing appears after hitting search. They have a whole financial aid section on their website!
3. Registering for websites
It is very annoying when users are on a website and trying to look up information and they have to register in order to use that website. It is just a ploy to end up on the website’s e-mail distribution list and they will send you endless e-mails.
Example:To even look at openings for jobs I had to register all my information (gender, income, education, etc.) After registering it turned out there were no jobs related to the field I was interested in.
4. Is the Internet like television?
Well today it really is. YouTube clips now have: 15 To: 30 ads that force the user to sit there while the commercial plays. Usually when this happens I minimize the window and do something else for the 30 seconds instead of staring at a pointless advertisement that doesn’t relate to me at all.
5. Thank you goes a long way!
Simple two words mean the world to many customers. Amazon.com does an excellent way of continuing the relationship between the company and the customer post-purchase. As soon as you click “Submit Order” an e-mail instantly thanks you for your purchase. The e-mail also suggests other products similar to the ones you purchased that you might like in the future. Amazon also provides you with the necessary shipping information, as well as a new feature to send you text messages to update you on the tracking procedure of your order.
6. Pop-ups: Don’t use them.
This is probably the most annoying feature of a website or an advertisement. It can definitely grab your attention, but for less than split second. The pop-ups that are really annoying are the ones which you cannot click out of them, or the ones that take up the entire screen. It is an instant bad vibe from the customer because you are bugging them and telling them “look at my ad!!”
7. Screwing up: it happens to all of us.
Nobody’s perfect, and neither is Apple, Amazon, or Netflix. If something should go wrong on the company’s website, bad news, etc it is a great idea to instantly send an e-mail to all your customers explaining the situation at hand.
Netflix example: The Watch Instantly feature was down for a few hours one day and that very night I received an e-mail from Netflix explaining the situation. Netflix offered to add a 3% credit to my next bill for the inconvenience. I still love Netflix to this day.
8. Don’t make customers fill out their life story.
Have customers fill out the basic information for which you can contact them like e-mail address and other information like name, phone number, and address; that’s it. Please do not ask them other frivolous questions that would just waste their time. Amazon.com does a great job of doing this: when you sign up for an account all you have to do is fill in your password and all your information is saved like billing/shipping address, credit card information, etc. Customers are done in a few clicks when ordering from Amazon.
9. Make a great first impression
Make your website inviting and not overpowering with information that intimidates or frustrates the customer. Make a separate page for first-time users and returning users. You want new customers to feel welcome to your website and that your website will help them fulfill a need or problem.
Example: GoDaddy.com This website has so much going on its homepage it is very hard to comprehend all the information being thrown at the customer. I couldn’t even find a “start” or a link to introduce me to it’s services.
10. Engage with your customers; they just aren’t numbers.
Interact with your customers, see how they are doing, and send them e-mails that are related to them in some way. Amazon.com does this exceptionally well. Trans-Siberian Orchestra held a contest 3 or 4 years ago explaining on their website for their fans to orchestrate Christmas lights to their music. The winner received tickets to a show in Chicago. The many houses entered in the contest were critiqued by fans via YouTube as well as the company Symphony In Lights. Fans of the orchestra had a rocking time showcasing their creativity with Christmas lights to the tunes of their favorite Christmas-with a-twist orchestra.