A little like hairdressing, blogging and cooking, web design is one of those things that everybody thinks they can do. How hard can it be, right?
With the proliferation of the likes of WordPress and other DIY content management systems (CMSs), many business people out there think that they’ll try and save a few quid by designing their own website themselves.
Now, of course, open source CMSs, when used well, can actually provide a small business owner with the precise thing that he/she’s after – a relatively small, not too shabby website, that explains all about the business, has space for a blog, and all the relevant contact information etc. Provided these amateur webmasters don’t try and be too clever and start experimenting with bespoke logo designs, CSS stylesheets and HTML5, then a lot of these sites are just fine.
But when they’re wrong, they’re simply ghastly.
Beware Of the Hobbyist Turned ‘Pro’
There is another breed of amateur web designer that is even more troublesome – the hobbyist turned ‘pro’.
Some people discover at some point in their lives that they actually have a penchant for web design – even though they actually earn their living as a hairdresser, blogger or chef. They get to grips with the basics of design coding, make a few websites for themselves and their friends, and then all of a sudden they think they can start charging £30+ an hour to unsuspecting members of the entrepreneurial public who have decided they want a ‘professional’ to help bolster their online presence.
Now, again, some of these self-taught designers are actually rather good. But, most of them, frankly, are not.
What to look out for when choosing a web designer
When choosing a web designer, the very first thing that you must absolutely demand to see is their portfolio. A good designer should have examples of his/her work that are already out there live on the web. You will need to ask for a link to, say, between 5 and 10 of these so that you can get a clear picture of the designer’s capabilities.
When doing so, watch out for these 3 web design fails that will leave your head in your hands and your mouse cursor on Google – it’s time to start looking for another designer.
Fail 1 – Poor UX Design
We’ve written a few posts on the importance of UX design recently, and, when viewing websites as part of a portfolio from a potential designer, if the UX isn’t nailed, then you need to run away as fast as you can.
Delivering a great experience for users should be at the forefront of each and every web designer’s minds. Forget about all the bells and whistles that the designer claims he/she can integrate into your site – what you want is for your website to function intuitively. This is so important for conversions and sales. Your website needs to very clearly signpost exactly where the relevant information can be found on your site for all visitors that happen upon it.
This means that there needs to be clear navigation, an uncluttered design, no use whatsoever of excessive jargon in the content, and that the user journey is clearly signposted from arrival to checkout.
Fail 2 – Not Optimised For Mobile
This is well and truly the age of the smartphone. Indeed, they have proven to be the most favoured method for internet access for users. In case you missed it, the crossover happened in 2014, as this visualisation from comScore shows:
It’s been more than 3 months now since Google rolled out its mobile-friendly algorithm update – meaning that mobile-friendliness is now a ranking factor in Google search. Google, the undisputed giant of the internet, created this update in response to what users want and expect in this modern era of internet browsing.
“As more people use mobile devices to access the internet, our algorithms have to adapt to these usage patterns,” so said Google on their Webmaster Central Blog back in February when announcing that the update was coming.
This means that if your web designer doesn’t know how to design for mobile, then there’s no point in taking the relationship a single step further. Check all of the websites in your designer’s portfolio on your smart device – if they are not perfect, then you need to go back to Google and start your search for a web designer again.
Fail 3 – Slow Loading Times
Loading time is a ranking factor, both for Google’s PageRank and for the Moz Domain Authority (DA). This means that if your designer’s sites are taking too long to load (and anything more than 2-3 seconds is too long (and ideally it should load in less than 2)), then these sites will not be performing as well as they could in search engine results pages (SERPs).
Slow loading times affect bounce rates significantly. You will know from your own experience that if a website just won’t load, then you naturally jump ship and start searching for competitors. Don’t let this happen to your site.
Bad website designs put loads of unnecessary scripts (i.e. programming routines) in page templates. These scripts have to be run, in sequence, by the user’s browser before the page is fully loaded. A slow load time is a dead giveaway for bad design – and remember to check the speed on your smartphone as well. In fact, this is even more important now that mobile internet use has overtaken desktop.
What are the top web design fails that you look out for? Got any examples you want to share with us? Please do in the comments below.