Here are seven more sins to avoid on your website.
If you missed part one, click here.
- Lack of Padding in Full-Width Design
- No HTTPS/SSL for Security
- Not Opening External Links in New Windows
- Opening Internal Links in New Windows
- No Analytics Present
- Your Website is a Pop-Up Circus
- Animated Elements That Would Make Spongebob Blush
Lack of Padding in Full-Width Design
We have been running across this one lately – websites with a true full-width design with no breathing room on the borders near the browser window edge. The problem here is the content becomes overwhelming on most screen sizes to take in and comprehend. Combined with number seven in this list, it can even lead to physical discomforts like dizziness and nausea.
But what is full-width design? If you aren’t a website aficionado, you may not be familiar with this term. An actual full-width layout is one in which the website content expands infinitely with the browser window. If the user browses in full-screen mode, the website will take up the width of their entire screen. The content gets pushed further down on larger screens, and the user can only see a minimal amount per scroll. While websites have no “fold,” you don’t want to make reading what you are communicating extra tricky.
Alternatively, fixed width or container can still allow for a wide screen size, especially on smaller screens, while ending on some of the larger modern monitors/screens.
If you want a true full-width design, consider a healthy bit of padding on the sides so that there is breathing room around the edge of the user experience.
No HTTPS/SSL for Security
We have all been there. We load a website and see that it doesn’t have that comforting green lock in the URL bar. Sometimes we even get warned that a website isn’t secure and cannot view it. Not good.
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Not only is it a bad look to have a warning that your site may not be secure, but Google also demotes content that isn’t served over a secure connection. Any data being transferred on the website, even via a contact form, the SSL certificate encrypts that data.
So what is HTTPS/SSL exactly? It is encryption at its core. The only way the data can be decrypted is with the proper key in your browsing session, referred to as a handshake. That means a random party who intercepts the data you send cannot just view it because it doesn’t have the key from your specific session. Pretty cool and a must in 2022.
These days it is affordable to find hosting with built-in SSL. It may not be easy if you don’t know your way around hosting setups. Feel free to reach out for help getting your site secured.
Dive in more here: Cloudflare
Not Opening External Links in New Windows
Links that lead to external pages but don’t open in new windows are killing your website’s effectiveness. A user’s attention span is short, and you want to give them what they want while keeping them engaged. When you send them to a separate URL but don’t open it in a new window, the odds increase that they will browse the new site and not return to yours. Even if the site you are linking to belongs to you, if there is no clear path back to your primary website, it should open in a new window or tab.
Opening Internal Links in New Windows
On the same token as our prior sin, opening all your links in new windows is so infuriating to a user you can expect them to leave the site sooner than they would organically. You don’t want to tick off your users!
Sometimes this can happen due to a configuration error or lousy plugin. If you are having trouble tracking down why all your links open in new tabs, find someone to help. There are several website issues that you can live with, but this isn’t one of them. I have stopped using sites before for this exact reason. It is frustrating to have a website session that results in 15 tabs opening.
Occasionally we have had clients with a landing page with no navigation present on a donation or payment page; it may make sense to open a new window on this rare occasion. But I would suggest split testing a new window against a return path on the landing page. You want to use actual data to determine which way leads to more conversions and further engagement.
To summarize the link sins:
- External links should open in new windows.
- Internal links should open in the same window.
No Analytics Present
If I had a nickel for every time we get a new client with an existing website, and we ask, “can we get access to your analytics?” and they say, I don’t think we have those, I would have at least $1.50.
Simply defined, Analytics is any tool used to measure website visitors and their activity on your website. Google has the most popular free version. You need to know what users are doing on your site and how they engage with it. How can you determine if you are meeting your goals if you can’t see data on how users interact with your website?
It’s like getting all set up with a target, a bow and arrow, and firing, but before it hits the target, you close your eyes and keep trying to adjust and shoot again without ever looking. You will have no idea if you are improving or not.
Analytics allow you to open your eyes and see if you are hitting your target.
I only have one warning; data can’t tell the whole story. For more on that conundrum, please read about how I chilled my kid’s room to 42 degrees. (Also, note this link will open in a new window because I was hoping you could finish this article too!)
Your Website is a Pop-Up Circus
Here is another one that any average internet user has experienced, especially on shopping websites: pop-ups from the left, right, bottom and middle. Pop-ups that layer on top of pop-ups. So many you can even click the one you are interested in or close any of them. Then you get so fed up that you leave the website only to get an exit-intent pop-up – AHHHHHH!
Look, pop-ups can be a powerful tool, but set reasonable parameters around them. Try to show only one pop-to a user per session. Try to have it be something meaningful instead of just a bald-faced grab for attention or information.
What do I mean? When I first visit a Boot Store online, I don’t even know if I want the boots yet, so an immediate pop-up with a 10% off coupon for my email address is annoying and not welcome. Now, if I had been on that site for 3 minutes or it was a repeat session, my likelihood of signing up increases.
You will not fool users into engagement; you have to earn it.
So use pop-ups, but be strategic. You are aiming for the long-term. Users don’t like desperation.
More on the circus can be found here:
Animated Elements That Would Make Spongebob Blush
No offense, residents of Bikini Bottom, but too much animation can be overwhelming. I love animation, but it must be tasteful. If every element on your website flies in, moves on scroll, or does backflips while you navigate, it gets dizzying.
Combine too many animations with sin #1, no padding on a full-width design, and you may want to start your website with a pop-up to send your user a barf bag because nausea may ensue.
I suggest starting with as much animation as making your heart content, then turning half of it off, slowing it down, and launching with that. We see many design choices happen “just because it can.” Just because a tool, animation, or effect is available doesn’t make it worthwhile, no matter how cool. You have to employ taste. It can be challenging to make such edits, but it is worth the exercise. You have to Murder Your Darlings.
Ultimately, your website will be easier to use and reach a wider audience.
Phew, that was a combination rant and blog post, but hopefully, some nuggets inspire you to make a better website. It will help your users, which will help you too!