David Louis Edelman David Louis Edelman

Miscellaneous Web Design Sins

Chances are, if you’ve put together a website, you’ve committed some (or all) of these venal sins. Or your clients have made you commit them.

  • Hyperlinking the words “click here.” People generally don’t read websites in the way they read a book or a magazine; they skim. And when you hyperlink contentless words like click here, the user gets lost in a sea of “click here”s. You can’t tell where the link goes without reading the entire sentence. The result? Fewer clicks, less impact. (Besides, isn’t hyperlinking the words “click here” redundant? That’s what the very act of hyperlinking means. It’s like publishing a headline that says “This Article Titled ‘President Gives State of the Union’.”)
  • Showing a hyperlink without providing any clue as to where the link leads. The otherwise excellent blog Instapundit is a big sinner in this category. (Prime example, February 6: “UPDATE: Heh.“) It might seem cute or clever to hyperlink a word like “Heh” without providing any context. It’s not. Such linking is useful for one thing: causing users to ignore your hyperlinks.
  • Using small font sizes. Not all of us have 20/20 vision, and not all of us want to crane our necks and squint our eyes to read your website. Most users over 40 won’t even bother sticking around on a site with font size below, say, 11 points for Verdana. One of the main reasons I switched to the Firefox browser was to have the capability of bumping up the text size on websites with a simple Ctrl+Mouse wheel, regardless of what the web style sheet says.
  • Requiring a specific browser or screen resolution. Does your site say “this site best viewed on Internet Explorer 4+ on an 800 x 600 screen”? Fuck you, I’m going to use whatever browser and screen resolution I feel like, and not one dictated by your lazy-ass web designer. There are billions of web pages out there, and Google is just a click away. Follow web standards as dictated by the W3C so your readers can use any browser they like.
  • Placing the navigational menu in a separate frame. Frames seemed like a fantastic idea around, say, 1995. But the problem is that frames break so much of the functionality web users have come to depend on: the ability to print pages, e-mail pages, save shortcuts to pages and bookmark pages. Not to mention they can break the Back button, which will earn you a special place in Hell. In short: don’t use frames. Ever.

More cardinal sins of web design and/or programming coming soon, i.e. the next time I can’t think of anything pertinent to write about.

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